Nadeem Zaman’s new collection of eight stories set in contemporary Dhaka explore the inner lives of the cooks and butlers, nightwatchmen and peons – people who have spent decades working for the same family, in the same house. Arranged marriages are negotiated, favors asked, the social cues a subtle dance. The daily itineraries must run like clockwork for the rich and well off who have their own problems, but in Nadeem’s stories they appear thin and forever insecure, a byproduct of the real lives being lived around them. There are digressions, too, big ones like the interlopers and prowlers, petty thieves, and calculated con men, and small ones, like the servant woman who locks herself in the master bedroom while the family is away and the night guard who wonders, if there is always the family, does he have one of his own?
Beautifully compelling and quietly powerful, Zaman’s stories capture an old way of life and ask what’s next?