Books have always been a very important part of my life. My love relation with books started as soon as I could read. When other kids my age were busy playing dollhouses and other games, I preferred sitting in a quiet corner with anything I could read. I just got immersed in the magical world of books and felt connected to the characters.
When we are young, we mostly read fairy tales and animal stories. These stories present us with a false reality of the world. We think that the world is full of happiness and magic. But as we grow up, we come to know the real truth that the world is not just a happy and carefree place. It is full of surprises and twists.
At different times in my life, I read a few books which completely changed my life. I became more humble and started cherishing everything I have.
So, today I want to share with you all the three books which had a very big impact on my life. They are in the order in which I read them.
‘The City Of Joy’ By Dominique Lapierre
This is a story of sorrow, poverty, love and hope. It is set in Calcutta(now Kolkata) in India and about a slum area on the outskirts of the city where all the outcasts and poor people find a home.
Hasari Pal, a poor peasant from a village had to migrate to Calcutta because of a long-lasting famine that left all the farms dry and infertile. After reaching Calcutta, he starts pulling a hand rickshaw, a very popular and abundant means of transport in Calcutta at that time.
The story proceeds to Hasari Pal finding an affordable house on the outskirts named the City Of Joy. There, other poor and helpless people lived in inhuman conditions. A Polish Priest comes to Calcutta one day and visits the slum and is disturbed by the sights he encounters. He decides to stay there for the rest of his life and help these desperate people.
The author has described the helplessness, poverty and sufferings of those people in a very touching and disturbing way. There were points in the book when I could take no more and had to shut it to take a break. It was just too much for me.
I realized for the first time how lucky and privileged I am that I had food on my plate and a decent home to live in with proper sanitation. These people had no access to a clean and proper toilet even. Many times they had nothing to eat and had to sing to their small kids to distract them.
After finishing the book, I didn’t buy a single new dress for the next six months. Every time I went grocery shopping, I used to think do I really need this? Each and every splurge seemed outrageous to me that so many people are dying of hunger and living such a life full of hunger and despair and I’m buying things that are not important.
It took me a lot of time to come out of the despair and depression caused by the book. But I’m still thankful that I read it. It made me more humble and value everything I possessed.
Not Without My Daughter By Betty Mehmoodi
This is a true story of the struggle, determination and love of a mother. Betty, a US citizen marries an Iranian doctor. After a few years of marriage, her husband persuades her to visit Iran in the name of meeting his family. They have a young daughter named Mahtob, by then. On reaching Iran, their life changes when he refuses to go back to the US. According to Iranian law, a father has full right over the child, so if Betty wanted to go back she’ll have to go alone.
But she’s not ready to leave her little daughter in such a Patriarchal country. For two years, she struggles and endures all the hardships. At last, she escapes with the help of some friends with her daughter. But Not Without Her Daughter.
While reading this book, I was filled with various emotions. Anger, pity, sorrow, deep anguish, love, praise. Betty is the ultimate role model for a mother. She sacrifices her freedom and happiness for her daughter. If she wanted she could have escaped much earlier. But she bears everything silently while trying to escape continuously.
There were many points in the book where I was filled with anguish and despair. I wanted to leap inside the book and help Betty. It is set in the 1980s and still, there is capital punishment for a woman who uses any form of contraception! Society is full of women regressive laws which can anger anyone. Women are victims of social and domestic abuse. Betty’s husband beats her regularly in the house and no one in the family says anything. They have just normalized domestic violence.
Even outside the house women are not safe. Police patrol the road to see if all the women are properly dressed or not! Means seriously? If even their stocking has come a little down even though they are wearing full pants, they can receive a thrashing right on the road. It becomes horribly hot and humid in the summer months still they need to be covered from top to toe in several layers of clothes.
Reading all this, although I was filled with pity and anger, another feeling took form inside me. That was the feeling of being privileged and fortunate to have been born in a free and liberal country like India. I could see how lucky I was in comparison to other women in countries with such absurd patriarchal laws. At least I had the right to go to my country’s judicial system if any injustice was meted out to me. Special laws are formulated by the Indian government for the upliftment and betterment of women and they are implemented quite strictly.
I also came to appreciate my family and husband that I had all types of freedom and rights. Though this never occurred to me before, I always took it to be my fundamental right, but the knowledge that many women don’t have even this freedom I was filled with gratitude towards God.
A Thousand Splendid Suns By Khaled Hosseini
This again is about the sufferings of women in men’s world. Set in Afghanistan, it tells the story of two women very different and apart from each other joined together by their destinies.
Maryam, an illegitimate child lives with her mother in a small cottage outside of Herat( a city in Afghanistan) in poor conditions. Her father, a rich man visits her once every week. She is in awe of her father and doesn't trust her mother who wants to tell her the truth. One day, heartbroken by Maryam’s behaviour her mother commits suicide. Then she realizes the truth after going to her father’s house that she’s unwanted. Her father’s family marries her off at the young age of 15 to a man thrice her age. She’s so heartbroken by her father’s betrayal that couldn’t utter a single word throughout her marriage
After reaching her husband Rasheed’s home in Kabul (capital of Afghanistan), she starts a new life by being a good wife. But with luck not on her side, she has to endure the wrath and indifference of her husband when she's unable to give him a child.
Laila, a free-spirited beautiful girl has a different life from Maryam. Loving parents, education, good living conditions and a lover; she has it all. But one day her Gods become angry and her life changes completely. She finds herself married to Maryam’s husband, pregnant with her lover’s child.
With passing time, a deep bond develops between the two women. They try to escape but get caught. After bringing them both home, Rasheed locks Laila and her daughter in a room and beats Maryam mercilessly. This scene bothered me so much that I burst out crying. Helplessness and despair of both the women grip your heart and tear it apart.
The book is full of scenes described by the author in such a way that we feel despair and depressed. There’s a scene when Maryam and Laila are caught escaping by the police. Laila begs the police officer to not send them with Rasheed because he’ll beat them and maybe kill them too but the officer just replies that it's their personal matter. This is police speaking who’s responsible for everyone’s safety.
I felt angry at myself that I can’t do anything for them. Specially Maryam’s character tugs your heart. She didn’t get a single moment of happiness in her life. How can anyone’s luck be so bad? I felt so sorry that wanted to give her a share of my happiness. This is the author’s brilliance when you can feel the pain of the characters yourself.
This again reminded me how fortunate and lucky I am. My God is always with me and I’m so thankful for that. I have never experienced anything even remotely like Maryam. I couldn't read this book the second time ever even after trying many times. After reading a few pages I start feeling depressed and close the book.
I have read thousands of books but the way these 3 books affected and changed my life, none has, still I advise everyone to read them so that you become more satisfied and content in life. Knowing that there are people in the world who are not as lucky and privileged as us brings out a humbleness in our personality. We start appreciating small things and happiness which we couldn’t see earlier.
This is the impact of a book on us and so I highly recommend everyone to read regularly.
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