‘Slaughtering a woman in Char Chinar is commonplace occurrence but killing a man is something else. Masculine lives matter.’ The very foundation of Daughters of Char Chinar is steeped in the legacy of patriarchy and how the women of the community rise against it to triumph over wrong, once and for all. Hussain’s latest novel follows the trials and tribulations of the twins – Meher and Nafisa- who stand up against the forced patriarchy of Char Chinar.
Motherless and abandoned at birth, Meher and Nafisa are brought up by a cook at their father’s mansion. On coming of age, they are relocated to their maternal house, as it becomes no longer safe for two beautiful young girls to remain in the vicinity of lecherous men. The two discover friendship, love, loss, fear and hidden secrets of the family through their unforgettable journey in their maternal house.
Daughters of Char Chinar directs the reader’s attention to certain pertinent observations about the very existence of women in society. Their treatment as mere objects of pleasure and barter by men, withhold their deserved Rights from them. Any resistance towards the same leads to death or abandonment- not to mention ruining their honour. It is almost as if their existence is shrouded by the veil of subordination, leaving no space for them to have a voice and opinions of their own. The twin’s mother, Shabnam, fell prey to the clutches of the same mentality which resulted in her death. But her dreams and aspirations of seeing a free community for women lived on through her daughters.
The reference to the temporary Jirga courts highlighting one of the very many social evils in tribal communities, portray that even though the world has supposedly moved on in freedom and liberty, many regions are still as backward as they were centuries ago. The tradition of offering an unmarried daughter or the closest female relative as compensation to sins committed by men; so that the payment can be made by ravaging her, represents the sheer pettiness existing in the minds of men.
The very actuality of the Jirga courts, however temporary in form, brings the readers to wonder about the law and order system which permits the execution of such systems. This also leads one to question their existential safety where the law enforcers are consumed by greed and lust and submit their honour and position to be moulded by an oligarchic community. It makes one wonder whom to approach for justice or should the word even exist in the community?
With repeated instances of women being harassed and presented to the Jirga courts for ages without a silver lining; fear stations itself permanently in the hearts of the people, especially women. This fear triggers Meher and Nafisa’s grandmother, to weave a web of lies to safeguard the children, from the disastrous fate young girls are usually subjected to. Her plan of protecting the twins, though innovative, also makes the readers’ question the extent to which common people are willing to go to defend their children from fellow human –beings.
The above discussion sums up in a nutshell what Meher and Nafisa are up against to survive within the boundaries of Char Chinar as independent girls, without having to worry about their cruel destinies. What both the girls do realise is that a problem can only be combatted when one is educated about the same and have enough resources to fight against it. It brings us to the significance of education especially among women to stand up against the wrong. It is needful to mention that Hussain also highlights the actions of the ‘Sons’ of Char Chinar- who help in bringing revolutionary change in the community. This only proves that not all men are alike and restores faith in humanity.
Daughters of Char Chinar, though a fiction, tells the brutal truth of the 21st century society. No matter how much we harp on a progressive society, certain stances are definitely regressive and need to be uprooted the soonest. Meher and Nafisa are backed up by many other daughters of Char Chinar who have suffered similar fates. Armed with their dreams and aspirations, their support- physically or in spirit, and far sightedness; coupled with the instrument of education and strong-willed acumen – the land of Char Chinar could see better days for their children. At the end of it all, the greatest message that the novel gives is that love has powers that patriarchal backwardness, male egoism and domination cannot even fathom. The power of this four-letter word is enough to turn the tables and deliver justice denied to women for decades.
Hussain beautifully pens down the book giving space and time for the growth of each character. Their emotions and actions are justified and realistic. With twists and turns, the storyline is gripping and the readers are left with the want to find out more after reading each page. There are various sub-plots in the story but each of them merges effortlessly with the main storyline avoiding any narrative confusion. What is also interesting about the book is its call-to-action. It makes the readers aware of the atrocities still existing in the society and if we, as individuals can do our part in resisting it, we have the capability of making the world a better place. The first step has been taken by Hussain where she pens down this book to open our eyes and ears to the real world. The next step needs to be taken by us as conscious citizens of the community. Daughters of Char Chinar is also slated to be a major motion picture and it is thoroughly awaited.
Definitely a highly recommended book and one of my best reads for 2020!
No. of Pages: 338
Publisher: Pirates Books
Available at: Amazon
*Disclaimer: I would like to thank Falguni Jain and Pirates Books for giving me the opportunity to review the book.