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Dipavali Sen

THE ARAB SPRING
By Ishtiyaque Danish
Kojo Press, Pigeon Books India, New Delhi, 2012, pp.200, Rs. 160.00

VOLUME XXXVI NUMBER 11 NOVEMBER 2012

Ibrahim, a youngster from a rich Saudi family in Riyadh goes out to the restaurant with his mother and sisters, and comes out shell-shocked. He has seen his father take a young woman to a 'family cabin'. The immediate inference (and it turns out to be the right one) is that his father has married again. 'As there is no cousin and no other relative of this age, my Mom and sisters soon realized that our father has got a second wife, keeping us in the dark. We all fell in deep sorrow. My Mom stood still as blood had dried up in her veins'( p. 18). Ibrahim observes his mother in her agony, and even hears her cry of anguish to the maid-cum-companion: why, why did her husband have to do this when, apart from raising four children, she had kept herself slim and attractive, going to the extent of putting Hina on her private parts (p. 24)! Why indeed. When she puts her question to her husband, he simply says: 'See this happens. The Shariah has permitted it'. With remarkable composure, the wife says that she is not questioning the Shariah, but what about keeping the first wife in the dark about the second marriage? Is it not 'a man-made tradition' rather than a divine order? 'It seems practical', answers the husband. The wife comes up with an equally practical solution. As the family has substantial properties in England, she goes away there with the children. Ibrahim observes that his parents rarely spoke to each other but that his father made every arrangement for his family's finances and that his mother 'persuaded us all to behave well with our father'. He starts attending college and soon gets drawn towards Azra, a pretty and level-headed girl of Indian origin, a classmate of his not-so-level-headed sister Unaiza. Torn between the Hijab and the mini-skirts, as well as her father in Riyadh and mother in London, Unaiza decides to be 'a liberated woman' by learning belly-dancing! She almost gets raped in the process, but gradually learns to effect some multicultural balance with the help of Azra, her sister-in-law to be. Meanwhile, Ibrahim's father had realized that in spite of breaking the heart of his first wife, he had not won that of his second. Rather, he has destroyed a young girl's dream of a handsome young husband. He solves the problem by divorcing ...


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