On my last trip to Pakistan, I picked up this book by Shazaf Fatima Haider. I always really enjoy reading books from our local writers, so was keen to read this one. When I was packing a book for this trip, I finally picked it up hoping that I would read it on the long flight to US. But I forgot something really important – I was traveling with 3 kids and without my husband..which meant the kids and the passports were my responsibility and I couldn’t lose any of them! (lol!)
Last week, we went on a road trip to Lutsen, Minnesota for a mini holiday with my family and I packed this book again with me, hoping that I’ll get the chance to read there. The cottage we went to was by Lake Superior and I found my perfect spot for reading! I started this book and couldn’t put it down! It is HILARIOUS! Many a times, I found myself in fits of laughter! It felt like I was reading a story of someone in my own family!
‘How it Happened’ is a story of a Shia, Syed family based in Karachi Pakistan. The story is narrated by Saleha, the youngest granddaughter of Gulbahar Bibi, aka Dadi in the novel, who is a strict and a very traditional grandmother in the house. She is an imperious matriarch of her Bandian family who believes only in marriages within the same sect, arranged purely by the elders of the family. Dadi is highly against love-shove and the dating-shating business and wants her grand children to stay away from it as not a single family member in her family has ever done so!
Despite of her old traditions, Haroon and Zeba (Dadi’s grandchildren and Saleha’s older siblings) find matches for themselves. Zeba crosses the family traditions as she falls in love with a Sunni boy. That is when Dadi’s melodrama is at its best! I absolutely loved her character!
This book doesn’t tell a new story. It happens everyday in Pakistan, but they way its written is very witty and entertaining. I couldn’t put the book down, and finished it in two sittings! Every desi will be able to relate to all the family dynamics, be it the relationship between Dadi and her bahu .. or between the Saleha and her new sister in law. All the characters and situations are so relatable!
Some of the sequences were portrayed with such accuracy that it felt like I was having a Déjà Vu! Let me tell you a few of them….
The drawing room meetings where the eligible suitors come to see the girl at her house and the trolley of chai and goodies that follow, reminded of the number of times I have done that for my sister! The customary stupid questions and inquiry, when I felt like kicking them out by just looking at them once. Followed by arguments with my parents of why do they even let these people come home!
There is a segment in the book, where the mother of ‘groom to be’, gives the marriage proposal for Saleha, even when they came to see Zeba (who is the elder sister). How Dadi reacted to it in the novel reminded me of a real life sequence in our house! My dad was much more melodramatic than Dadi (while my mum kept trying to calm him down!) and forbade the mother of the ‘groom to be’ from entering our house ever again! I was in my room overhearing all of this and went “YASSSSS!”
Wedding season is the most popular time for girl hunting or putting your daughter up for display to the mothers of eligible bachelors. But in Shias, we are blessed with another such season.. Muharram 🙂 I was approached directly by one such ‘aunty’ at a Majlis, who came up to me asking who my mother was but got snubbed by my sister in law – I was already married at that time! (lol!)
This book portrays the dilemma of how marriages are still arranged in Pakistan with such humor and wit! It is a delightful read!