What would you do for justice? I mean, how loud would you shout? how much would you be willing to sacrifice? how much danger would you face? how much degradation would you tolerate?
Would you suffer in silence because that was just easier or would you stand up, dust yourself off and just go on fighting?!
The truth is its not something we really have to think about here in the West. Our activism, though necessary in its own right, often feels sterile, weak, diluted to the point of being desensitised from every thing! That is why the above novel reached me at a level so elemental, so deep, so real. The reality is that this world of ours rarely meets the like of Maryam Khail. Women, who did not ask to be activists, but the reality of life thrust these duties upon them from the moment they exited the womb, and boy did they meet it head on!
In this compelling, moving and deeply passionate true story, Maryam charts the journey of her life. Spanning Afghanistan, India, America and Saudi Arabia, she discusses the struggles faced by her gender against a backdrop of oppression, war, indignity and tribal loyalties. She displays with sensitivity yet raw honesty the complex trials Afghan women face; simply raising children, living peacefully with husbands or trying to buy bread from the shop can be issues sparking a multitude of torments, mental and physical cruelty of the most barbaric order.
A forced marriage, leads to the birth of a beautiful baby boy, and in the birth of her son, a new chapter of Maryam’s horror shall begin. As her violent home life spirals out of control, her fear for her baby’s safety escalates, but who knew; as she walked in to the bathroom to wash her face, the smile she offered to her baby boy on route would be the last smile she would lovingly send his way.
Where did her baby go?
Will she ever see him again?
How does a mother reconcile such grief, loss and suffering and still carry on?
Maryam’s incredible journey poses all of these questions and more, yet despite her loss and despair, the novel also offers great hope. It demonstrates practically how, and why, a woman like Maryam does not give up. It shows that where there is life, there is a basic human compulsion to go on, to keep fighting. Maryam Khail possesses a God-Given strength that I believe is rare among our women today. There were times during her novel where I would squirm, almost willing her with all my heart not to take a particular route, not to follow through with the so obvious risks she was taking. Yet one has to admire her confidence, tenacity and daring to do what she knows she must; you wonder what our world, and what woman kind could be if there were just a few more Maryam’s on our earth!
To talk about the book, or the plot, in detail would be an utter injustice; so I’ll simply emphasise how much you MUST read it!
For the love of a son, by Jean Sasson can be purchased from Amazon; and for all of you, like me, who are addicted to the Kindle, a digital version is available too! I was so moved by this beautiful heart-felt biography that I took the liberty of Emailing Maryam my thoughts; my comments, and her reply, are pasted below.
Salaams Maryam Jaan. I hope this note finds you well. You do not know me, though after reading your book, I feel as though I do and felt the need to write you a few lines. I am a disabled human rights activist, living in the UK. I read the reviews of your book, and because I have a particular passion/interest in South Asia and women’s rights, thought I knew what to expect. Nothing could have prepared me for reading your book. None of the novels; neither fact nor fiction that has come out of the region even comes close to it. Nothing could have prepared me for the love, passion and heartache with which you tell your story. I read the book in almost one sitting, I feel it is the kind of book to be reflected upon in this way. It is the kind of book you cannot put down, yet when it is over, you look at the world around you with a completely new lens, realising that every thing around you is still the same, yet you have changed so much from within. I can’t begin to imagine how much you have hurt, and how you live with your trauma on a daily basis. Nor can I imagine the innate insight and strength it has taken for you to share something so traumatic, so personal, so intimate with the rest of the world. The book exposes you to others, but also to the dangers that have come before and lay ahead, but still you took this risk. I have immense, immeasurable respect for your courage, strength and determination in the face of adversity. I read this book, reflecting on my struggles and thinking that my life was hard. By the end, I had been humbled to tears over and over again in the depths of the night as I thanked my creator for the life I have, but also for giving me the opportunity to glimpse in to your own. Though I do not know you, I think it is impossible to read this book and not feel involved, or feel an intense, indescribable need, to reach out, to express emotions and to do something about them. In my humble state I feel hopeless to make your life better, or even to express myself in a more eloquent manner. Since reading your story there has not been a day, a moment where my heart does not pour fourth with prayers for your present and your future. I pray only that the good you seek for yourself and your family is granted to you, for surely after hardship, ease must dilute the suffering in the end! I want and wish I could do so much for you. I am an activist myself, some of the causes we work for are the same, others are different, yet the principals remain the same. Ultimately, people like me who are not from Afghanistan are feather bedding! We can only empathise so much and travel so far in our campaigning. We need angels of light, cymbals of hope, understanding and justice to come forward and share their truth with the world. Many dream of doing what you have done, few have the courage to carry it out. Your entire life stands as an example of liberty, freedom, equality, dignity and an unbreakable, beautiful soul. I feel honoured to have read your book, and even more honoured to have been able to write you these few lines. I am only your servant; your well wisher, expressing myself; and it goes without saying that if I ever can, or could be, of assistance to you, I would, and will always be available for the same. For now, All I can do is thank you, and admire you from a distance. May you be blessed in both worlds for your sufferings and your strength through adversity. I pray that this book spreads like a star of light and hope across the world and generates the good, the confidence, the activism and empowerment among women and campaigners that you seek, Insha Allah.
With love, duas, and respect.
***Maryam’s reply ***
Dear Roshni Jan,
Thank you very much for your beautiful E-mail. I really appreciated your thoughts about my life.
I'm very happy that you are an activist for our gender and people like you can help and make a difference for those of us who are oppressed because of the
ignorance of the society we live in.
Please do spread the wards and put my story as an example.
with kind regards,