by Shamika Shabnam
“Every twelve-year-old boy pressed into battle by them, every ten-year-old girl forcibly married to mullah eight times her age, every man lashed, every woman beaten, every limb broken.”
The Blind Man’s Garden is a heart-rending novel, unveiling the perilous conditions of post 9/11 Afghanistan. Jeo and Mikal, two friends from the fictional town of Heer in Pakistan, become victims to this peril when they secretly travel to Afghanistan with the philanthropic desire to help the wounded victims. Physical wounds inevitably align emotional suffering as Jeo comes to terms with his wife Naheed and Mikal’s former love affair. Alongside war, the novel showcases the many obstacles that a Pakistani woman has to endure, one of them being the choice between love and society.
This is relevant to Naheed, who remains in Pakistan while her husband Jeo enters Afghanistan. Her character gradually develops strength, whereby she rebels against the superstitious notions of her mother Tara. Through this she claims a candid voice, with ideas resembling that of a modern-day liberal Pakistani female. Her transition from a dependent married woman to a self-regulating female triggers her ultimate decision that she takes on choosing between love and society. Therefore, amidst the degenerating circumstances of war, the solidarity of women, especially that of Naheed and Jeo’s sister Basie, sheds an optimistic light of hope for the future.
The novel ends in a cliff-hanger, which raises my curiosity to know about the fate of Aslam’s characters. The Blind Man’s Garden, could certainly be turned into a series which would be just as intense and visually descriptive as this novel itself. Poivided that the novel is turned into a series it would be remarkable if the cliff-hanger is followed up in the next book.
The book was a blissful read. It revealed the nature of two different nations and the various issues they stumble upon during post 9/11. I would recommend it to anyone who is fascinated by a tale which interweaves the poignant themes of war, patriarchy and loss with subtler themes of love, consolation and light comedy.
The Blind Man’s Garden is published by Faber, £18.99
Nadeem Aslam was born in 1966 in Gujranwala, Pakistan. At the age of fourteen he moved with his parents to Huddersfield, Yorkshire and attended the University of Manchester to study Biochemistry. In his third year, he dropped out of University and pursued writing. His other works include Season of the Rainbirds (1993) and Maps for Lost Lovers (2004) which was long-listed for the Booker Prize, shortlisted for the IMPAC Prize, and awarded the Kiriyama Prize and the Encore Award. He currently resides in London.
Shamika Shabnam: Born in Bangladesh and a final year student of BA English at the University of Leicester. Interested in pursuing a career in the publishing industry and currently looking forward to getting a Master’s Degree in Modern/Postcolonial Literature.