A painter struggles to adapt to a stifling marriage and a repressive regime in this Pakistani novel
‘The Empty Room’ by Sadia Abbas, is set in 1970s Karachi.
As soon as the car left Shehzad’s house, Tahira rolled down her window, breathing deeply of the breeze. She was slowly, unknowingly, training herself to forget his presence. For a few moments, the day before, she had even succeeded. At night, it helped that he seemed not to know she was there, even when he touched her.
She loved the drive from his house to hers. Federal B Area was not so far from North Nazimabad, but as you drove down wide avenues and turned in and out of narrow lanes you could glimpse the hills, little offshoots of the Kirthar range that separated Karachi from Baluchistan. The sight of the hills, the width of the avenues, the memory of walking to Haidery with her siblings and Andaleep, aroused a deep and familiar comfort. As a child, looking at those hills, she would think that if she only made up her mind she could scale them, and then she would walk from one province to another. And then up through Kabul to Samkarkand and Bokhara to follow the trail of the Mughal Kings. It was a strange and powerful thought. She was never sure why it moved her so, or why it came to her now.