Title – Taoos Faqat Rung Hardcover, 296 pages Published – in 2017 by Sang e Meel Publications Edition Language – Urdu It is ironic how for quite some time I have lost my appetite for English reading, despite writing in English for over six years now. Here, I cannot dare nullify the finesse of English literature that has captivated many readers (including me) for years and will continue doing so. I guess, as we grow up, we get closer to our roots and identity; we get to know more of who we are and also come to terms with flaws and imperfections in each of us. The same happened to me. Over time, my interest in Urdu literature happened to increase, because I can relate to it. The stories that I come across in my mother tongue are those that I can breathe and feel. Although English language still comes more easily to me, Urdu literature is something that resonates with my heart more strongly. Every time I visit Pakistan, my first (and also last) shopping place is a bookstore where I can comfortably find books in Urdu that prove to be my travel companions and a connection to my roots in a foreign land. It feels like Pakistan is just a bookshelf away. From Munshi Prem Chand to Mustanser Hussain Tarar, yours truly has inhaled it all. However, this time around, I had something different in my head. I knew exactly what I wanted: ‘Taoos Faqat Rung’ by my dear friend Neelam Ahmed Bashir. Although, we do not get to meet much, Neelam and I have an innate unexplainable bond. Regretfully, I had not read much of her work except a few short stories until now, all being very cutthroat and uncommon for a contemporary woman writer. When I got to know of her first novel out in market, I was sure what I was taking with myself on the way back. Neelam has left no stone unturned in showing a realistic side of America that is neither black nor white, but grey. As the story reaches its climax, you can actually feel chills running down your spine. The story is unpredictable until the very end, and is difficult to put down As soon as I got home, this novel was in my hands. The title page is a beautiful yet mysterious piece of art designed by her niece, Sadaf Nasir. This family is blessed with some extremely creative gene pool. I would prefer staying away from praising the rest of the members though, since this piece is strictly for Neelam and her piece of literature. My luggage was still unpacked, my head still slightly dizzy. I thought I would take a break after a few pages into the book, and then resume my unpacking. But oh my, was I wrong like most of the times. Before you start reading, I would take this as an opportunity to tell you to read this book in your free time. Just like a vacuum pump, ‘Taoos Faqat Rung’ will suck you in and keep you glued. Before I dived into the book, I was wondering if I would be able to relate to this with a story set in America. Like before, I was wrong again. ‘Taoos Faqat Rung’ is a story of how the 9/11 attacks affected the lives of many Pakistani Americans. The central character of the story is Murad. He comes from a broken family and loses his job and friends right after this tragic incident. His life takes a whole new turn, as the country he considered his home ever since birth, remains no more his. People around him are now both weary and skeptical of Muslims a lot more than before. The land of opportunities chooses to close all its gates on him, and it is here that he comes across a Guyanese family who welcomes him with open arms. Murad’s life as well as the novel now take a new turn. Various aspects of the American mixed-race society unfold in a mysterious and uncomplicated fashion. This is that time when you cannot even force yourself to put the book down. The climax and twists are bound to keep you hooked. I will try my level best to not bring forward the rest of the aspects of this story, as indeed, it is for you to read and discover. Neelam has left no stone unturned in showing a realistic side of America that is neither black nor white, but grey. As the story reaches its climax, you can actually feel chills running down your spine. The story is unpredictable until the very end, and is difficult to put down. This clearly proves Neelam’s mettle as a writer, who knows her job quite on point. Ironically, we do appreciate the classical Urdu writers every now and then, but forget that many contemporary writers are also producing significant works. In times like these, when book-reading is sadly being replaced by smart phones and tablets, ‘Taoos Faqat Rung’ is a refreshing attempt to bring people back to the fascinating world of books. It is real and intriguing, in accordance with the reader of today’s world. Neelam, this is not just a review. It is an ode to your finesse and craft that places your work on the pedestal that will be remembered for years to come. The author has done her job brilliantly. Now is the time for us as readers to be inspired and fascinated by ‘Taoos Faqat Rung’ – a story that is destined to leave its prints on our lives forever. Happy reading. Published in Daily Times, April 26th 2018.