This thing I like to do often.. Look at huge shelves with books that are thick, small, fat, glossy, paperback, hardcover, Indian, foreign, and all such kinds, and count the ones I’ve read. Just makes me feel good and intelligent, and smart, and intellectual also.
So back in 2011, on one such smarty pants-on-the-lookout-for-books-walk, I picked up this book because the name was just exquisite, and the young girl in an abayaa on the cover looked so elegant and delicate.
Here I must confess, I read plenty of books on women, education, patriarchal-matriarchal clashes, mother-child relationships, etc… So I had to pick this one out to read the gist at the back.
I then find out that the author belongs to the same city as me! Now how could I have not bought it?
I put it in my basket along with the other books, rushed home to store them all on the bookshelf made them look pretty and organised and completely and very conveniently forgot about it.
About a few weeks back, my aunt borrowed books from me and I happened to find this one in the shelf; I asked her to read it and let me know if it read well.
So, she called me a few days later and sounded so excited about the book that I had to stop her and tell her I haven’t read it yet so don’t blurt it out.
Little did I know that this book was practically written in the same city as I live in, and the instances in it happend right outside my mom’s house!! Isn’t it amazing to hear and read about those historic places you pass through almost everyday?
The author starts his narration at a house with people. Where? He doesn’t tell us. When? He doesn’t tell us. How many people? He doesn’t tell us. But of course, the main character of the book, Rosha, is described to perfection and your mind just knows that’s what she would look like.
What has mesmerized me so much to write about it, is the fact that he has written about instances that happened in my neighborhood. Now there’s nothing to be excited about a book that talks about a love triangle or a super hot single call centre employee, mind you. This was something beyond imagination.
Rosha is a young, courageous, simple, intelligent, smart, vivacious, beautiful and well-spoken Afghan girl who made a living for herself after having spent a horrific life under her Arab master in a rich Gulf country. She was then taken to the U.K by an English Royal family to start over and gain some education. To complete her education with a thesis she travels to India and visits different cities and finally embarks upon the city of Poona.
Unfortunately, the author is sent with his team to raid her house and deport her to her home in Kabul as she is said to be an illegal immigrant and has over stayed her visit. Kabul, where her father was murdered for promoting education and liberalism. Kabul, where her mother was stoned to death for being the wife of a traitor. Kabul, which took advantage of her brothers and sister and killed them.
The story of this brave girl touched me even more when I realized that she came to Poona to learn about a sufi-saint. This was not just any sufi-saint. This was the only Woman sufi-saint-Hazrat Babajan. I cross Hazrat Babajan’s tomb everyday and never did I think of the tomb to have so much historical importance that she would attract people from around the world to come and learn about her.
On Rosha’s arrival in Kabul, she was shot to death by the Talibs for belonging to a family of traitors. She was just 22.
Now, when I cross the street, it will be different. I will look beyond the traffic, the noise, the food carts and the cows on the road. It will be different.