Malala isn’t a stranger to the world. In the year 2012, when everyone else waited with abated breath to see if the world really would end, Malala’s world, the way she knew it, did I end. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb is the story of The Girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban. Narrated in her own words, it can also be considered an autobiography of sorts.
There were three shots that rang on that fateful afternoon. Aimed at the girl who had stood up for girls’ education in a Pakistan that was increasingly crumbling under the ascending Taliban, it had hit three girls in all. While the other two survived with little effort, Malala’s world had turned upside down. Multiple surgeries, a team of the best doctors in Pakistan, and later, Birmingham, weeks in hospital, and away from her only comfort, her family, Malala made a miraculous recovery only to see the Taliban raise its ugly head once again and asking her to come back, but without her activism and without her education.
Malala had been a girl of just 11 years when she started writing anonymous blogs for BBC Urdu, highlighting the trials and tribulations of a girl in Pakistan, a country now known for harboring extremist views on girls’ progress. Along with her father Ziauddin, she took to social activism and become more and more vocal about human rights, especially the human right to education. It wasn’t long before she came under the Taliban’s radar and eventually ended up in the intensive care.
Today Malala lives in England and is attending the University of Oxford. She is receiving what she stood up for, education.
I am not a fan of non-fiction, let alone autobiographies! Biographies, I can still digest to some extent but those who write about themselves remain out of questions. However, I do enjoy a good, uplifting story. And this is what this book is, if not anything.
Some books are so profound, that it is hard to fathom how they actually affected you. This is one of those books. I don’t know how I felt after reading this book, but while reading it, I felt disgustingly sad. The state of women and the value of life in Pakistan seemed appalling. The fear with which one has to live is inhumane. Where did people like Malala and her father get their courage from? Where did they find the guts to go on and do the right thing in the face of danger that threatened all of their lives? And most importantly, why did they do what they did? Why? Why? The onus of society wasn’t on them. Such books show what being human is. That empathy and love are the only things that will keep us away from turning into monsters. That it doesn’t take a big man to make a change.
Whenever I read about a tragedy, I feel immense pain. And with that pain comes curiosity. How? Why? When? This book answered a lot of questions for me. The Taliban, for instance, their baby steps towards Pakistan after their outset from Afghanistan. That they only care about their own will. The lives, whoever they might belong to, don’t matter to them. Next, the people of Pakistan. They are as hypocritical as anyone else. As long as their own necks are safe, everything is okay. But the moment someone gets to live a life (something which came after a heavy price) they can only dream of, they get nasty.
All said and done, I found Malala’s tone a little too proud when it came to her religion and her country. Despite the fact that she almost lost her life due to these two things, she came across as someone who couldn’t accept her spade for a spade and move on. Her belief that the Taliban wouldn’t hurt a child seemed like fiddling with a snake and expecting it to not strike back. I found her extremely vocal about girls’ education in Pakistan, but she missed to voice out that the majority of her countrymen still treated women as mere things, and not human beings. They fear the power of an educated woman, especially if they leave their rural houses and venture out towards enlightenment. She never talked about what her illiterate mother could have been, had she had the chance at education but focused mainly on her homemaker skills. In spite of her father being a morally forward-thinking man, his attention was never on the upliftment of his own wife. I am not saying all this in some hatred or spite, I just believe that charity begins at home.
I felt that another great advantage that Malala had, Islam, and that she missed out on it. Being an international peace icon had given her the scope to reach millions, and yet, she seemed stuck on just one part of her country, Swat and the Swatis, describing in excruciating detail their beauty and lives, instead of Islam and Muslims. While she doled out anecdotes after anecdotes on her people, she missed out on the most important aspect, voicing out for Islam, and that it doesn’t encourage violence or any kind of discrimination, and in turn showing her religion in a better light rather than pushing more people towards Islamophobia.
Having said all of the above, for whatever it is worth, this book is a definite winner. Above all, it does show us that grit and determination can take us places. This book is Malala’s tale of woe and her story of success. Salute to the girl who survived.