On a flight back to US from India, about half an hour was left to land in San Francisco, everyone was asleep, when we heard the captain speaking over the intercom. All I heard was something about how we were about to land in Japan. In my sleepy state I assumed that something was wrong with the plane and was about to panic when my husband told me the rest of the captain's message. Apparently we were denied entry into United States because a passenger was on their no-fly list.

On landing in Japan, as we all emptied the plane, I saw a family of about 6 - a young boy, bearded, about 20, and women of different ages wearing burkha's - sitting quietly in the center seats not meeting anyones eyes. I remarked to my husband about how horrid they must be feeling, that just because they are Muslims they must have shown up on the security radar for US. Once the aircraft had been emptied out, the family was brought out with about 10 men surrounding them and taken away. We boarded the plane again and went on our way. Once there, we told our friends about our "adventure" and had discussions about racial profiling, heard stories from others about how they had been subjected to profiling. Pro's and con's of racial profiling, US government, security, prejudice, patriotism, terrorism.. I'm sure you can all imagine what was discussed and debated. I remember sympathizing with the family on the plane.

About a week later, I read that the young boy had later been sent to US and arrested on arrival. Allegedly he had gone to Pakistan and had taken part in a terrorist camp. I did not follow the case since then.

Those of you who are still reading this post, thanks :). Throughout the book, as I heard Changez (the young Pakistani protagonist) talk about his life in America, I followed him on all the various issues he tackles in the book. Be it his social identity, his professional acceptance, America's fair treatment to him and his achievements. But as I finished the book, my thoughts forked out to this incident.
I don't know what happened to the boy in the plane. How accurate were the accusations? Did he or why did he join a camp and many questions that went through my mind. Many that would remain unanswered. I did wish Mohsin Hamid had ended the book on a definite note, but then that would have made it more fictional than real in account.

This extremely fluid, unapologetic, frank, point of view had me hooked from page 1. Changez a young muslim, confident, achiever, confused, looking for acceptance, searching for identity, guilty of abandoning family, trying to define his patriotism, enjoying the fruits of his labor - all his layers come through with such clarity. I really enjoyed the narrative style. It flowed naturally. It felt like you were right there listening in on an actual conversation.

Mohsin Hamid has not held back Changez's thoughts to be politically correct, or tried to portray Changez as a victim. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is an honest, at times appealing and at times disconcerting, account of a man's internal thoughts, who knows that he may be a few feet away from death and has nothing to lose by telling all.

Note: For Swati's review, go here.


Dewey said...

What an unpleasant experience that had to be for everyone on the plane, but most of all for that family.

This book is on my wishlist, and I think I put it down for a challenge. Can't wait to read it!

chica said...

It was definitely unpleasant.
Looking forward to reading your review on the book.

Swati said...

Excellent review! I agree with everything you have written about the book :)

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