Zohaib Kazi merges his love and curiosity about the planet, space, science, history and technology and creates a glorious world
Ismail Ka Urdu Sheher is so much more than an ordinary book. Merging Kazi’s curiosity across various disciplines (such as science, philosophy, history and technology), the book, loaded with beautiful illustrations and gorgeous design elements, begins on planet earth and takes us across various dimensions, like a cosmic journey that is as adventurous as it is inspiring.
At the center of the story lies the individual known as Ismail Alset, an Urdu speaking scientist of immense intellect and resolve, and a resident of Elaan, a planet carved by advancements in several fields upon who lays the responsibility to save the world from an experiment gone terribly wrong.
If you think it’s just a scientific exploration, think again. Ismail’s love and relationship with wife Mehr-un-Nisa is at the heart of this book and is perhaps one of the book’s strongest points. Jauhar, the artificial intelligent machine poses questions and conversations between the machine and Ismail are simply fascinating.
It’s a thoughtful book that takes in mind the struggles of mankind, and the need for discovery, the fear of death and the unknown, universal laws that seem unapproachable and ties them together neatly.
From Earth to Elaan
Our introduction to the story, however, begins with an unnerved planet earth as an inevitable energy crisis lurks on the horizon due to mankind’s persistent recklessness, ignorance and lack of respect for scientific and natural laws.
Amidst the shadows lies the discovery that private consortiums run the world as they have ceased control of world resources. This "global control movement" has a leader organization known as Mandala, a front-runner initiated by the Caster family, as their manipulation "initiated wars and fueled conflicts around the world since recorded history".
Several characters emerge in this book that are human and hence, flawed, complex as fiery and unpreditcable as man himself. You can’t pick a side.
Jalut Caster is the young and dynamic heir to the throne, and understand earth’s importance as Mandala acquires NASA among other feats. This opens the story of other unique individuals who gain importance in the story as the narrative picks up pace.
Two diametrically opposite friends, Colon and Daud enter the terrain. This subplot is one of the most curious themes in the story as the two young genius scientists who manage the impossible showcase not just scientific ideas but also ties that bind, the ties of friendships and the fragility of relationships and how easy it is to lose one’s way.
Balancing each other’s weaknesses isn’t enough though as their personal relationship deteriorates and perspective change and intertwine. Daud, for instance, loses himself to reclusion as he questions the world around him and is disgusted by things like interest rates of the banks of the world and the commercialization of the race of discovery in the name of science. His disconnection from the world past and growing rage leads him to rebellion and in the arms of underground anarchy movements. Colon, the other-half of this genius combo, meanwhile, scales heights of excellence.
As Ismail’s embarks on this journey with Mehr, you root for them and wonder at the same time about what they will or won’t find.
The story so far
Ismail Ka Urdu Sheher isn’t written in a traditional narrative. The prose, engaging and observant, feels closer because of the design value of the book which includes skies full of stars. In between the chapters, the book also has dedicated pages to some of the scientific ideas that are explored in it. You don’t necessarily have to be a science buff to understand this world.
The longing and loss of family is also explored beautifully and is one of the many layers and emotions explored in the story.
What’s impeccable in Kazi’s narrative is that the characters blend seamlessly – they are perfectly imperfect and not viewed with a binary lens. Even as Kazi’s marvelous imagination and the knock-out design elements persistently make you marvel, it is easy to note the humanity and humility that lies within the book. The stories of Jalut, Ismail, Mehr, Daud and the others interconnect as it reaches a conclusion.
Kazi conjures a world that is often a reflection of some of the most prevailing questions of our times. A world that is made worse by wars and divided by religious animosity and intolerance evokes a real-time image.
Futuristic and engaging, Ismail Ka Urdu Sheher is thing of mystery, a fantastic achievement for its chief architect Zohaib Kazi and the many collaborators across fields who have helped in realizing a dream.