Tunn by Nisar Ahmed illustrates that some journeys may be better than the destinations they lead to
ourneys shape destinies, and Tunn by Nisar Ahmed vividly illustrates the transformative odyssey of Rahi, a revolutionary activist. In this novel, Rahi embarks on a daring mission from Dasht, a sub-tehsil in Kech district, navigating treacherous terrain, heat and endless challenges to deliver a rooster to his comrades. With unwavering determination, Rahi’s journey becomes a metaphor for his revolutionary ideals, even as he tragically meets his fate before reaching his destination. Ahmed masterfully captures each moment, bringing readers intimately close to Rahi’s spirit and the essence of his revolutionary struggle.
Nisar Ahmed, a practicing lawyer and the author of three Balochi books, including Tunn, presents a poignant tale dedicated to the insatiable thirst that drives one to either meet their demise or embark on a quest for the ultimate desire – the land itself. The story revolves around a young protagonist who finds himself far from home, driven by an unquenchable thirst. Entrusted with an undercover mission, he must journey deep into the heart of the mountains without alerting anyone to his true purpose. Along his path, he traverses the mountainous landscapes of neighbouring villages in Dasht, occasionally contemplating interaction with the local people but ultimately discarding the idea to safeguard the secrecy of his mission.
On his hourney, Rahi, the novel’s protagonist, is accompanied by a rooster, a dog, and a water bottle. As he progresses, he engages in conversations, not only with his dog but also with the mountains that surround him. This practice of conversing with the land, the elements and all living and non-living entities about the burdens of oppression and the Baloch people’s enduring struggle is a common theme in Balochistan. Whether speaking to the mountains, the gardens, the sea or the animals, the Baloch share their stories and recount the history of their resilient resistance for survival. Ahmed vividly captures the dialogue that portrays a society under colonisation.
The colonial mind set is depicted through a conversation between Rahi and the mountain. Rahi observes that colonisers often show compassion and promise development to gain the trust of the colonised population. Whenever somebody mentions the hardships faced by the Baloch, it momentarily raises hope in their lives. However, such episodes are almost always followed by disappointments.
What is truly impressive is the revolutionary’s disciplined and systematic approach to his everyday life. There are three distinct instances of this in the novel.
What truly captivates readers in this novel is the revolutionary’s disciplined and systematic approach to his everyday life.
First, when the decision is made to undertake the journey on foot, the author explains the rationale behind this choice, emphasising the need for secrecy in the mission. Using a motorcycle would generate noise that could alert both the colonisers and nearby villagers to his presence, potentially compromising the mission. Opting for a camel would make him highly visible due to the animal’s height, while taking a donkey would be risky, given the scarcity of water and the scorching heat on the way.
On another occasion, Rahi runs out of food. He has the opportunity and excuse to approach a villager for food, but he refuses to risk that. Another option presents itself as he discovers some eggs under a tree. Hunger drives him at first to consider eating them, but he soon confronts a moral dilemma. Rahi reflects on his identity as a revolutionary. Can a revolutionary, whose struggle is rooted in the survival of his people, justify taking innocent lives, whether human or animal, to sustain himself? Does this align with the principles of his fight against colonisers? In the end, he leaves the eggs untouched and continue his journey. The idea is that true revolutionaries must embody their revolutionary principles in all their actions.
As Rahi nears the end of his journey, the combination of hunger and dehydration takes a toll on him, causing his vision to darken. He’s unable to reach a nearby village and still has several kilometres to go. Despite the daunting challenge, he remains resolute, reminding himself that such problems cannot defeat him. His mission is driven by a desire to overcome the hopelessness and suffering endured by his oppressed people. While the hardships he faces are temporary, the cause he fights for – liberating his people – is enduring. Faced with the choice to abandon his mission or press on Rahi chooses the path to a lasting legacy. Sadly, he does not survive.
Tunn signifies the attraction of a life free from oppression. As a Baloch reader, I’ve frequently lamented the lack of quality literature in the Balochi language that reflects the society’s contemporary issues. Nisar Ahmed’s novel, Tunn, is a notable exception and can be compared to the works of African authors addressing colonisation. Ahmed doesn’t only touch on colonialism; he also delves into various aspects of revolution and the significance of revolutionary individuals in a struggle for freedom. This book is a valuable guide for those fighting against colonisation, offering insights into the development of revolutionary character and attitudes, which are pivotal in the people’s struggle for liberation.
Ahmed mentions that the proceeds from the sale of his books have been donated to the families of Baloch martyrs. Anyone seeking to republish his books, he says, should similarly help such families.
Author: Nisar Ahmed
Publisher: Zuban Bahrain
The reviewer is a student of law at University Law College, Quetta. He tweets @Alijanmaqsood12