Muhammad Ali Bandial offers a refreshingly accurate account of a father-son relationship in his debut novel
n today’s “post-truth” world, where facts are often ignored or dismissed, Muhammad Ali Bandial offers a refreshingly accurate account of familial relationships in his debut novel, I Dream of Rain. He explores a son’s relationship with his father, with whom he shares a love of books, in a profoundly emotional way. Unlike VS Naipaul’s portrayal of his father in A House for Mr Biswas, Bandial’s tale is deeply personal and unique. He breaks away from the traditional writing approach geared towards marketability, instead choosing to take a less-trodden path. Balancing their understanding of the story with the conventions imposed by mainstream literature is a common dilemma for emerging writers. Bandial defies the conventions and prioritises authenticity over marketability.
I Dream of Rain explores the idea of indigeneity, telling the story of a father-son relationship as seen through the eyes of the son. Initially, they have a close relationship, strengthened by their shared love of books and learning. Over time they grow emotionally distant. The separation is not only physical, as the son, Bunny, goes to boarding school, but also emotional.
The novel describes several incidents that cause this distance between the two. This is a topic that is rarely explored in Anglophone Pakistani fiction. The story is told in a relatable manner. The reader may feel that they are having the same experience. The reader is reminded that broken relationships can be painful and challenging and that the attempts to repair them can be futile as fate intervenes. The emotional distance between the father and son continues to haunt the characters and reader throughout the book.
Bandial questions some of the customs and traditions we hold dear. He describes the widening chasms caused by mistake. He urges readers to reflect on their own actions and mistakes and consider the possibility of mending their ways. The author also poses questions about the nature of mistakes and their consequences. He throws up the question whether honest mistakes - made with good intentions - are forgivable. He challenges the readers to consider the impact of both deliberate actions and omission on the people around them.
Bandial explores the communication gap within families... The book highlights the need for effective communication, not only to alleviate worries and suffering but also to prevent misunderstandings.
Nostalgia is a recurring theme throughout as the protagonist’s past and present constantly intersect. The book may not appeal to those who reject their past or have fully embraced a materialistic lifestyle.
The novel was written and published during the Covid-19 pandemic. The author asserts that we are a product of the people and the environment around us. The pandemic must have provided an added layer of complexity to the themes of broken relationships and nostalgia in the book.
The author shines a light on some often-overlooked aspects of social life within a Punjabi family, providing an honest and candid portrayal of familial relationships. He eloquently expresses his reservations and uncertainties about his relationships, including bullying at a boarding school.
Bandial explores the communication gap within families. The book highlights the need for effective communication, not only to alleviate suffering but also to prevent misunderstandings. The novel emphasises the importance of communication in fostering understanding and connection within families.
The straightforward prose of I Dream of Rain poignantly captures the weight of the weakening social fabric caused by a lack of communication and small mistakes left unresolved. The book highlights the importance of taking the time to communicate and address issues, as it is through open and honest dialogue that we can overcome these problems and strengthen our relationships. The novel emphasises that taking the time to talk about issues, no matter how small, is essential for maintaining healthy connections with others.
I Dream of Rain
Author: Muhammad Ali Bandial
Publisher: Liberty Publishing, 2022
Price: Rs 1,195
The reviewer is pursuing a PhD in English literature