The Contract is a novella penned by a Pakistani author, Zeenat Mahal. I have read many authors outside of India, but seldom something interesting had come my way across the border except ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ a long time ago. And I didn’t know this was penned by a Pakistani author until Lahore was mentioned in the novella and I was genuinely surprised. Yes, I had started reading the novella without going through the author bio.
Natasha lives with her grand-mother, Aunt Salma, as her mother Rutaba has passed away and her father Hussain is busy conquering corporate battles in a distant foreign land. Shahira is a divorcee, has a 7 years old son and is a teacher to Natasha. Aunt Salma plays cupid and wants Shahira and Hussain to get married. Both have had bad marriages and weren’t ready to get into a relationship but both understand the situation and enter into a contract that is mutually benefiting.
More than marriage, it is an employment for her where she gets paid to take care of the daughter and ailing mother and he never comes to visit them. She finds it outrageous and ridiculous when he first makes the offer, but later acquiesces. So, they get married over telephone and things are going smooth until Aunt Salma forces Hussain to visit home once and when he does, he no longer wishes to abide by the contract.
Rest of the novella is all about their battle of wits, how they go from being hostile towards each-other to finally becoming friends and ultimately falling in love.
The writing is wonderful. All the characters are strong and instantly lovable. You begin to identify with both the protagonists and their aversion to new relationships because of their tragic past. The relationships between Shahira and Aunt Salma is nothing like a normal MIL-DIL, but is all lovey-dovey. Shahira is intelligent, adorable, sweet, understanding, caring yet vulnerable, scared and immensely lovable. Hussain is charming, witty, slightly arrogant but is caring and understanding. Their chemistry is perfect.
The best part of the novella was the battle of wits and that fight to put each other in their place even before they actually met. Once they meet, the fight only gets even more funnier, wittier, hilarious and the replies, especially Shahira’s, even more scathingly sharper. Ultimately, their brickbats turn to normal talks and finally into love. It is a feel-good novella and you’ll find smiling more-so-often and it’ll leave you yearning for more.
A must-read for all romance fanatics.
Connect with the author here : Zeenat Mahal
The novella is published by Toronto-based publishing house Indireads, which exclusively publishes e-books and was started with the aim to revolutionizing the popular fiction genre in South Asia.