Philosophy enthusiast and debutante author Sabah Carrim was recently in the city to launch her book, Humeirah.
In Sabah’s words, “It is a story of existence, beauty and wisdom. It is a story of an existential struggle.”
About the protagonist, the author tells us, “Humeirah, a lady of Indian origin (she is “Kutchi Memon”) who lives in Mauritius, is tormented by thoughts that other people in her surrounding accept and follow because it is easier to accept and follow rather than to re-question, destroy and recreate.
Every time Humeirah gets close to this process of destroying and recreating, other people such as her husband Haider, the maid Shanthi or her friend Zeba, get in the way and say that “she complicates everything unnecessarily” and even go on to say that she is depressed and mad.
This story is the journey of Humeirah’s struggle on one hand, to be loved and accepted, and on the other to have the freedom to be herself and question dogmas as and when the need arises.”
Sabah tells us that the response to Humeirah has been rather encouraging.
“Initially, I believed that Humeirah would be targeted at those in their twenties and above, but surprisingly, the novel has also become popular among the younger generation.
Although it is widely believed that Humeirah ought to be categorised as women’s fiction, the book has fared well among men. I think the common factor in readers who have liked the book is that they are all inclined towards philosophy, psychology and the rest of the social sciences.”
The author who holds a masters degree in human rights and teaches law at Brickfields Asia College, Kuala Lumpur has also published extensively in the areas of law, philosophy and education.
Freedom is an all-encompassing concept for Sabah. “Freedom is the ability to see through this sham and then being able to detach myself when such slavery reaches a point of making me miserable in any way.
In both these examples, what is clearly discernible is the master and slave relationship that exists: there is clearly someone at the peak of a hierarchy who is setting the rules and someone just below who is following them. For me, freedom represents the ability free oneself of these master-slave relationships,” adds Sabah.
Sabah also enjoys the works of German and French writers and takes solace in the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Hannah Arendt.
On her influences, she says, “Nietzsche has taught me to be honest, come what may. Schopenhauer has directed my attention to the hierarchies that exist in the quality of books on the market; Dostoevsky has highlighted the value of the anti-hero in a novel; Arendt has prompted me to re-evaluate the conventional notion of evil that most of us are familiar with.”
Sabah is currently working on a doctoral thesis of representations of “Evil and Torture”.
She sheds light on her thesis by saying, “While doing my literature review I was moved by the image depicted of Adolf Eichmann who was tried and successfully convicted for setting up some of the deadliest pogroms during World War 2.
His appearance of innocence-as Arendt mentioned several times in her thesis-made a lot of sense to me: I have also come across people who have been guilty of committing evil acts without their carrying those typical sinister airs that are expected of them.”
On the ‘Tyranny of the majority’ which she talks about in the book, she feels this is because we believe so ardently in the democratic system where the majority’s wishes are given precedence.
“Yet, a long time ago, both John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham in their own ways, pointed out that this method was flawed because while decisions made by the majority pleased them, they weren’t necessarily good for them in the long run,” she signs off.
Sabah’s next book is called ‘The Memoirs of Heera’ which is about Heera, a fifteen-year-old teenager, who although undoubtedly bright and creative finds it hard to come to terms with the education system. The author lives in Kuala Lumpur where she teaches law and human rights.