Sunday, August 12, 2012

"Skeena" : Pakistan's Punjabi playwright Fauzia Rafique's debut English language novel

"Skeena" : Pakistani playwright Fauzia Rafique's debut English language novel 

Courageous Pakistani teenager Shamim Aftab's  real life story was presented by Pakistani television reporter Iqbal Husain in his documentary series "Such Ka Safar" (The Journey of Truth)

The character of Mona (played by Sandrine Bonnaire) in Agnes Varda's 1985 art film "Vagabond"  also reminds me of Skeena

This is Fauzia Rafique's first English language novel.  Fauzia Rafique is a Pakistani writer (now settled in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada) 

Ms. Rafique is known to Pakistanis for her brilliant Punjabi language screenplay (an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel "Poor Folk";  )  which was broadcast to national acclaim in the mid-1970's as a serialized teleplay (entitled "Aapay Ranjha Hoee") from the Lahore studios of Pakistan Television Corporation.

      Ms. Rafique's novel "Skeena"  is about a girl from a village in Punjab, Pakistan.  The main character is Skeena, the younger sister of an upper middle class feudal land owner (Bha). The novel begins in the post-1971 India-Pakistan war era when Skeena is learning to read and write in her village under strict supervision by Bha and Skeena' mom. Skeena' life journey unfolds further when she is shown as a young college girl living in Lahore's Ichhra-Shah Jamal Colony neighborhood in a 1980's Pakistan where the dictator General Zia ul Haq rules the populace with an iron hand. This is followed by Skeena's marriage and emigration to Canada where she spends a decade as a traditional Pakistani wife of a Pakistani-Canadian medical doctor in Toronto, Canada. Skeena's story terminates in the post-9/11 2001 days when other cataclysmic events engulf her in British Columbia, Canada.

       The novel is narrated in a calm, observant yet empathic tone and at times crescendos into gripping, high drama that takes your breath away.  Ms. Rafique recounts Skeena's story with utter candor and never strays from the path of realism in her account.

       This novel is available as a traditional format book as well as a Kindle electronic book from Amazon Fauzia+Rafique+Skeena&x=0&y=0

and can also be purchased as a Punjabi language version released for publication in 2007 in all major cities in Pakistan in traditional book format from Saanjh Publications, Lahore, Pakistan (Mr. Amjad Saleem, Tel. # 011 92 42 37355323; Email: ) .

    I read "Skeena" earlier this year and wrote the above post over the ensuing months as a review of sorts... my impressions after reading this moving novel by a Pakistani writer whom I have admired since my high school days in Lahore when I used to look forward to each episode of her teleplay "Aapay Ranjha Hoee."   

                              Bravo, Fauzia Rafique !!