First thing I feared was a retake of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper transferred Malik’s typical Pakistan setting. Boy, was I relieved that it took a completely different route: It is a complete action-free metaphysical discussion of prescience, immortality, history and mythology, truth and lies, family relationships between grandfather and grandson, two love stories, and between East and West with special considerations of Islamic theology. Now, if you think of Jinns as those Disney lamp-bound ghosts, then you’ll find a very interesting different version in this great novella. I loved the characters, the images, the mysticism.
The eponymous pauper prince is Salman Ali Zaidi, a son of Pakistani immagrants who works as a college professor. He hears his Grandfather’s tale of poor Mughal princess Zeenat Begum operating a tea stall in Lahore, and a Eucalyptus tree inhabitated by a Jinn near her shop. Grandfather dies in 2013, and Salman has to discover his mysterious roots in Lahore.