June 10, 2011

The End of Innocence by Moni Mohsin

The blurb caught my eye on a website, and I started looking for this book at the usual stores which I frequent, but none of them seemed to stock this title. Then I made up my mind to order it online and start reading it. The book arrived soon and I started it with great fervor. 

The book is set in the 1960s when the East and West Pakistan war was raging, with India getting dragged in between it. Bangladesh wanted freedom and to be declared as a country, Pakistan believed that was not to be, and India was taking sides with Bangladesh. The central characters of the story are all from an old aristocratic family in a small village in Pakistan, the servants of the family, the busy-bodies of the village and the story spans over a few months in their lives. I will not detail the plot here, but merely comment on the same. If you would like to read about the plot , here is the link. 

There are some ideologies which struck me quite openly as I was reading the book. Some I saw similarities with our present day scenarios, but some seemed very different and very much a part of the past British regime.

Women and their role in family and public life as seen in rural Pakistan and how the norms are set, to be followed by all. We also see how education might open our eyes to the world, but it is seldom that, what we try to bring about in the name of social up-liftment, works in our favor. It is seen as mere modernism which does not work in a village, which runs by its own rules. 

Honour and family name is seen to be highest accord and even human life comes only second fiddle to it. Any crime committed in the name of family honor is seen to be less/not punishable, and in most cases the families do not see it needed to punish the criminal. Rather it is seen that the families punish the one causing the tarnishing of family honor. 

As the title suggests, there is also a view of how the adult world and its complexities look like from a 8 year old girl's point of view. How she understands adult talk and the fears associated with it. We also see how she yearns to be a part of it, and not to be treated as a small baby. The relationship between her and her friend, their secrets and games. How her friend, being older, is thrown into the adult world, and the problem she faces trying to solve  them.

Overall, I would rate this very much a written version of many bollywood movies, with the plot having twists and turns to keep the reader guessing and ending with a grand finale. The writing style was very simple and it was a good attempt to see how the world is seen from a child's perspective. Its a very quick read and some of the country-side descriptions are very well written, which makes one feel them to be very real. I am not too sure whether this is a book I would be recommending to many, but certainly to those who like light-reads. 

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