"My Brother's Wedding" by Andaleeb Wajid. A review
Weddings are always fun to read about, especially Indian weddings. Romance, intrigue, larger than life family members and all the shopping make for a riveting read and that is exactly what Andaleeb Wajid’s third (published) book “My Brother’s Wedding” is all about.
“My Brother’s Wedding” starts with Saba’s blog. A 19 year old, Saba starts an anonymous blog that helps her deal with the circus that her brother’s wedding is. Soon enough, though, the actual wedding takes a back seat and all the events that change Saba’s life gently, yet permanently, play out on the blog. From the whiff of first love to how a family sticks together in times of trouble, Wajid takes you through a gamut of emotions, without leaving you drained of them. You just can’t help wanting to know what happens to the characters next.
Wajid is a consummate story teller, and fortunately enough, she has the language skills to tell a tight, funny, poignant story that hits the ground running from word go; right in the beginning, what you read is Saba, not the idea of Saba, not a slow movement by the author towards bulding Saba, but a lively, intelligent Saba, who lives in Bangalore and is different from the rest of her family. Saba’s family is educated and yet deeply traditional, in so much that she wears a full burqa and the women in her family still avert their faces when they come across strange men. Arranged marriages are still the norm and marrying out of the community (even though to another kind of Muslim community) still vexes families.
In the midst of all this is Saba,clear conscience and burqa intact and audacious underneath it. She has strong opinions on her siblings Zohaib and Rabia, her best friend is a world-weary Riya and finds herself taking the first step to pursuing a goodlooking boy who she has an instant crush on. Not quite the girl most people think Muslim girls are.
Wajid has a strong narrative style and her characters, at least those who occupy most space in her book, are well-rounded and journey to a different place by the time she ends her book. But she is also a cruel author, rarely ever giving readers what they think they want; she snatches and obliterates, she erases and takes away, and presents you with a twist here and a turn there that will have you groaning in frustration. She has no qualms in doling out the worst fate to her characters, and in the end, that very cruelty is Wajid’s biggest advantage. There’s never predicting what the people in her books will do.
Women in Wajid’s writing, apart from obviously being women, are portrayed in the complexity that is associated with them in pop culture. They have many inner conflicts that are rarely shared with others, they are hesitant about love, and not afraid of lust. They are bright, not very stereotypical and question things around them regularly. I have found, Wajid is true to the Muslim women in her community who will accept their lot, but continue to struggle with their questions and complexes. The men, however, are a girl’s dream come true. They are always good looking, charming, cultured and respectful. Unafraid of their love for their girl, they are expressive and don’t hesitate to kiss the love of their lives, although the sex can come once they are married.
“My Brother’s Wedding” is a fast read because Wajid spins a story on a tight plot and delivers a satisfying end. I started in the morning and, with many interruptions, was done by late night. Of course, I do have a lot of time on my hands, but that’s a different thing. The paperback is published by Rupa and pitched as a young adult novel, although at 33, it kept me quite engrossed. I loved the cover, a bright yellow background with ornate designs that served as a border to a girl sitting at a laptop. Structurally, the novel shifts between Saba’s posts on her blog and an omniscient perspective that describes the goings on in Saba’s household.
Priced at Rs 295, I totally recommend this between two heavy reads.
And if you’re in Bangalore tomorrow, June 15, 2013, do brave the traffic to attend the launch of this book at the Oxford Book Store, 1 MG Road Mall, next to Vivanta by Taj at 6.30 pm.
(Disclosure: Andaleeb Wajid is a friend.)