Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan
The sort of childhood painted by indoctrination, the tales of religion, the experience of Madrassa, and the company of Qaris, the Author didn’t try to mince his words
Reading a book and discovering an emphatic bond with the experiences of the author is a rare sight to happen, with “Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan” I believe I won that oddity. While seeking a nonfiction and ignoring a pity-inspiring name, just for the word Pakistan, I didn’t know what a gem I had already picked up. The book revolves around a young soul born in a puritanical family in Pakistan. The sort of childhood painted by indoctrination, the tales of religion, the experience of Madrassa, and the company of Qaris, the Author didn’t try to mince his words. From sexual tension towards girls to corporal punishment inflicted by teachers to child and animal rape, the facts seemed hard to stomach. The big transformation, however, starts with the migration of the author and his family to America.
In America, the author illustrates the dilemma of identity that his family had encountered. Although they were quick to validate the culture, the illusion proved to be short-lived. The family inspired by ‘Tablighi Jamats’ wanted to convert all Americans into Islam. Even started communal meetings. If the parents were drifting into fundamentalism touching the borders of overzealous, the son was struggling to survive the fight between his sexual tension and the fear of God. One of his most repeated statements was “She is hot, the hell is hotter”, He tried to persuade a Muslim girl to marry him but all in vain and eventually he was obliged to turn back to his village to find a pious wife. Having been betrayed by his friend, insulted by some of the extremists (driven by hate for America), and a failure in getting a woman, the author felt a rage towards Islam what in his mind was responsible for all the failures in his life.
The book somehow was a slap in the face of people who consider their monopoly over Islam and want to throw everyone out of the circle of Islam.
Oscillating between his hate and love towards Islam, the author was hell-bent on wearing a persona of a pious man, — A win-win situation. Nonetheless, the charade didn’t last long and after a while, he had to submit to Islam wholeheartedly, BUT then 9/11 happened. In the final chapters, the author disappointed by terrorists and their ridiculous use of Islam for their benefits, tried to shed his sham face and for the last time attempted to bring reformation in the Islamic world — the same Islamic world which was wandering in chaos post-9/11. His trajectory landed him in the Middle East.
The book somehow was a slap in the face of people who consider their monopoly over Islam and want to throw everyone out of the circle of Islam. What I really loved, however, was the manner in which the author tried to deliver his experiences. Utilizing humour and wit to touch even some of the delicate questions, definitely is not everyone’s cup of tea. If he were in Pakistan, I believe he would have been killed even before the publication of his book. The thing that I didn’t like was the ending. Just like Red Bird, it left me with a wondering mind, or maybe it was too mystical to be grasped by my simple Mind.
This book is not for every heart. Read it, if you have a mind with a faith in tolerance.