Raja Gidh (Urdu: راجه گدھ) by Bano Qudsia is one of the most widely read and acclaimed Urdu novels. Gidh is the Urdu word for a vulture and Raja is a Hindi synonym for king. The name anticipates the kingdom of vultures. In fact, parallel to the main plot of the novel, an allegorical story of such a kingdom is narrated. The metaphor of the vulture as an animal feeding mostly on the carcasses of dead animals is employed to portray the trespassing of ethical limits imposed by the society or by the religion.
Bano Qudsia has written this novel drawing on the religious concept of Haraam and Halaal. Many readers tend to interpret Raja Gidh as a sermon, in which Bano Qudsia puts forth her theory of hereditary transmission of Haraam genes. Naturally the plot is woven to support the thesis. In the opinion of many readers and critics she manages to convince them that the pursuance of Haraam, be it financial, moral or emotional, results in the deterioration of a person’s normality in some sense. She seems to suggest that the abnormality is transferred genetically to the next generation.
Apart from the above implication the novel has many social, emotional and psychological aspects. The nostalgic narration of the historical Government College Lahore and of the Lawrence Garden Lahore lights upon the days of seventies and eighties.
Bano Qudsia is among those Urdu writers who would think ten times before writing a sentence. But she does not sacrifice the flow of the narrative anywhere in this novel. Her characters are not black and white ones as some of the critics would like to suggest. Every sensitive reader who has attended a college or a university in a Pakistani setting is bound to find some similarities between themselves and one of the characters.
Plot: Seemin Shah, hailing from an upper middle class family, falls in love with her handsome class fellow Aftab in the MA Sociology class at Government College Lahore. Seemin is a modern and attractive urban girl and attracts most of her male class fellows, including the narrator (abdul)Qayyum and the young liberal professor Suhail. Aftab belongs to a Kashmiri business family. Though he also loves her, he can not rise above his family values and succumbs to his parent’s pressure to marry someone against his wishes and leave for London to look after his family business. Now the long story of separation begins.