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A New Book in my hand, which is the tale of an arranged marriage in Pakistan


The 30-year-old teacher from Karachi in Pakistan saw the funny side of arranged marriages and cultural backgrounds in Pakistan and decided it was the perfect subject for her debut novel, "How It Happened." This Book Published by Penguin, India 2012.

It is said that a good novel is a story of transformation. In such a novel, the protagonists are tumbled together. The reader should be able to swerve along with its drama as the story unfolds.

The book, recently launched in India and Pakistan, is the story of Dadi, the matriarch of the Bandian family in Karachi, and her quest to find the perfect Shia Muslim groom for her granddaughter Zeba. Told from the point of view of Zeba's younger sibling Saleha, the novel explores how negotiating ancient marriage traditions in the 21st century could stretch a family to the end of its tether.

Dadi, the imperious matriarch of the Bandian family in Karachi, swears by the virtues of arranged marriages. All her ancestors – including a dentally and optically challenged aunt – have been perfectly well-served by such arrangements. But her grandchildren are harder to please.

Haroon, the apple of her eye, has to suffer half a dozen candidates until he finds the perfect Shia-Syed girl of his dreams. But it is Zeba, his sister, who has the tougher time, as she is accosted by a bevy of suitors, including a potbellied cousin and a banker who reeks of sesame oil.

Told by the witty, hawk-eyed Saleha, their precocious and youngest sibling, this is a romantic, engaging and utterly delightful story about how marriages are made and unmade - not in the heavens but in the drawing room and over the phone.

For many the story might seem ordinary but rendering it into a delightful funny book is quite a task and Fatima certainly pulls it off with aplomb and more than a few belly-laughs.

In the end, Haider left an inspiring message for her students, who were mostly from the Lyceum School, where she teaches.

“You can do it. You can write if you persevere. Don’t focus on writing the most life-altering novel. Write what you know best. You will do well because who you are is pretty special.”

Handling such serious subjects with brilliant and devastating irreverence, Haider proves that she deserves the praise heaped upon her on the jacket, where she is hailed as 'one of the most important writers of her generation'.

Novelist Shazaf Fatima Haider holds a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Karachi. She has taught English at the O, A and bachelor’s levels. She has contributed several articles to Books and Authors, The Magazine and also the DAWN blog. Her short story, 'The Homecoming' was published in 'Papercuts' vol. 8, July 2011. This is her first novel, to be released in December 2012.

( M.H.Rizawi reviews 'How It Happened' by Shazaf Fatima Haider )




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