Book Review: Fiction/The Fatwa Girl by Akbar Agha, Hachette India/2011, 224pp; Rs325 (Paperback)
Pakistan is principally a troubled nation with its improper democracy, dictatorial arm forces and sectarian divides based on narrow fundamental convictions. As a nation, it was neither formed in essential democratic liberal tradition nor even in later periods, could ably consolidate itself as a functional democracy. Hence the force of “fundamental convictions” got the maligning authority, which should have never been the case. Despite all these extreme odds and socio-economic disparities in Pakistan, it’s encouraging to see the sizable number of peoples struggling against the tyrannical ruling beliefs in the country. If cricket is the easiest bliss or escaping route for Pakistanis, literature is certainly their most profound way of expression where the actual suffering is being noticed and further even on minimal scale gives a sense of hope for something more transparent in the system which have been remained elusive throughout the decades.
In recent times, English writing in Pakistan has been on bloom, Fatima Bhutto, Muhammad Hanif, Mohsin Hamid,Kamila Shamshie,Jamil Ahmed are among the writers who have shown immense intelligence in political writing, equally both in the sphere of fiction and non-fiction. Now Akbar Agha’s The Fatwa Girl shows, why the sensibility creates good literature and even the deep starkness cannot hide the merits of positive thinking and action. Set in the elitist background of Karachi, the early chapters’ leads to the rampage of partition that left millions badly affected through the unimagined trauma they faced and later forced to carry in their mind and soul. In brief, author has made it clear, why the Mountbatten’s beautiful wife, Edwina was the cause of hurried and painful separation? This was caused by more intimate reasons as the lady Mountbatten’s character code was too permissive for a charming man like Nehru…few months’ wait could have ruined the family life of Mountbatten, so he decided to carry on history’s bluntest administrative interference that drawn the permanent line of hatredness among the most peace loving peoples.
Amina, the central character and her childhood love Omar are hailing from the thinking family background but not so much as there the gulf of Shia-Sunnism could be outpaced with rational bonds. Resultantly love remains at its own course, but only for a shortly engaged time. Rest emanates from here the sense of losses, emptiness but not even for a moment, partial alienation could be seen anywhere in their mind. That’s the real beauty of character construction, for which Akbar Agha’s deserves all accolade. Condition forced Amina to leave her liberal engagements in literature, acting etc for marrying the demonic feudal, Rafi. He typically represents the western educated Pakistani feudal that catches conflicts with every modern thought and pursues their own virulent agendas. Amina suffers through all the despotic acts from him but realization about her husband’s activeness as the mastermind of suicide bombers came from late, but the same moment activist consine made her mind to be the victim of black acts rather a gain seeker!
In the meantime, prostitute Gulbadan’s short entry into the life of Omar gives short interlude in mainframe albeit soon, the reformative mind of Omar leads Gulbadan get emancipated and finally out from the hell. The description of Swat and Karachi’s also reminds, there is no uniformity of fundamentalism in Pakistan. Millions are suffering the same or more pain from terrorism like the peoples outside of border, so there is need of a completely reckoning the various shades that exists and determines the whole issues. Common friend Sheila’s high profile gesture is not something unheard off in the top circle of Pakistani urban society but her humane characterization as the common pool for aligning the lives makes greater sense. She persuades Amina to meet Omar, now also a Foreign Service official after years and starts fresh but here she chooses an idealism that surpasses the easy comfort!
She became the Fatwa girl, not to kill anyone but to make things clear that hatredness could be an embedded and sinful part of fundamentalism but no religion including Islam allows this. Omar is the man with immense losses with the tragical departure of his only passion, Amina; where he genuinely stands like a human being. At the end, still thinking the message left for him by Amina “if there is one fatwa that should be heard from every mosque and church, every temple and synagogue, it should be this: Love one another as God has loved you”, Omar appears like the true bearer of peace. The growing political concern among the Pakistani authors are indeed a great development, it will sure impact positively on the overall scene in the nation. In India too, writers have to think for sharing more and more realities in their fiction writing instead getting derailed on the non-issues, better suited for commercial edge. The free flows of thoughts are always better than the closed world views…so, peace rather the Fatwa’s should be prioritised, either in Pakistan or anywhere!
Atul Kumar Thakur
New Delhi, February 03, 2012, Friday