By Shruti Kesavan:
“You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend”Â -Paul Sweeny
Often times we would opt to rather cuddle up on a rainy day, with a cup of coffee on the bed side table and a light book to satisfy the reader in you. This book is not one of those books which can be read and forgotten as it leaves behind a deep impact on your mind long after you are done with the book. The book goes with a humble cover of a child running through a dusty desert and above the cover picture is the title “Orphan of Islam” written by Alexander Khan and published by Harper Collins.
This book is more of a confession than an autobiography simply because the author decides to confess and confide in the reader. This not only creates a bond and a sense of connectivity with the reader but also promises you to embark and relive a few glimpses of his life. This is a story which will rock you off your comfort zone and throw you into the harsh reality of life beyond our secure homes and comfortable boundaries.
The story revolves around the writer, often referred to as ‘Moham’ in the book and his quest for freedom and a slight shufti of his long lost mother. His mother being English and his father being Pakistani only adds to his confusion and opens a whole new degree of hell for him to survive. The fact that his father already has a family back in Pakistan not only breaks his illusion of being in a happy household but also sees him being forcefully transferred from his comfortable life in England to the unknown in Pakistan.
Now he is left to fend for himself and his sister under the watchful preying eyes of his evil aunt Fatima and her brother Rafiq. A ray of hope is still shown as his father would regularly visit him in Pakistan though there was no word from his mother. There is a twist in fate when his father suddenly passes away leaving Moham and Jasmine in the clasps of monsters to say the least. As a child being clearly restricted to the ‘home-eat-pray-mosque-sleep’ routine, he is seen talking to a group of English girls and that is when the story takes an unlikely turn.
He is not only beaten to death but is cannily transferred to a madrassa (Islamic school) in Pakistan where the bitter truth of fundamentalism and blind faith is unfolded and revealed to us. This extraordinary journey from his uncle to the madrassa and out with the help of his confidant Abad only marks a silver lining even around the darkest cloud. His escape, despite sounding highly dramatized, grabs your attention and doesn’t allow your mind to wander away from the book.
This book is an example of how one can always gather courage and move forward irrespective of the circumstances. As mentioned in the book, “sometimes all you need is a little courage”. This is one such book which will help you gather your courage and leap forward to take the plunge even when adversity looks you in the eye. It shows you how a little faith can take you places and most often to happier places.
The story revolves around the streets of England to the noisy chaotic lanes of Pakistan to the dusty roads of Afghanistan and then plays back and forth, stating various stages of Moham’s life. With each stage you witness a new horrifying phase of his life, be it being encouraged to join the Mujahidin or being a witness to honour-killing or even child abuse, which he realizes now in retrospect.
This is a heart warming story of a child in pursuit of his mother and the agonizing episodes related to it. It not only portrays the undying spirit of the child but is also more like a reality check to its readers, making them realize that life is not rosy after all. Alexander Khan, who comes from a background with little or no education, only makes it evident that you can go places only if you believe in the hidden strength and potential within. This read, even if started on a light note cannot remain one as you flip through the pages of a child’s most horrid experiences and his silent cries. As you would reach the last pages of the book, you will be bound to feel a sort of loss mixed with a sense of joy with the epilogue and would definitely not regret picking this book up from the stands and giving it a place in your heart, for a long time to come.