Burying love deep within

Burying love deep within

Qaisra Shahraz
Penguin Books, 2009,
pp 386, Rs 299

Love triumphs all. How true! You feel especially so after a captivating read of Qaisra Shahraz’s Fated to Love, a novel that explores human emotions to the hilt and portrays the conflict between archaic traditions and the freedom modern life offers. The writer, on her part, has penned not just a love story, but a saga of emotions that underline her attempt to connect with Pakistan, her country of origin. It is in this context that we need to read Fated to Love.

Zarri Bano, the protagonist of Qaisra Shahraz’s Fated to Love, is young, well-educated, beautiful and wealthy. She is a loving daughter to her parents and a doting sister to her siblings. She nurtures dreams of setting up a publishing company. She’s a woman of substance. In short, she is everything a man would ever want in a woman. And, she is in search of her ‘ideal man’.

Enter Sikander, a handsome young business tycoon, who sweeps her off her feet with his chivalrous charms. A bewitched Zarri Bano accepts his marriage proposal and is on cloud nine, building castles of love in her fascinating world of dreams. But then, destiny has other plans for this love-struck maid. A tragedy in the family in the form of her brother Jafar’s death in a freak accident alters her world for the worse.

Habib, her father, who is as possessive about his fields as he is about his lovable daughter Zarri Bano, doesn’t approve of her marriage plans. An age-old tradition wherein the daughter of the family becomes the heiress of her father’s property in the absence of a male heir in the family is imposed on Zarri Bano that also expects her to be wedded to the Holy Koran and lead a life of celibacy, assuming the title of the ‘Holy Woman’, or the Shahzadi Ibadat of her clan!

A devastated Zarri Bano is now caught in a dilemma — should she accept her father’s will and the meaningless tradition forced upon her or follow her heart and lead a ‘normal’ life filled with love and laughter? Well, the dutiful daughter that she is, Zarri Bano decides to bury her love for Sikander and her colourful past to follow her father’s decree. And she does exactly that, following a ceremony that abruptly halts her journey on the rosy path of love. While Sikander, her love interest, feels betrayed by Zarri Bano’s decision to devote her life to religion, Zarri Bano, on the other hand, feels oppressed by patriarchal idiocy.

However, the woman of substance that she is, Zarri Bano makes the most of her situation and travels around the world learning Koran anew and delivering religious discourses. Though she appears to be calm and resigned to her life of devotion and duty, deep down in her heart, her love for Sikander and all things mundane, remains alive. Her heart aches for her love that was lost to absurd traditions. Meanwhile, at the behest of his mother and in a rush to forget his love for Zarri Bano, Sikander marries Ruby, Zarri Bano’s younger sister. How does Zarri Bano deal with the situation? Does she remain the Shahzadi Ibadat of her clan forever?

An intense love story that is at once captivating and awe-inspiring, Fated to Love is a great read right from the word ‘go’. Qaisra Shahraz deserves a pat on her back for treating the sensitive issue of patriarchal dominance with great finesse and subtlety.

Another appealing characteristic of the book is the use of sub-plots that are equally engrossing. The story flows forth in a realistic manner. The simplicity of language and captivating characterisation add to the allure of the book. Pick it up now!