I was skeptical when I picked up this book to read – I truly believed there was nothing more that Mehar could present to me that I already didn’t know, since Qandeel’s life much like her body had been an open book for all to view, discuss and critique. I could not have been more wrong. Maher’s skilfully written book pays homage to the fallen social media celebrity with such grace and humility that it touches the surface of your heart slowly managing to seep in further till you are completely embroiled in the life and tragic death of the one and only Qandeel Baloch.
Mehar begins her book acknowledging that there is no possibility that her readers will learn anything new about Baloch as the celebrity’s life including her family, friends, romances, work and colleagues had already been thoroughly dissected by the Pakistan media following her death. What she does promise and then later delivers are the many perspectives that surrounded Qandeel’s life as she tried to become famous by any means possible. Mehar’s unbiased and cleverly written book encapsulates Baloch’s life within the sphere of several important issues emerging from an ever expanding social media circus in Pakistan. The book explores the sudden rise and fall of Arshad Khan ‘the Chaiwala’s’ fame, the countless hours of effort that the Digital Rights Foundation: initiated by Nighat Dad is putting in to try to help out the women who are harassed and blackmailed online, and delves in the opinions and perspectives of those who were closely related to Qandeel in one way or another.
The sensational life and death of Qandeel Baloch is so much more than an account of one woman’s life. It is an accumulated evidential report on all the women who have ever been subjected to harassment in public/ private or online spaces, on women who have broken barriers in their chosen fields of professions, of the hypocrisy of the Pakistani chauvinist society and of how easily we as a nation tend to judge people who do not conform to our archaic traditions. Mehar’s experience as a journalist provides the book with a certain integrity and depth that might have been lost to an outsider who is unaware of how the media circuits in Pakistan operate. My favourite element of this book is how Qandeel’s life is broken into pieces, each connecting directly to another girls’ who has been through what she had been through, or worse.
It is no surprise that at the end of the book – I was devastated. More so because the statistics and the numbers present such a horrifying state of how women in Pakistan have to deal with monsters every day only because they were born to a certain family, as a certain gender. One can only hope that Qandeel’s death become a torch bearer for a change in the Pakistani Judiciary system and that in her death, many others might be saved.
An absolutely brilliant and scathing book that picks apart the Pakistani Society and leaves it naked for the world to read. Most definitely a five out of five star rating.
Author: SANAM MEHER
Price: Rs. 599/-
Published by: Aleph Book Company
Available at: Liberty Bookstores