Disclaimer, although I write this as A doctor, I have no ties, whatsoever, to THE Doctor, one of the most hilariously sinister characters I have ever, or rather, never met in a Pakistani novel. If you’re expecting a heavy-duty emotional sob-fest of Pakistani Woman, Man and Mangoes © traipsing ‘neath Mangrove © forests within the South Asian Monsoon ©, you may need to read this one, darling. With due apologies to our beloved philosopher-poet Iqbal, aamo sei aagay jahan aur bhi hein!
Many reviews about Sidra F. Sheikh’s ‘The Light Blue Jumper’ focus on how un-Pakistani it is. To me, it was the opposite– the crew of the First Light are accurate representations of what exactly it means to be Pakistani: polite to a fault, comfortably dropping truth bombs like every Aunty and Phupo ever unflinchingly obsessed with employment prospects even in the face of planetary annihilation, and never, ever, losing sight of the fact that there is NOTHING more important than Chicken Tikka Masala. See?! Did Mohsin Hamid EVER mention Chicken Tikka Masala in four novels? No! Thank you, Madam Sheikh!
While the novel has been billed as the love-child of Douglas Adams, Spaceballs and Shakespeare, I would humbly like to add one more brilliant but underrated influence– Firefly, Joss Whedon’s doomed TV show about space pirates and their adventures across a hostile galaxy and Becky Chamber’s fantastic novel ‘The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet’.
But where Becky Chamber’s novel was a happy summer song with sad overtones, ‘The Light Blue Jumper’ is more like Coke Studio under Rohail Hyatt– plenty of aural awe but occasional missteps, which nevertheless, make for an unforgettable experience.
This is not to say that ‘The Light Blue Jumper’ is a perfectly written book– it’s not– but the fact that it made me forget the existence of the outside world while I was reading it, speaks highly of the quality of not just its writing, but also its editing. It made me laugh yet never let me lose sight of the fact that this is a book that’s been written in a war-zone: Quetta, Islamabad, Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi, vibrant cities of Pakistan have been victims of suicide bombings, people like myself have lost their lives for the simple act of living our lives. Yes, these are terrible facts and yes, they do yield thought-provoking and serious works by Mohsin Hamid and Kamila Shamsi, but an occasional dose of Zaaro keeps you sane amidst all the doom and gloom. It is for this exact dose of Sidra F. Sheikh’s motley crew that I am keeping all four eyes firmly fixed on the sequel to this engaging adventure.
Personally, I am hoping for Central Command to have more a, well, central, role in the sequel, the voice of reason needs to prevail over the Third Light. Much like in Pakistan, and with the same gentleness.
“I am warning all of you. The next shout directed at me, I will file a complaint under Ship Rules ref 2.2.2. Any attempt at intimidation of Central Command by audio or visual means will not be tolerated and will result in the perpetrator being incarcerated for the rest of the journey,” Central Command said primly.
After a stunned silence in which I made a mental note to carry a copy of the Ship Rules with me at all times since I was beginning to suspect that Central Command simply made them up as and when she required, I adjusted my decibel level in order to speak.