The Zoo by Tariq Rehman: Summary and Analysis

Read below our complete notes on the short story The Zoo by Tariq Rehman.

The Zoo Introduction:

“The Zoo” by Tariq Rahman is a commendable story of its sort. The story connects two different lives; one of Hashmat’s family and other of the Ikram Arif`s newly constructed Zoo. The story depicts the dilemma of the present era where things are being done for the sake of making the master happy, while on the other hand, the poor subject because of whom the business of the country is run are let to starve and wander from door to door in search of food and other basic necessities. The story also sheds light on how the authoritative people have different ways of manipulating not only the masses but the foreigners as well, for the sake of their own happiness.

The Zoo Summary:

The story has two different plots to start with which ultimately get connected in the end.

Ikram Arif is a manger who is given the responsibility to construct a zoo. The funds have already been received from foreign countries. The zoo is to be built by Austrian firm and Ikram Arif is assisting them and later on, he would perform the as the manager of the zoo. The conversation with which the story starts is that Ikram Arif has misused the allocated fund for the zoo; the money was allocated to be spent on the bears` house in the zoo but Ikram Arif made a house for his own gifted birds. When the secretary inquires for it, he presents lame excuse that the proper house for birds was missing and that the foreign would be annoyed if they saw the birds improperly lodged. With these lame excuse he calms the secretary. The zoo is built in a span of few months and Ikram Arif is appreciated by the governor of Punjab. Once this task is done, the Governor shows them another place just beside the Badshahi Mosques. The Governor wants them to build it as well so that he would take the foreigner dignitaries there. The funds for this are unable but they all know how to oblige the orders of governors which gives an impression that the place where the zoo is built also belongs the Governor.

Hashmat Ali lives in Sargodha with his wife Fatima and two children: Zainab and Azmat Ali. He works with Malik sahib as agriculture labor but Malik sahib turns the farm into an orchard and Hashmat Ali loses his job as Malik sahib needs less people for work. Hashmat Ali decides to go to Lahore for job. He reaches Lahore and gets impressed with the outlook of the city. He starts living with Chacha Barkat in his room where ten more people also live. For the first month, he is unable to find a job so he carries the luggage of people from trains to taxis on railway station. Later on, finds a job of gardener in a nearby school and he leaves the job railway station coolie as well as Chacha Barkat`s room. He finds a room around a school, the room is situated at the fourth storey of a building where sun never shines. Hashmat Ali gets worried about how will hi daughter study so the property agent informs him that he will arrange electricity meter on a higher rent. He also offers to have heater facility in winter but that is what Hashmat Ali cannot afford.

Afterwards, Hashmat Ali brings his family to this house. When they entered they get disappointed with the environment but slowly and gradually they get used to it. After two months, when Fatima is in sad mood because of the location of the house as Fatima say they are suspended in air. Hashmat Ali tells them that he would take them to the zoo next morning. Next morning he takes them to zoo where children enjoy a lot with different animals having many big house to live in. After some time Hashmat Ali asks them to leave and they children ask him whether those animals would live under the open sky and he replies in a positive way pointing to a number of house built for them. When they leave Fatima thinks about the monkeys who would be enjoying the open sky with stars and wind while on the other hand is there home which is ever dark and gloomy.

The Zoo Themes:

Village vs City life:

The major theme of this story is village vs city life. In village, the life is totally different from that city. In villages, the opportunities are less but the life is full of love, emotions and sincerity while city life is umpteen with opportunities but the love and sincerity are on the lesser scale. Though the village life is presented very less yet we come to know that people in this modern wave are migrating towards city life and get lost in the hustle and bustle of city life.

Class Difference:

Class difference is another theme of this short story. The author inculcates into the minds of the readers the issues with the working class and the luxuries upper class enjoy. The Governor has so many ways to find the funds for building a place and facilitating with the facilitation while on the other hand, the working class find it difficult to live in the available meagre resources. The upper class has such a luxury that even their pets enjoy all the facilities while the upper class cannot find a roof to live under.

Role Of Money:

The author makes it very clear that city life is all about money and the life in cities is all governed by money. The actions of the people are motivated by money. He indirectly tells that people for money can even betray their ideals and cheat their fellow countrymen.

The Zoo Characters:

Hashmat Ali:

Hashmat Ali belongs to a poor class family having spouse and children to feed. He works as a laborer in the village but his job ends when his Malik Sahib turns the farm into an orchard. He then comes to Lahore-a city of dreams. He starts working with Chacha Barkat at railway juncture as coolie. Later on, he finds job at a nearby school as gardener. Once he finds job, he shifts his family from village to Lahore where he rents small room situated at the fourth floor of a building. Hashmat Ali is a true depiction of the working class poor man who is always stuck in low income and many desires of the family to come up to.


Fatima is the wife of Hashmat Ali. She is a traditional house wife having dreams of educated her children in good institutions. Her wish is to have a good house to live in but as she seems uneducated, she is unable to understand the circumstances in which her husband earns the living.

Ikram Arif:

Ikram Arif- the manager of the zoo, is a typical depiction of a middle class manager whose work is to make the master happy and in between making his own way as well. We see his corrupt face when he uses the allocated space and fund of bears for use personal benefits. We come to know that he has strong relations with the elites which clearly indicate that he is a man of adjustments.

The Zoo Analysis:

  • The story depicts a very grim picture of Pakistani society where the actions of people are motivated by the urge to make the foreigners happy. He satires the authoritative people of the Pakistan that for them making white master happy is more important than facilitating the poor countrymen.
  • The story presents the capitalist society where the labor class suffers. Hashmat lives in a house where neither electricity not gas facility is available; which are the basic necessities of life. Though the property agents promises to make both these available but at a higher rent. This is a dilemma in a capitalist where people go for bribery because their due rights are not given to them and they are considered as burden on the society.
  • The author sheds light on the perspective that the bourgeois class is more often corrupt and they enjoy the luxuries by exploiting the poor. Here in this story, we see that Hashmat and his family suffers while on the other hand the manager of the zoo has built a separate house of the birds in the zoo out of the allocated fund of zoo. The interesting thing is that the birds were his own property as they were gifted to him.
  • The authors also mocks Governor because he is not concerned with his poor subjects rather he wants to use his own barren lands on the foreign funds to get personal benefits in the longer run.
  • From a colonial perspective we see that the governor and the manager both represent the colonial power while Hashmat and Chacha Barkat represent the colonized class. As it is very evident that in a colonial system the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized is that of domination and exploitation. This is clearly shown in the story that the upper class dominates and exploits the lower class by different means and they do not do anything for the welfare of the colonized subjects.