When the book came into my hands I was not so sure what I was getting into. A new novelist, a differently themed background story – would I enjoy reading this book? I wondered.
After a few pages I had no doubt at all. There was no way I could not enjoy such a nice book devoid of any pretence and full of life!
summer wine that tastes better as it ages, the book, Kite Strings moves into your system
and before you even realize it, you have been transformed into Mehnaz, the main protagonist of the novel! You begin to identify with many of her emotions and thoughts, the same way like you did as a young girl. In fact, this book nostalgically transported me into a world I had been familiar with during my school days. Being an ex- Bangalorean myself, having spent my childhood with many friends who followed the Islam faith made me take to Kite Strings like fish to water. The author, Andaleeb Wajid, has very effectively described a Muslim household as it exists in most homes. Her style of writing is deceivingly simple and you need to take no great effort to understand situations and emotions that keep coming up.
The dupatta and burkha find mention in the novel, a controversial issue all over the world. The resentment of many young Muslim girls towards this piece of garment is brought out well especially when Mehnaz wonders about the acceptance of it by the house maid Aasia:
“…I was still getting used to it while Aasia looked like she had been born with it….”
The little streak of rebellion that moves in the minds of young girls and boys is so simply expressed in the lines:
“I couldn’t understand this two-fold logic that the grown-ups had. One that applied to them – they didn’t want to be answerable to anyone – and the other that applied to us – we had to answer them every single time.”
How very true. And, that’s exactly how I have felt many a time!
What I like about Kite Strings is that it deals with many social issues at one go. There is the ever existing phenomenon of self-identity, self-respect for a woman which tends to get obliterated in the ever rampant putting down of the female gender in society.
“How could one man’s absence reduce a woman to nothing?” Mehnaz asks observing a paternal aunt of hers whose husband left her for good.
Family feuds are something else the author deals with very well and you get to realize that this is not just ‘some family feud,’ such petty family wars take place in almost every family. The vulnerability of a parent’s life gets to be felt when one slips into late teens when one realizes that parents are not as strong as they seem to be:
“When Abu came home that evening, he sat down on the sofa wearily. He looked old and tired, and the thought made me nervous. Parents were supposed to be invincible. They couldn’t die just like that, could they?”
Love for freedom, rebelling against laid down norms, doubting a parent’s love for child (due to his/her constant tirade of anger to reform), sexual abuse, the forbidden charm of the opposite sex – this and much more the author portrays splendidly in the novel.
Marriage: “….the idea of living in a strange, new family in their new house, learning to call it her own but never owning it completely…’’
Mom’s nagging: “I sat up straighter and watched TV for sometime before switching it off. There was no fun in watching alone especially without Ammi to berate me about watching too much.”
The concluding chapter is really worth a read as Andaleeb connect all the characters who are part of Mehnaz’s life together.
“…our lives had entwined briefly like kite strings bracing themselves before the big fight…”
I recommend this book to anyone who would like to take a delicious sip of old summer wine lying dormant in the cellars of nostalgia!