Famous people, it can be said, come in two distinct types. There are those who would consciously, even diligently, scheme their way to stand, and preen, on the proscenium, baking their ego in the spotlight’s warm glow. Then there are a few who serve faithfully a relentless passion that urges them to labour in anonymity, even to serve a long apprenticeship, not in the hope of reward or recognition, but in the service of beauty and truth.
One such person is Jamil Ahmad, the former Pakistani civil servant who has written his first novel at the ripe age of 78, when most people believe the meaning of their existence can only be distilled from the deeds of children and grandchildren. His debut in fiction has been a veritable sensation, sending a frisson in literary circles worldwide, winning him rave reviews and accolades for the richly imagined and profoundly insightful The Wandering Falcon. All this had woken sleepy Islamabad to the literary phenomenon called Jamil Ahmad, even though the book is to arrive in bookshops here only next week. No wonder, to all those who want to interview him, Ahmad has only this to say, “Please read the book first”.