My Bookshelf

Saimah's read book montage

A Biography of Rahul Dravid: The Nice Guy Who Finished First
The Moor's Last Sigh
The 6 pm Slot
Cat Among the Pigeons
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams & Reaching Your Destiny
A Thousand Splendid Suns
The Kite Runner
Pride and Prejudice
Atlas Shrugged
The Fountainhead
Smoke in Mirrors
Dawn in Eclipse Bay
Summer in Eclipse Bay
Eclipse Bay
The Bachelor List
Jane Eyre
Angels & Demons
The Da Vinci Code
The Lost Symbol
Breaking Dawn

Saimah's favorite books »

Thursday, February 16, 2012

You Were Not There...

(Not-so-little something I had written on Feb 15, 2010. All junk to be kept here!)

Yesterday it was the 14th of February, Valentine's Day. A day to celebrate love.

Love was certainly in the air, blossoming and spreading its fragrance around. The world must have appeared to be a beautiful place to the ones in love. Promises were made with hope and a silent wish alongside, to be kept till eternity.
But it was all meaningless for me because the thing that meant the most wasn't there!

When there were roses and dates,
When people had talks of their fates,
When cute cards were being given
When past follies were being forgiven
All this while what I missed the most
Were neither the hills, nor the coast.
I asked my heart for a little clue,
It skipped a beat and said it was YOU.

You had been so synonymous with this day that I had never, even in my worst nightmare, imagined this day without you. You had given Valentine's Day an altogether new meaning. However, this time you were not there.

I closed my eyes and tried bringing the past years' celebrations before me. Your innovation and spontaneity always caught me off guard! Whenever I thought this would be the limit, you always pushed the bars to higher levels, making me laugh my heart out. But no matter what, this year you were not there.

I was determined to look out for you. My heart said you must be out there somewhere… in the crowd, in the shadows, in seclusion, anywhere. On my way, I found couples cuddling, expressing their love, making the day special for their loved ones.
I went to the Sea face, where the waves were crashing down any sense of contact of lovers with the outside world.
I looked around the Beach, where with fingers intertwined, on the soft moist sand, there were promises being made of seeing each sunset together for the rest of their lives.
I reached Marine Drive where the lights playing in dark were ensuring a bright future ahead irrespective of the hardships.
I came across restaurants, where the gleaming candles at dinners were witnessing several proposals amidst the romantic tunes set by their hearts.

Seeing all this made me miss you even more. As always I expected you to come out of nowhere. You should have obviously been there, but you were not.
I missed all those whiles when I used to wait for this day to arrive, when you made it special for me, when despite your busy routine you managed getting time, when a surprise used to always be in store ahead, no matter what. Those were the days, which I wanted to re-live. I longed to see you, to hear your passion towards the day, to laugh on your antics. But no matter how much my heart craved for it, this didn't change the bottom-line for me, you were still not there.

Did you not realize your importance in my life, or is it that now there are better things for you to look out for?
Did you not think even once of the implications it would have?
Did you never realize my endless wait for you?
I guess not.
Yes, I knew the answers to all my questions, but inspite of it I crazily pressed the buttons on my TV remote in a hope of getting your glimpse somewhere, out of the blue.

My soul stirred for you to appear before me.

I kept changing channels, you ought to be somewhere! Somewhere on a news debate over Valentine's Day, somewhere teaching the Indian culture to the Generation X, somewhere helping India hit the international news with continuous words of protests, somewhere telling how India is aping the West. Somewhere, somewhere! But all efforts in vain.

I am well aware O' my Moral Police that you have Herculean tasks set upon your shoulders now.
You have paper articles to review, so as to ensure a maximum news sale.
You have fatal accusations to make upon the Government at the time of national crisis.
You have Adult Education to be imparted by forcing taxi drivers join Marathi learning schools.
You have regions and religions to be scrutinized.
You have celebrities to be shown that they aren't any more than a commoner.
You have people to be bullied.
You have so many movies to be seen and seen again to spot the sinful Bombay word.
Yes, I do understand all of it.

But I would still like to remind you of your dedication towards love which you have inherited from your worthy ancestors, and which you have been so efficiently portraying since time immemorial. It was this unconditional commitment that gave you all that you deserved; the name, the fame and the reputation.
The noble cause of shattering the gift galleries so as to make sure people don't turn materialistic and thus graciously keeping their emotions alive.
The grave responsibility of getting lovers' faces blackened to protect their identities.
The hard work involved in making them run for their lives, just so that their love was not caught in the brutal media frames.
The preparations required in making couples even marry each other so that their parents don't come and play villains!

Ah, such is the nobility of the sacred devoted soul!

The list is certainly endless.
Like so many years, yesterday, I was apprehensive about what lies next in your kitty of aforementioned innovation, but my hopes were shattered when I saw you busy in appealing to the youth of this nation to not watch some movie which deals with a silly global issue. In spreading this magnanimous message across the country, you forgot that it's THE day. People have been waiting for you since exactly one year, and that they expect a lot out of you.

I know it very well that your responsibilities towards the country are too enormous for me to even count and mention, but I would like to confess this from the depths of my heart, that no matter how much of love I see around in the Valentine's Day would never be the same without you, your demonstrations, your words and your such concern towards humanity and Indian traditions!

With utmost love, sincerity and a positive hope of having a compensated blast the next V-Day!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Book Review: Fury (Salman Rushdie)

Another Salman Rushdie creation, Fury, explores the inner demons - demons of an individual, demons of the society, demons in the city and the demons of humanity. The manifestations of ‘furies’ building within might be as simple as anger and addiction, to as complex as molestations and murders. Rushdie claims that these furies are the driving force which may torment some people and inspire others; but whichever be the form, their presence is undeniable, unarguable and universal.

“Life is fury, he'd thought. Fury — sexual, Oedipal, political, magical, brutal — drives us to our finest heights and coarsest depths. Out of furia comes creation, inspiration, originality, passion, but also violence, pain, pure unafraid destruction, the giving and receiving of blows from which we never recover. The Furies pursue us; Shiva dances his furious dance to create and also to destroy. But never mind about gods! ... This is what we are, what we civilize ourselves to disguise — the terrifying human animal in us, the exalted, transcendent, self-destructive, untrammeled lord of creation.”

Enveloped in this diverse range of furies, the most prominent being existential fury, is the novel’s protagonist Professor Malik Solanka. A man in his mid fifties, an academician of Indian descent living with his wife and a four year old son in London, eventually becomes the creator of ‘Little Brain’- a very popular mechanical doll that can philosophize. However, the pressures of fame become too hot to handle and he ends up moving to New York City, leaving behind his wife and four year old son without giving them any explanation.
Noone knew, but him, that one night he had found himself standing near his sleeping wife and son with a knife in his hands. He was unable to comprehend the rage and fire developing within and had then decided that it’s best for his loved ones to be as far from him as possible. He plans on fighting his inner demons someplace where atleast he can’t harm his family. Once he moves to New York, he gets entangled in the fury of the city and of the people there, clashing with his own turbulence.

Meanwhile, New York is under the grip of a Disney-obsessed serial killer whose victims comprise of rich, young and beautiful girls of the city; raped and scalped brutally. An alcoholic, disoriented Solanka wonders and fears if these murders are a result of the same rage that made him stand that night with a knife. To deal with this blame and wreckage, Solanka befriends a computer pro, entrepreneur and an incest victim, Mila, who claims to renovate people (mostly through blowjobs, though!).
Once with Solanka, Mila creates a new version of the Little Brain doll, which becomes a huge success. However Mila is soon dropped for a smart, politically aware, Indian beauty, Neela Mahendra who is a traffic stopper (literally), head turner, responsible for people walking into trees, dogs forgetting to pee and so on. Neela falls in love with Solanka and after much twists and turns eventually saves his life, risking her own. In the end, Solanka is seen watching his son play, wondering if his inner demons have been exorcised and if he can be reunited with his family.

As much as I tried, I could not ignore the autobiographical similarities in the narration and description of characters. Solanka giving up his post in Cambridge due to the ‘narrowness’ of academia is pretty similar to Rushdie’s reasons for leaving London. Solanka’s creation ‘Little Brain’ that could quote philosophy is on the lines of Rushdie’s creation - his books. The one ‘blasphemous’ work of Little Brain - which he then calls satanic doll - puts Solanka in great trouble, thus coinciding with Rushdie’s much controversial The Satanic Verses. Even the beautiful Neela falling in love with Solanka, a man twice her age, reminds the readers of Rushdie’s love interest Padma Lakshmi.

What I found missing in the book was that the description remains monotonously one-dimensional throughout and mostly devoid of emotion that couldn’t allow the readers to form a connection with the characters even till the end. I’m not too sure whether it is intentional or not, but until I have the likeability (or dislikeability) factor going, I wouldn’t care what the characters end up doing.

To me, I realized, Salman Rushdie has become so synonymous with magic realism that now when he narrates a contemporary tale, I find it tad annoying. What I loved about Rushdie’s previous works was the simple fact that the portrayals of events and people in his books are ordinary, yet creating an extraordinary satirical impact. It is done in such a way that the boundaries between reality and fantasy, tragedy and comedy, causes and consequences, become absolutely blurred. However, in Fury I could find none of this. Being master at manipulating words, many passages in the book were brilliant but that final zing, I felt, was just not there!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review: The Moor's Last Sigh

If I had even the slightest doubt about Salman Rushdie's writing prowess (not that I had), I knew it will disappear as soon as I found myself flipping the pages to see the da Gama-Zogoiby family hierarchy of The Moor's Last Sigh.

By the time I reached the end of this book it struck me again, that Salman Rushdie is definitely a magician. Once in his hands, the words flow like a stream. Smooth, yet turbulent. Clear, yet enchanting. Simple, yet complex. Easy, yet profound.

Magic Realism at its best!

The Moor's Last Sigh is a multi-faceted epic, a family saga packed with high-intensity drama, rich descriptions, vivid recollections and razor-sharp satire. The Portugese-Indian Christian-Jewish family of traders, businessmen (and women), artists and (eventually) gangsters, moves from Cochin to Bombay to Spain, spanning over four generations. Throughout the generations, the only thing the family could strongly boast of were powerful, proud and imperfect women who raised the family's grace and profits by leaps and bounds. As daughters, as wives, as mothers, their manifestations of love varied from being absolutely protective to utterly destructive. In this family lineage is born an unfortunate, helpless, flawed man, Moraes 'Moor' Zogoiby.

Moor traces his family roots to when they arrived in Cochin as spice merchants, when the family disputes turned ugly, when rebellion and murders became the way of living, when his Jewish father and Catholic mother married amidst spices, when after three sisters he was born as the last heir to the da Gama-Zogoiby family, when he fell in love with Bombay and when he realized he wasn't like others. He explains his situation as- "If a birth is the fall-out from the explosion caused by the union of two unstable elements, then perhaps a half-life is all we can expect.", and a half-life is all that he gets. Being in his mother's womb for just four and a half months, aging twice as fast, wrinkled at the age of thirty, with a hammer-palm, he pens down the entire journey taking us through all the generations, their successes and failures, their love and hatred, their strengths and weaknesses, their strategies and lunacies, their morality and its decay.

All the characters have been sketched beautifully and the power associated with each of them is a marvel. Abraham, Mainduck, Uma and even the characters that popped up from Rushdie's previous works, Zenny and Adam, all leave their mark. A special mention, however, for Moor's mother and the artist, Aurora da Gama. She is perhaps the strongest 'Rushdie' character I've read till date. Her spirit, her sharp tongue, her charm, her struggle, her peppery romance with the then Prime Minister of India, her art, all added to make her as phenomenal as she was, making it absolutely believable that people around her would definitely consider her the centre of their universe and would readily dance to her tunes without questioning her motive even once.

Written during the time when Rushdie was in hiding on account of the 'Fatwah', The Moor's Last Sigh depicts the rise, fall and decline of a powerful family; as if subtly indicating the apprehensions Rushdie had towards his own predicament, saying towards the end (via Moor) "Here I stand; couldn't have done it differently."
Inspite of the situation he was in, the controversial tidbits have not been ignored at all. A stuffed dog named Jawaharlal, Raman Fielding (read Bal Thackeray) playing petty politics on Marathas and non Marathas, digging down the Gandhi-Nehru association, bringing forth the then prime minister's love life and the possibility of a by-blow, and ofcourse the list goes on!

Rushdie's word play, the rhyming jargon and the linguistic jokes add another appeal to the story. There are several parenthetical descriptions throughout which got me chuckling; one of them as he describes the origin of the name 'Sorryno' for a Bombay Iranian restaurant -
"(so called because of the huge blackboard at the entrance reading Sorry, No Liquor, No Answer Given Regarding Addresses in Locality, No Combing of Hair, No Beef, No Haggle, No Water Unless Food Taken, No News or Movie Magazine, No Sharing of Liquid Sustenances, No Taking Smoke, No Match, No Feletone Calls, No Incoming With Own Comestible, No Speaking of Horses, No Sigret, No Taking of Long Time on Premises, No Raising of Voice, No Change, and a crucial last pair, No Turning Down of Volume - It Is How We Like, and No Musical Request - All Melodies Selected Are to Taste of Prop)"

Just for the sake of complaining I would have liked it if the climax of the book was as delightful as the 400 odd pages before it. It seemed a bit too rushed in as if wrapping up a widely spread yarn just to get the covers on. Other than that, it's incredibly alluring. It wouldn't be the first time that I say, Rushdie's writing and narration is absolutely astonishing. The way he puts profound and philosophical thoughts so effortlessly is a sight to behold. As it happens with all of his books, one can never know if it's history giving way to his story or if it's his story paving way for history to occur.

Dazzling and heroic. Plain art.

"I sigh, therefore I am. A sigh isn't just a sigh. We inhale the world and breathe out meaning."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Book Review: Gifted (Nikita Lalwani)

Written by the UK based Indian author Nikita Lalwani, Gifted explores several themes; the intensified importance of education for Indians - all the more for Indian immigrants, the pressures of adolescence, the confusions creeping in the second generation immigrants where they fight to strike a balance between their social life and their roots. 

The book describes the story of Rumika Vasi, a second generation Indian immigrant living in UK with her parents and a younger brother. At the age of 5, Rumi was discovered by her teacher as a Mathematics prodigy. As soon as this achievement is brought forth, her father, Mahesh, takes up the responsibility of nurturing this talent in Rumi, making it the sole aim of his life to ensure that his daughter attains something extraordinary in this foreign land.
Being a Mathematics professor himself, Mahesh plans a rigorous study schedule for Rumi, one which allows absolutely no childhood frivolities. It includes sitting in the library long after school, doing Maths problems and a strict warning not to even touch any of the foolish, good-for-nothing story-books there. Talking to her friends, going out for their birthday parties, watching a movie sometime, indulging in hobbies, reading anything not relevant to Mathematics, childhood crushes or maintaining a social life are already marked off as unimaginable in Mahesh’s rule-book.
Apart from this educational abuse (that’s what I’d prefer calling it), Rumi’s mother, Shreene, keeps adding to the traditional expectations from her daughter- thrashing off the idea of falling in love, trying to raise her daughter like she was raised back in India; all the while adding more pressure on the struggling 10 year old.

Even though Rumi, at the age of 10 years, 2 months, 13 days, 2 hours, 42 minutes and 6 seconds, can solve the Rubik’s cube in 34.63 seconds, finds the number 512 a glowing, friendly number, produced by a simple process of doubling, explains love in terms of mathematical numerical series; she wants a ‘normal’ life. The kind of life she sees her friends enjoying, the kind of life she sees her cousins having back in India. Striving for this normalcy, she yearns for freedom, becomes a rebel, gets addicted to cumin and starts hating her father to the core. As Rumi approaches puberty, her levels of frustration increase exponentially, her clashes with Shreene become more and more frequent and her attempts at rebelling reach disastrous levels. 

Due to her flair for solving equations and algorithms, she finally finds her way to Oxford at a young age of 15 years, 3 months and 8 days. While in Oxford, she starts living the way she always wanted to and when she goes back home, she returns to the set of rules prescribed for her. Inspite of experiencing great difficulty in adapting to this dual life, Rumi feels she has no other option left. ‘It seemed impossible to experience so much, to soak in this world and all its possibilities .... and then to go back to the past like an interloper, wash hands and eat dinner with them as though it was all the same.’

As soon as Rumi smells freedom from the autocracy, she breaks all the rules set upon her, gets as far from her family as possible, the resentment and bitterness towards home knowing no bounds. Wanting to provide Rumi with everything they ever aimed for, her parents end up abusing her, knowingly or unknowingly, ruining her life.

Throughout the book, the flow of writing was absolutely smooth and natural. I would have liked to read more of Rumi’s excellence in Mathematics on a public platform instead of the few figures wandering in her head aimlessly; it would have perhaps made a better impact of the Maths whiz. Additionally, the novel being based in the 80s, Lalwani could have even dealt with the gender based bias quite prevalent in the society at that time, for I am certain that the struggle of living in a foreign land would have been more pronounced on a girl child who would have had to abide by the Indian society’s rules and regulations. The end was perhaps written keeping in context the reality factor of the book; however it left a lot of questions unanswered. Rumi’s attempts at clinging to a normal life and her resultant intense encounters with Shreene were very well written highlighting Shreene's fear and Rumi's desperation.

What makes this story likeable is its proximity to reality. As Mahesh says it often, “Academic achievement is necessary to success. It is the only quantifiable measure of a life of the mind.” , it strikes a chord with the reader almost instantaneously for it would be quite impossible to come across even a single (Indian) child who wouldn't have been on the receiving end of a lecture on the necessity of education for a decent job, a comfortable salary, a social status; in short, A Successful Life. For the immigrants, it becomes even more important to establish themselves in an unknown place, their only tool in possession being education. The dreams and aspirations of these first generation immigrants are thwarted upon the coming generation, giving rise to struggling rebellious minds. With more and more Asians hitting the news everyday for their extraordinary intelligence exhibit in the West on several platforms, one can just wonder about the effects these gifts have on the child’s social, mental and emotional stability.

‘Gifted’ much? Think not.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Book Review: The 6pm Slot

Nowadays, with the number of shows on television increasing and the channels being out on a fierce TRP war, the viewers are left wondering about the existing competition and the extent of truth (or the lack of it) in these shows. First-time author Naomi Datta, in her book ‘The 6pm Slot’, reveals as to what lies behind the wise camera lens, away from the flashy sets and inside the creative minds. She puts forth the reality of television in such an intriguing way that you can just not keep the book down. 

‘Welcome to the world of television, where nothing is ever what it appears.’

What appears to be a love show being launched by YTV, is the brainchild of the PPT obsessed whimsical boss, Rahul, to pep up the channel's 6pm slot TRP by using the good old ‘sex sells’ formula. His ideas are yes-yes’d and fucking awesome’d by the spineless Harish whose only aim is to be in Rahul's best books. 
The responsibility of implementing these ideas is given to our protagonist Tania, who until now was doing a celebrity pet show. As per the boss' instructions a scantily clad female host with ‘thunder thighs’, a terrible accent and a terrifying IQ is approached (where the former quality overpowers the latter two), spicy love problems are added (both real and not-so-real) and the talk show is ready to be served. Although the show initially doesn't garner the expected attention, a single phone call from a distressed dying girl changes everything.
The way things unfold, gives the face of Indian News Television, Rajneesh Tiwari, the story of his life. From candle marches to searching Jassi in Chandigarh, he leaves no stone unturned to make sure that the TRP of his show increases by leaps and bounds. He sensationalizes the story by tampering emotions and questioning humanity, yet again proving that viewers are nothing but idiots!

Amidst this workplace chaos, is a romantic triangle. One of its vertices, Aditya, is responsible for helping Tania maintain her sanity through the commotion. I absolutely loved his dark and dry wit, his matter-of-fact take on things, and his little pieces of advice to Tania throughout. Now, who wouldn't want a colleague like that?! His presence in the plot was refreshing. I would have loved to have him more (everywhere!) in the story. 

Even the other characters are portrayed pretty well; the successful silent lover Bose, the overtly enthusiastic intern Mohawk, the typically agent-like Nair, the sensible journalist Geeta and so on. The scenario, politics and characters described in the book are true not just for the television industry but fit in for any workplace and this is what strikes a chord with the reader almost instantaneously.

The language used is natural with no shade of pretence. As the narration and backdrop goes, even the expletives don't appear to be too out of proportion. The best part about the book is that the situations and emotions have not been unnecessarily exaggerated which, thankfully, keeps the story close to reality and totally believable. Contrary to popular belief (and the book cover), it's not even close to be a usual chick-lit. Having the right amount of humour, sarcasm and twists, it is infact quite an interesting and quick read where I found myself chuckling throughout. Add to it, Naomi has not forgotten the surprise element at all, leading to a superb climax. 

As she concludes, ‘Nothing to do with television ever has a logical end. It just keeps coming back in circles.’
In a similar fashion, I hope Naomi circles back to yet another delightful book.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Book Review: My Name Is Red

Written originally in Turkish, by the Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, ‘My Name is Red’ is a journey to Istanbul; its culture, its traditions and its society. In this culturally rich set-up lies a mysterious murder, which further reveals the customs and beliefs of the sixteenth century Instanbul. Blossoming along is a love story of lovers parted by time and circumstances.
Although there is a mystery, it’s not as thrilling. Although there is romance, it’s not as swooning.
The book is more than being just a murder mystery or a love story. Rather, it is a curious blend of mystery, romance, sex, art, literature, rivalry, violence, religion and politics.

The book starts with a renowned  illustrator being found murdered. The story then passes through several realms, all the while keeping the reader intrigued as to who the murderer is, among the other rival artists and miniaturists. References in the story suggest that there is a very confidential (blasphemous) project to be unveiled before the masses by the Sultan which has created a major drift between two schools of thought, leading to the said murder. Amidst this acceptance and denial, is woven a story of lost love, regrets and relationships.

Reading a bit about the culture of Turkey, I found out that it was during this period that the western influence on art and literature was becoming prominent on the youth. The entire story depicts the battle of Islamic ideologies and western influence on the society of Turkey. One side wanting to stick stubbornly to its traditions and roots, refusing being a slave to others’ ways and forms, and considering a change in art to be against their religion; while the other side rebelling in every possible way and being ready to embrace this change with much eagerness.
The hatred born from differing views, then, knew no bounds or limits.

The contradictions seen in Pamuk’s narrative well describe the confusion and fear prevailing in the minds of the illuminators of the sixteenth century Istanbul. Throughout, although the longing for West is evident, the fear of losing East is also not hidden. Development and modernity have to be accepted, but the stakes for the same are very high. He fears losing all his stories, losing the fables he grew up with, losing the customs he always followed, losing the brush strokes that painted his canvas, losing his vision for a mere sight. The terrifying realization in the illuminators that a simple acceptance can wipe out their entire existence can be well understood.

What is different in this book is that each chapter is reflected from the eyes of a different character, each chapter has a new voice. The voices ranging from being that of the most probable person to the most improbable one, without keeping either devoid of their credibility, or for that matter, non credibility. I know it’s making no sense, but trust me, the integrity in each of the character arises from its fictitious existence-

The man murdered just a few seconds ago narrating, "I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of the well’ and the same corpse then seeing his own funeral, ‘My funeral was splendid, exactly as I'd wanted." 

The picture of a dog replying to its surprised reader "...You believe a story in which corpses speak and characters use words they couldn't possibly know."

Death pointing out, "Though you know very well that I'm not real, you're still seized by horror."

Tree, gold coin, voice of a woman who is actually a man, the colour red, the characters of a painting, each stroke of it; all of them are the narrators.
It felt a little odd initially and took a little while to get used to the flipping narrations, but this is what sets the book apart, making it creative and metaphoric to a great extent.

What I didn't like about the book was that the descriptions were so slow, detailed and intricate that you straightaway wanted to jump to the last page and get done with the book. Clearly, it is not an effortless read, at all! It took me almost a month to finish it (inspite of being in a having-nothing-else-to-do-vacation-mode).  As much as I tried, I could not like the story and resisted the urge to keep it down at several points.

Apart from being a very slow and tedious read, it requires all your attention and critical thinking (include re-reading sections, too). Deep, dense literature! The style, the flair, the structure definitely added to the beauty of thought-provoking description and was quite new for me. More than the plot, the beauty and rich heritage of Istanbul, as described by Pamuk, interested me more. Although a difficult read, I would recommend it for its uniqueness.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Book Review: Blasphemy

Blasphemy is a heart-wrenching novel by a Pakistani author, Tehmina Durrani. It is a tragic and an utterly shocking story which unveils the ugly faces of people in power. The book is set in South Pakistan and depicts male domination of the highest order, tyranny in its crudest form and religious fundamentalism at its extreme. It brings forth the easy distortion of Islam by the hypocrite and predatory so-called religious leaders. The descriptions are awfully repulsive and the very thought that several thousands of women, even today, are subjected to this sort of life, is enough to give you shivers.

The protagonist, Heer, is like any other teenager having her own dreams and aspirations. Just like she read in books and saw in movies, she is waiting for true love to knock at her door and sweep her off her feet. However, Heer’s widow mother gets her married at the age of fifteen to Peer Sain, a man of great honour and prestige, considered to be divine by his followers and thought of as the link between God and ignorant people. Despite the fact that Peer Sain is several years older than Heer, the marriage is fixed as her mother wants to redeem her own status in the society and Peer Sain helps her in doing so in every possible way.

Heer enters her new house with rosy expectations, but what follows this marriage is a series of torture, both physical and emotional. She is beaten, humiliated, abused, raped, trapped and made to live in the world her husband made for her.
A world where no flaw is permitted, no mistake is forgiven, no logic is applied and no explanations are given.
A world where she is not allowed to cross the threshold without her husband's permission.
A world where she is beaten brutally for coming in front of a six-year old ‘man’.
A world where asking about her mother and siblings brings her more misery.
A world where she has noone to share her pains with, noone to talk her heart out to.
A world where she has to protect her daughters from the evil clutches of men, including their own father.
In this world there were no ways of living and no rules followed. The only word heard was of Peer Sain, as and when he wanted.

Throughout his life, Peer Sain exploited the weak and ignorant people in the name of Allah and Islam. Anyone who dared to raise his voice against the system was crushed in a way that served as an example for other people to never question the authority of the Peer's ancestral Shrine in future. Kali, Guppi, Toti, Tara, Chote Sain, Sakhi Baba, Yathimri, Cheel, all were the victims to this system. Only those who meekly surrendered to the wishes of Peer were said to be loyal Muslims. Ignorance was the foundation of their system and was hence enforced at any cost.
Under his angelic fa├žade, Peer Sain committed crimes which were not only against the religion, but against humanity. Taking advantage of burqa to present his wife to his friends as a whore, making his wife abort her child to make sure he is not devoid of pleasure in any way, molesting little girls, killing his own son as he makes the Peer's position in the society vulnerable, satiating his sexual hunger with any girl in vicinity, not sparing even his own daughter. The acts were gross, the crimes were gory and the emotions too disturbing to be imagined being even close to reality.

In Heer’s words,
‘To me, my husband was my son’s murderer. He was also my daughter’s molester. A parasite nibbling on the Holy Book, he was Lucifer, holding me by the throat and driving me to sin each and every night. He was the rapist of orphans and the fiend that fed the weak. But over and above all this, he was known to be the man closest to Allah, the one who could reach Him and save us.’

It was impossible to imagine someone living this kind of life even though, for me, it got over in around 200 pages, while Heer lived and suffered it for 24 long years. Life was so difficult for her that at many instances she had no other choice than to join hands with this Satan. Her only motive in life was Survival. Heer realized that to fight in this world of evil she had to be more evil. There was no way out but to keep spinning this endless poisonous loop until either the tormenter or the tormented gives up his hope on survival. And one of them does give up. One might call it a happy ending but after going through so much, for Heer, it would be far from being so.

For me, the most horrifying and disturbing of all the lines in the book was, ‘The novel is inspired by a true story.’