Haveli is a romance novella set in Pakistan in 1971 where Chandni, who detests that name and stresses on being called as C, is a descendant of a rich heirloom. As her mother passed away soon after giving birth and her father abandoned her even before, she was raised by her grandmother, Bi-Amma, whom she preferred to refer as The Broad because of her strictness. C has tons of attitude, but is sharp, intelligent, sarcastic, well-read, happy-go-lucky, energetic and an eclectic woman, who loves to keep giving pet-names to people around her based on literary characters.
She is home-schooled and so she has very few friends. Her true friends are Baba, a family friend and Zafar, her half-brother whom she really likes. She has always longed for her father, whom she calls Nameless, to return and beg for forgiveness.
As a kid, she had a huge crush on Kunwar Rohail Khanzada who’s already married and has a daughter. Now, a young and beautiful C, wants to enthrall him and tries everything in her capacity to lure him, including dressing provocatively for him. Unfortunately, Kunwar neither has any idea about this nor has any interest in her.
But what she’s more frustrated with is that Taimur, who is Baba’s son and is christened as Alpha-Male by C, can see through all her ploys and makes fun of her for being so naive. Nobody has ever made fun of her and nobody has ever make her look foolish. So, she instantly hates Taimur whom she keeps rechristening every now and then, from Heathcliff to Moriarty to Mr.Darcy.
She doesn’t hate him for nothing. Taimur is equally intelligent, very handsome, although not well-read, he can not only understand C’s sarcasm, but also reply her in same vein and more often than not, get a strong hold over her. Taimur calls her Medusa in return to the names that she has given him. Their sparkling chemistry, razor-sharp tongues’ induced verbal duels forms the highlight of the novella as they are really hilarious and make you smile.
While Bi-Amma wants C married to Taimur, she hates him even more. Never has she disobeyed The Broad, but this one time she does and immediately declines to get married to Taimur.
Her father makes a sudden entry into her life and he hasn’t come alone. He has come with a suitor. Now she’s struck between her grandmother and her father and between two guys who are vying for her love.
Why has her father suddenly appeared again? Has he any dubious intentions or is it just the fatherly love that has brought him back? Who’s the better suitor for C among the two guys? Who does C select among the two? Read Haveli to find out.
Haveli is Zeenat Mahal’s first novella but she writes like a veteran. She has a strong hold on literature and has nicely sufficed so many sub-stories within a short novella. All the characters are well-etched and the woman characters are strong and fierce. Especially Bi-Amma and C. The immaturity of C, her longing for her father, her strong attachment to her father and her immense desire to please her father once he resurfaces are nicely portrayed. Baba is another wonderful character in the novella. He loves C from all his heart and doesn’t hate her even when she rejects his son, Taimur, but supports her. While the whole novella is fast-paced and well-balanced, it has an abrupt climax which leaves the reader desiring for more.
Romance, humor, emotions and battle-of-wits. A perfect read.
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.