Posted by: Jeanie F | January 21, 2010

“Nawabdin Electrician” from In Other Rooms, Other Wonders

I am a lover of the short story. Perhaps this is because when I was a child, Sunday night in our house was “Story Night.” We would get to take turns picking a short story and then, gathered in the family room, my father would read to us. I honestly don’t remember what stories my brother and I selected, but when it was my parents’ turn to pick we were introduced to the 1001 Arabian Nights, Jungle Book, and the work of great short story writers: O Henry, Saki, Dorothy Parker, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle…. There is an elegance to a great short story that cannot be replicated in a novel – the brevity itself is part of the pleasure.

I continue to love to read short story collections, and it seems that the genre has had a resurgence recently. However, I’ve found it challenging to blog about a short story collection. Do you gloss over the highlights of an entire collection? Pick only the best and review it in depth? Because I rarely read an entire collection start to finish, I’ve decided to try reviewing stand-out stories in a collection as I come across them.

My current collection is In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Pakistani writer Daniyal Mueenuddin. The collection was a National Book Award finalist, and with good cause. Mueenuddin has taken a world we rarely see – rural Pakistan – and peopled it with real people that we relate to and care about. Sometimes funny, sometimes tragic, these stories resonate and stay with you long after you close the book. 

The stories are unified through a wealthy Pakistani landowner, K.K. Harouni. The characters work for, or are otherwise related to, Harouni in some way. This device keeps us grounded in the place and exposes us to the diversity of Pakistani culture.

The story “Nawabdin Electrician” tells of Nawabdin the Electrician, known for helping his neighbors cheat the electric company by slowing down the revolutions of electric meters, and for being able to repair anything with a thick piece of leather and some mango sap. Nawab was a contented man: married to a woman he loves, successful in his career as a handyman, and employeed steadily by K.K. Harouni. Fortunately or unfortunately, Nawab is the father of twelve daughters and, in spite of the success he enjoys in his small corner of the world, he realizes that he cannot possibly afford their dowries. He hatches a plan to get a motorcycle, which would allow him to cover more ground and get more work. This seeming gift ultimately backfires on him (no pun intended!), with the potential of robbing Nawab of his very soul. However, we learn that Nawab is not a man immune to the power of gratitude.

This is a beautiful story – beautifully conceived and beautifully written. We see a small slice of Pakistani life that is probably new to most Western readers, but that resonates with a humanity we can all appreciate.

Grade: A


  1. I haven’t had the chance of reviewing a collection of short stories as yet on my blog. This year I will be reading a collection of short stories by Anton Chekov which I am really looking forward to.

    I agree that short stories are a wonderful genre and are often passed over.

    If you are interested, I have started a new weekly meme called Wonderfully Short Wednesdays. Each Wednesday I review a short story that I have recently read.
    Here is the link to my special features page

    So far I have only reviewed one short story by Charles Dickens, but in the next couple of weeks I have a review of Rumpelstiltskin and The Lady or the Tiger coming up.

    If you like reading short stories, feel free to join in.

  2. […] In Other Rooms, Other Wonders. I’ve already reviewed two individual stories: “Nawabdin Electrician” and “About a Burning Girl“. I won’t go into detail about the remaining […]

  3. […]… […]

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