Nikkahs, Burkhas and the Muslim writer

Published: 03rd July 2013 08:37 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd July 2013 08:37 AM   |  A+A-


There’s nothing like a wedding to bring a family together. But a wedding in the household will also make everything go haywire — for everyone in the household, whether they are involved or not. And for Saba, the protagonist of Andaleeb Wajid’s third book, My Brother’s Wedding and the casual observer in the household who is reluctantly pulled into the chaos, her brother’s wedding is a complete roller-coaster ride.

For the Bangalore-based author though, her ride was a teensy bit different — the idea for the book came on a road trip to Chennai when her sister got married. “We were going to send out invitations for the wedding when the idea just walked into my head,” says Andaleeb with a laugh. “It’s definitely not about my brother, because he had a slightly controversial wedding — he married a Chinese girl. This is different,” she says.

It is indeed different. The book details the day-to-day chaos in a house getting ready for a wedding. It is also different because it closely details the inner workings of a traditional Muslim family. For Andaleeb, who hails from such a set-up, the book was a conscious effort to portray how a Muslim family functions. “People often have this idea of a Muslim family being all formal and calling each other ‘Ammi-jaan’ and ‘Abba-jaan’ all the time, like in those elaborate Bollywood movies. It’s not like that at all,” says the author who was in the city recently for the launch of the book. “I wanted to tell the readers that a traditional Muslim family is much like any other Indian family and break the romanticism of it,” she says.

Her previous books, Kite Strings and Blinkers Off also dealt with Muslim themes — they essentially gave us a slice of Muslim life. “The main reason for that is because I wanted to write about settings and themes I was comfortable with,” she says. But has the tag of being a ‘Muslim writer’ followed her around, after three books? “It has. But I would say that me being Muslim is just incidental. I’d ask the readers to read the book and enjoy it, that’s all,” she adds.

Her identity as a Muslim woman has also caused her a fair share of pressure, both from family members and expectant readers. Family members want her to write about more serious topics, to “show the religion in a positive light”, as it were. Expectant readers want to know whether she is oppressed because she wears a burkha — most are surprised when she tells them she writes fiction. “Look past my burkha, will you!” she says bluntly. “The elders of the family, they sometimes don’t understand what I write about. But you never know, maybe I might write something serious too. One day,” she adds wistfully.

But till that day comes, readers still have several slices of Muslim life to look forward to — and in one case, a plate of Biriyani as well — which is what her new book is called. “It’s about how food influences the lives of three generations of women in a family,” Wajid explains. Well, as you wait to tuck into that plate of Biriyani, you have a nikkah to sink your teeth into.

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