I am Malala is the story of a girl who stood up for her right to education in Swat at a time when the Taliban were destroying schools and killing people. Her father hailed from a impoverished village but wanted to get education and to do that he spent a very difficult life. After getting educated he dreamed of opening up a school in Swat, which he ultimately did. In this book Malala tells of the hard times faced by her father and later by her family in establishing the school. She talks of a Maulana harassing her father since the school had both male as well as female pupils and teachers. It is a story very different from the ones you get to hear and read. Malala was different in that she refused to keep quiet and preferred not to cow down. In this effort she was rightly supported by her father, different organizations and the people around her. I am sure she is not alone in the valley, there are other Malalas out there.
The book is neatly laid out in five parts each dealing with a separate tale but all interconnected. She talks of the indifference prevailing in our society (rightly so) to all issues affecting us. In between she shares anecdotes from her personal life. The book itself is interesting indeed, though it has attracted criticism from all quarters of Pakistan, some based on facts and some on conspiracies. That, education is the right of each and every child I agree and this is what the young lady harps about in this book. She talks of her father being a liberal in the true sense. She tells about his support for her cause and of his willingness to fight for education of the people of Swat.
The book strives to tell the world about her story. But it is a little more than that. First off, I am amazed at Malala’s depth of knowledge about the world, about Pakistan and almost everything. She knows about Pakistan’s 200 nukes, she has knowledge about HAARP, about ISI and Osama bin Laden nexus, that the Quaid smoked 50 cigarettes a day, the Army running Corn Flakes factories, the girl is opinionated about President Zia ul Haq, man she calls him “Scary Zia”, she talks of the Fazal Ullah escape and the possible handiwork of ISI in this episode. In between there are blithe remarks about the Government and Pakistan Army (though no effort was spared by the Army in treating her when she was shot by the Taliban).
One can but read petulance in between the lines describing various events but aimed at bad mouthing the Army and Pakistan. I started reading this book with an open mind but by the time I was on page 50 I knew there was going to be enough scorn in it. She tells of Pakistani doctors shaving off her head “mercilessly”, but for what? To operate and save her life. There is enough talk of Army siding with the Taliban in the book to rouse an outsiders point of view. To this day I cannot fathom the theory coined by some of the people of Swat. If the Army was indeed the same as Taliban then why get one’s own soldiers, officers and men killed?
But then one does not have to be a genius to understand all this. The book has been written by Christina Lamb, the same lady who wrote “Waiting for Allah”. I believe Malala cannot and has not read the book, not even proof read it. Flipping through the pages and reading in between the lines one gets the feeling he/she is reading “Waiting for Allah – Part II”. Could it be that the OBE conferred Christina Lamb wrote her heart out in this book? And spared little or no effort in bad mouthing about a country that she so much abhors. If that were the case indeed I would love to call this book, “Waiting for Allah – Part II”, or “For a few pounds more”, or even “Lets throw some muck and make a buck”.
I believe if it had been written by someone else, it would have been a much better book.