Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Fatwa Girl -Akbar Agha

So I finished reading it! And within the due date! *smiles in pride* But not so much because it was a page turner. More than that I was determined to finish it without having to pay the late fees.

The book is overall a good read. The language is simple and easy to follow and apart from the many (sometimes distracting) history lessons the author keeps you engrossed. Only to find out why Amina did it? Why she blew herself into bits.

Omar and Amina are neighbours. He is smart, a debater, a singer, a Civil services aspirant and a Sunni.

Amina is strong willed, bold, eternally idealistic and optimistic,witty and a passionate about bate bazi and a Shia. (I love the poems and snippets that are scattered across the book)

Its only likely they will fall in love. A love that innocently happens but one they maturely suppress. They know they have no future together yet they share a soul-mate kind of relationship.

The Fatwa Girl is a nick name that catches on as Amina fervently tries to make a petition to the imams to issue a fatwa against suicide bombings- an act she and her friends and possibly almost every sane person in this world finds despicable. Then why did she do it? She let the bomb go off on her petite little person....

The story kicks off at Amina's backyard where she is daringly trying to learn how to ride a bike, something that is not permitted to girls in their culture. Its Muharram, a day when Shias and Sunnis are not entirely cordial with each other. Omar jumps in (possibly risking his life) to teach her how to do it and succeeds. Things move fast with Amina introducing Omar to a band where Omar becomes the lead singer. Her debating tips helps him win all his future debates. Together with their friends they travel with the band and they believe they can wash away the terror and turmoil in their country through music- one soul at a time.

Then the inevitable happens. Amina gets married to a man her parents choose, breaking Omar's heart. Rafi, the new man is charismatic, enigmatic and the ideal husband. Omar tries to meet Amina for the last time in a park and almost gets beaten up by her brother. But this also allows for a chance meeting between Omar and Gulbadan, a very beautiful 'dancing girl'. Do they fall in love?

Sometimes I feel Omar is too lucky, you know like the Bollywood heroes who never die or even if they have to, only because its a love triangle and they have no purpose to live now that the woman has been taken, and only after at least a 100 shots are fired into them. He gets away with everything.

Things happen in Amina's married life that changes her. And eventually we learn what ticked her off. Why she used the method she so much abhorred to bring an end to things.

With all the history discussion and views and opinions, I felt the author was searching for answers. Trying to explain and argue and convince himself and us to think. To not judge too soon. To understand the history of things. That all things have an origin. And 'borders' are essentially integrated into our culture and our surroundings from over the years. And its hard to break out from something we have all been conditioned into thinking.  

I picked up this book because I love exploring other cultures. Or cultures that the world pre-judges. I crave to know how a person lives, dreams and hopes under such extreme conditions. She is wearing a veil and he has a solemn expression but would they laugh out loud at a joke from the Reader's Digest. Do they fall in love? Would they fight for the remote control? Just anything that will let me know that they are as human as I am. Or I as them.

PS: I just realised I forgot to return the book. I have to pay the late fees! Oh oh!


  1. Anonymous9:23 am

    excellent post for those who don't read books (like me) but still would like to know what exactly was there in the book. could you plz write these one page summary of all the books u read (of course with ur thoughts punched into it).

  2. Will definitely try. But now looks like I'm going to expect you to comment on every post I write here after.. :D

  3. Love it. You have expressed well and it evinces honesty.
    I will surely get this book when I get time.

  4. Thank you Megha! Except for the heavy history (i actually skipped some pages!), I enjoyed the book.

  5. Loved your post. I wish I was as perceptive as you: "Trying to explain and argue and convince himself and us to think. To not judge too soon."

    I was feeling the same thing, only you verbalized it for me!

    It's a beautiful book. I bought a couple of copies, one for myself and the other for a friend.

    I adored the characters. Life is not a bed of roses -- Amina's life teaches us that. And Gulbadan's. The characters had a Dostoevsky-like feel. As Dostoevsky himself said: "Beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the heart of man."

    The Fatwa Girl is mysterious and terrible. And your review was superb!

  6. Hi Ya, your comment has a lot of depth too. I am sure I would love to read what you have to say. Thanks for coming by. :)

  7. Anonymous12:18 pm

    ok listen i have nominated u :D


  8. wow, you make the book sounds interesting. great sharing.

    keep coming :)

  9. Inspector Sahab, its a nice book. Definitely worth reading.

  10. sounds intriguing! Now I want to read it...I hadn't even heard of it!
    But I am wondering if you have given away too much? Will it still be as interesting now that I know how it ends?
    Excellent review, though!

  11. oops! @Neelam, you are right..I guess a first time book review is a one with too many spoilers.. :D