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The Merchant King: A satirical take on the Arab world

New Delhi: A prince`s soaring ambitions, the shenanigans of investment bankers, absurdities of Arab leadership, and the drama of human life in events that occur across continents - these are the events that give shape to a new novel `The Merchant King`.

Saqr Almubarak, the young prince of Balad, is studying in London, nursing ambitions to modernise his tiny island. That year his region is hit by great tumult when Scar, the supreme commander of the Arab republic of Khaufistan, invades the small nation of Benzenistan.

Saqr finds himself caught in the whirlwind of world events, playing the game of global overlords as he embarks on an ambitious plan to usher in a new era. But what looks good on paper results, first, in disorder, and later on, something more horrifying.

Journalist Shakir Husain`s debut work is a satirical look at how a Western-educated Arab prince dreams big, finds allies and enemies, and battles with destiny. It captures the state of a mythical Arab nation torn between the assurance of its past and lure of the future.

Husain says his book is based on invented stories told through imagined characters.

In London, among Saqr`s friends is Chandni, an Indian girl who resembles a popular Bollywood actress. They know Saqr as a firm decision-maker, a visionary whose eyesight was so sharp that he could see the grains of sand with his naked eye and, in his mind, could gaze into the future.

Saqr and Chandni, both students at London`s Rodent City School of Economic, are strong supporters of Nelson Mandela and used to deliver fiery speeches against apartheid. In fact, the novel begins at a time when Mandela is released in 1990 after spending 27 years in prison.

There is a Bollywood element also. Saqr under the name of Falcon comes to a place called Empirestate for some business at the famous Big Bucks bank, where he meets Benjamin Gross, an investment banker.

After business work, Falcon was later taken to a night club where Big Bucks often entertained its clients. There was an Indian night club nearby but Benjamin deliberately did not take Falcon as he wanted him to "wean away from Indian tastes" as a controversial Bollywood actress performs there.

Written in a lucid manner, the book has several funny names and acronyms like a homeland security being system called the Management of Armed Defence, National Emergencies and State Security (MADNESS) and a gas company named Big Oil and Gas Upstream Services (Bogus).

PTI

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