by Anees Salim
Inside every big Indian city, there is a tiny Pakistan. Inspired by the legend of Abu Hathim, aging don of Vanity Bagh, Imran Jabbari and his friends form a gang called 5½ Men in their mohalla of Vanity Bagh. They are hired to dispense a batch of stolen scooters to different corners of the city; not until the city rocks with scooter bombs does Imran realize that they have been involved in a terrorist act. One of the prime accused in the 11/11 serial blasts, Imran is destined to live in captivity for the next fourteen years. He kills time plotting jailbreak until he is assigned to the bookmaking section of the prison. The new job equips him with a new facility: each time he opens a book and stares at its blank pages, he sees them scribbled with tales from Vanity Bagh. Imran thus traces the history of animosity between Vanity Bagh, nicknamed Little Pakistan, and Mehendi, a Hindu neighbourhood. The solitude and reflection that characterize Imran’s narrative is undercut by communal tension and a simmering violence. Touched with a wistful small-town feeling in the midst of a teeming city, Vanity Bagh is a darkly comic tale.
About The Author
Anees Salim is a Kochi, India-based author. Born in Varkala, he dropped out of school at age 16, and currently works for an advertising agency.