I began reading this book with the intention of reading it casually over some time, but this was not to be. I was immediately hooked at the first story already, and subsequent stories easily managed to maintain my interest, keeping me intrigued and unable to wait to read more.
The book is a collection of short fictional stories set in Pakistan. Each story documents a different sort of struggle, but with the struggle comes perseverance, endurance and eventual triumph. I have always had a strong belief that important social and political issues can be conveyed effectively through literature, and Saadia Faruqi proves this belief to be right in ‘Brick Walls’. Through the stories in this book, the social, political and economic climate of Pakistan is vividly portrayed giving the reader a much deeper understanding and awareness of the dynamics that are present in a country like Pakistan.
The main characters in each story are multi-dimensional and I enjoyed how their emotions and conflicts were explored. It reminded me of the intensity that is the human experience.
Coming from a developing country myself, I could identify with the central themes of poverty and inequality, crime and corruption and abuse of power. The thing that stood out for me though, was that social, economic and even political barriers cannot hold back the human spirit. Faruqi managed to show that things like morality, kindness, selflessness, ambition and perseverance are not restricted to those who are in power, and thus although the world is rife with inequalities, the odds can be beaten and overcome. I particularly like how she portrayed this in a story entitled ‘Making the Team’ about a little girl who desperately wants to play cricket with the boys in her community. This story was one of my favourites because it manages to successfully focus on power roles and bias in a non-conventional manner.
What was evident throughout the book were the themes of love and hope. The author seems to have a deep love and identification to Pakistan and the hope that she has for the people of this country is clear. Hope prevails in each story, and the potential for change and growth is a constant reminder. After reading this book, I have being made to understand Pakistan and the people of Pakistan in a different manner. There may be many issues to deal with in this country (as is the case in all countries), but as long as there are people who are willing to make a difference, no matter how small, the hope for a better future will continue to prevail.
In the end I am left with the distinct feeling that it is those people who work silently in the shadows to give of themselves, their wealth and their time to bring about positive change, who are the real heroes and role models of the world. Saadia Faruqi has illustrated this beautifully in this gripping collection of short stories.
Image from here