Monday, October 29, 2007

The Feudal Lord by Tehmina Durrani

Title: The Feudal Lord: A Devastating Indictment
of Women’s Role in Muslim Society

Author: Tehmina Durrani
ISBN: 0552142395
Publisher: Corgi Books/1995
Pages: 382
Genre: Non-fiction/Biography

Though The Feudal Lord is pegged as making a powerful statement about Muslim Society in Pakistan and men interpreting Islam to suit them, marrying and divorcing is common amongst the men. I consider this as a powerful statement for all those parts of the world where feudal system still exists. All the power is centred on the men and the women have no say in the matter.

Tehmina belongs to a powerful family in Pakistan and is expected to marry in a family of same stature, having children and lead a life, which is sheltered. Tehmina meets Anees while she is in school and marries him despite her parent’s misgivings. After a while, she finds herself bored with him. When Mustafa Khar, twenty years her senior, slowly seduces her, she is ready for his attention. He is one of a very prominent figure in Pakistan Politics. She is flattered by his attention, when he professes love for her; she divorces Anees and secretly marries him becoming his sixth wife. Her parents promptly disown her.

Her life turns into a nightmare after a while. Mustafa is a violent, possessive and a jealous male who expects complete obedience from his wife. The abuse and beatings start although she is pregnant. After beatings, he seems to come back to his senses and professes love for her. This is indeed a vicious circle. Tehmina too falls for it. She suffers for thirteen years, bearing him four children in between. Once he kidnaps their children to make her return to him. She does go back to him. The torture starts all over again. He has an affair with her younger sister. Finally, she leaves him giving up on her children and all her possessions. She is alienated from her friends and her parents yet again reject her.

Tehmina is repeatedly broken, betrayed, used, abandoned, mashed up, but in the end rises and survives in Pakistan's male dominated society. Its message is for any woman oppressed anywhere.

After the divorce, Mustafa tells Tehmina, “You have to introduce yourself as my ex-wife. You have no identity of your own. Nobody knows you. People meet you because you have something interesting to say about me.”

After she wrote this book, he called her before its impending publication and asked her about it. Her reply was, “Well, Mustafa, now the world will soon know you only as Tehmina Durrani’s ex-husband.”

The book also makes political statements of contemporary Pakistan but I am not dwelling on that. Writing this book was the best thing Tehmina did by giving a voice to oppressed women not only in Pak