Troubled mind
Manju Joshi

The Colour of Mehndi
by Nausheen Pasha-Zaidi.
Frog Books. Page 248. Rs 300.

The Colour of MehndiNausheen Pasha-Zaidi, a graduate in language education and educational psychology, works as an online instructor in Arizona. Her book, The Colours of Mehndi, is based on a Pakistani-American Woman, Nazli Akram, who suffers from the obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is marked by depression and low self-esteem.

Nazliís character in this work seems to be the mouthpiece of the writer herself. Nazliís woes and sufferings are very much her own.

Nazli developed her first taste of insidious depression from working as a recreational assistant at a nursery home, where one of her duties was to feed elderly people who could hardly move and were entirely at her mercy. Friendless, as she was, she spent her entire energy at school trying to get Aís. She prayed for hours at night, enunciating every Arabic syllable over and over in her headópraying to get good grades She began to think in numbers. For her, three was a good number and six was a bad number. Any ayats she recited in her head had to be in 3ís she could not recite two groups of ayats because that would have made six. She would have to recite her prayers in threeís or in three groups of three. Even though she would not know the psychological term for it for many years to come, she suffered from its mania everyday.

With an almost another world inside her, she would hear voices insides her. As a result, she felt herself failing to relate healthily to the outer real world and seemed to delve deep into her illusionary one.

Being fatherless, she had witnessed her mother struggling hard in America to make both ends meet for her four children. The other Muslim families in America never really considered them fit enough for social gatherings.

Her marriage comes out to be a big mistake for her. Nazli liked Samir for his carefree spirit, arrogant grin and a sense of humour that she just could not get away from. But she would think why he could not love her for who she was? With thwarted desires and sacrificed ambitions, this beautiful, smart and special woman succumbed to despair. She started taking doses of Prozac and Flouxetine for a happier healthier life.

Her younger son, Zeeshan, unveils her life, otherwise shrouded in shame and silence. His motherís audiotapes and his maternal grandmother help him to bring his motherís story to light.

Right interpretation of Islamic religion is another thread finely woven into the main framework of the novel. For people like Adnan, reading namaz, burying a dead and getting a girl married are the three things not to be delayed according to Islam. For him, Islam considers a man to be step ahead of woman. He sees no reason why a woman should be educated. He considers American woman kafirs because they are educated like men and are breadwinners. Also, according to him, people like Nazliís mother are not what Islamic confers them to be. Nazliís mother tells him that Islam was the first religion to give equality to a woman, to give a woman rights as a human being, just as a man has rights.

Another point emphasised by the writer is identity crisis. The Muslim families portrayed by the writer fail to relate themselves either to Pakistan or to America. Their life oscillates between their own old culture rooted in Pakistan and the new Americanised one. They seem to have lost their way somewhere in between not really belonging anywhere. Though, at personal level, Adnan wants to follow old traditions.

Aneesa, Nazliís sister-in-law, is childless and not happy with her drunkard hushand. Samir loses his own happiness drifting between his mother and his wife. He fails to do justice with his relationships. Only Nazliís mother manages to keep her life intact and adjusts herself to the hostile life after her husbandís death. With sheer determination she overcomes various pitfalls in her life.

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