Bahir by Monisha K Gumber

‘Bahir’ by Monisha K Gumber is the tale of the stunning Sawera, a young girl who is born in Pakistan and adopted by her mother's sister, and the travails she goes through as she grows from “a petite girl with lots of facial hair” into a beautiful young girl with “the knack of attracting trouble”.  She moves along with her Ammi and Abba to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Once her brothers, Omar and Rashid, are born, she senses a change in the attitude of her Ammi towards her.

Sawera turns into a rebel, craving love from others, as she looks for some excitement in her monotonous life. When she is caught with a boy, her parents take her back to Karachi to attend a wedding – her own. In her hurry to get married, she chooses Wasim, “nearly thirty and after a broken engagement and a broken heart, fell in love with my picture.” 

However, she is soon disillusioned with her husband, and after delivering three children, she decides to leave him and go to Saudi, back to her parents, the excuse being that her ailing mother needs her. It is then she finds herself pregnant again and dreams of going back to Pakistan again. Fate decides otherwise, and after the birth of her son, Aftab, she finds a job at a beauty parlour as a cleaner.

It is now that Hamid comes into her life and soon they are married. The next time she goes to Pakistan, she leaves her children there with her sister, the avaricious Fatima, promising to pay her lavishly for their upkeep. 

Back in Saudi, it is a rollercoaster ride for Sawera. Hamid disappears from her life and she is forced to go back to the beauty salon where she picks up the nuances of the trade that will help her in the future. It is here that the title of the book comes into play ‘bahir’, a metaphor for ‘abroad’, a place where she can make enough money to make sure that her four children are well tended.

When Sawera meets Adnan Saab in Bahrain, she realises that life has changed irrevocably for her. However, the older gentleman is a ‘farishta’ an angel in her life, as he pulls wires in a manner that finally unites Sawera with her children and family in Pakistan.

This is a gritty and moving tale of a woman who, despite finding herself in deep trouble, rallies around to take a grip of her life without losing heart. Sawera is a metaphor for the strong woman of today who refuses to be pulled down, a feisty heroine who has many qualities to be admired. What makes her character relatable is the fact that she has faults that make her intensely human.

A racy read that keeps the reader engrossed till the very end!


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