Book Review: My Feudal Lord

Living in Pakistan one is well aware about feudal system. It is deeply rooted in our society feudal-lord-1which has eaten up the lives of the ordinary masses. Feudalism has brought ruins to the nation and ongoing cycle of the rich becoming richer while poor pushes down to the pits, needs to end.

Tehmina’s autobiography ‘My Feudal Lord’ depicts an invaluable insight of women caught up in the complex web of feudal system. While reading this novel, what intrigues me is the struggle she had to face which is rare for a Pakistani woman this educated and elite, especially one whose life was fairly public, to be abused to this degree.

Tehmina Durrani was brought up in a privilege milieu of Lahore society. She was the daughter of former Governor State Bank of Pakistan and former Chairman of Pakistan International Airline S.U. Durrani.

Durrani’s first husband Anees came off as a polar opposite to her lover and second husband Ghulam Mustafa Khar. Unlike Khar, Anees was gentle, honourable, and treats women with respect. When Durrani asked for a divorce, though much pained, Anees granted one without much of a fuss. From first marriage she had one daughter only.

After divorce, Durrani married to former Chief Minister and governor of Punjab, Ghulam Mustafa Khar. She was in love with him and marrying him was like a dream come true

Her first encounter with Khar’s assault left her shocked. She was violently attacked by her husband every other day. He had a charming personality which is why people adored him, oblivious to the fact that this person behaved like an animal within his four-walled house.

Tehmina endured the physical pain which Khar gave her but her world was shattered when she got to know that Khar was in clandestine relationship with some girl. She was flabbergasted to know that it was none other than her own younger sister Adila who physically seduced Khar and put her older sister’s marriage at stake.   Tehmina and Khar had four children.

Constantly lying and being physically involved with Adila, Tehmina was gradually losing her sanity and could not endure his brutality. She ended her marriage of 13 years in divorce.

Her parents ostracized her for a quite long time. They weren’t happy of her decision because they believe in the notion, once the girl is married; she should come back in a coffin to her parents’ house.

Following her divorce, Tehmina wrote autobiography on her post-marriage life with the feudal. Originally published in 1991, the book was co-authored by William and Marilyn Hoffer.

In Pakistani society, where the Muslim patriarchs dominate, the entity of women is that of inferior beings, both intellectually and socially. Her main purpose seems to be an instrument for the satisfaction of the man’s sexual desires and perpetuation of the species.

Feudal system is uprooted in Pakistan. I wish women of Pakistan would stop bearing the torture after marriage and actually start living. I wish women would stop breaking the tradition of silence.

As in the words of an author in a novel: “Silence condones injustice, breeds subservience and fosters a malignant hypocrisy. Mustafa Khar and other feudal lords thrive and multiply on silence. Muslim women must learn to raise their voice against injustice.”

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In between reading

When her novel came out, it instigated uproar within the country because it was one of the  first times that a woman from the elitist of the elite revealed the deep dark secrets of the feudal society and politicians. Initially the book was derided but then with the passage of time, receiving an international acclaim, the book became an instant hit amongst the readers particularly women.

Agreed that Durrani’s novel reflected the lives of feudal system in the country, and it has ruined the foundation of our country. But I do have some issues while reading this novel. Why? Simple, Durrani bashed feudal culture and then again she married to a feudal lord, the present Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif.

I am glad that there are women like her who do not give in to the bigotry rather she fights back and challenges injustices of the patriarchal society. However, her third marriage to the feudal lord questions her narrative of whether what she said was true or it was an exaggeration.