Book Review: The Temp by Michelle Frances

temp 1Looking for suspenseful stories with strong female characters who are not breathing down each other’s neck all the time, Michelle Frances’ The Temp is for you.

For me, the main attraction of this book is its cover (a lady working on her laptop at a workplace) and the title. Not only that, I also like the synopsis. (Side note: I always go through the synopsis to get a little insight about the story before purchasing a book.)

Apparently, it appears a thriller with undertones of domestic drama where talented young woman is looking to replace a successful older woman. The narrative is told from the perspectives of two women: Carrie and Emma who have different views of each other but there is one constant in their life, Adrian, of course for different reasons.

Carrie, in her 40s, has a successful career as a producer of television programmes. She comes across a very strong, confident and smart lady in her domain. Her husband Adrian is also an award winning screenwriter in the television industry. They are content in their professional and personal lives but life takes an unusual turn which completely jolts them.

As a couple, Carrie and Adrian decide not to have children; primarily because they both want to focus on their career. However, fate has something else stored for them; Carrie gets pregnant and the problem arises when she chooses to keep the baby, and this puts her relationship with her husband off balance.

Moreover, they are prepared to start a new show which needs time and with this pregnancy, Adrian and her friend as well as managing director of Hawks Pictures Liz suggest to hire a replacement for few months. This is where Emma enters as a temp who is intelligent; and despite coming from a well off family, she has always struggled to be the daughter on whom her parents can be proud of. What is interesting is that Carrie never wants Emma to be employed as her replacement.

the tempBeing pregnant, Carrie cannot stay in the office for long duration due to pain and dizziness. Insanity and jealousy run rampage on Carrie’s part especially when Adrian, Liz and everyone in the office are all praise about Emma’s work.  The last nail in the coffin for Carrie is the birth of her newborn baby boy Rory. Her baby keeps her busy all the time and since she has no support from Adrian, she begins to drift away from her husband and her colleagues. As a consequence, she feels isolated and subconsciously put all the blame on Emma. Carrie does not realise that this is all work of her creative mind (pun intended).

British-based author Frances has established herself as a mature, knowing and new voice in the genre of psychological thriller with her bestseller The Girlfriend. Her debut novel took on the issues of unforgiveable lies and twisted relationships. Her second book deals with the relationships caught in the crossfire of all scheming and manipulation.

I do understand that the author has shown some sort of conflict between two female protagonists. Also, the book cover gives an impression to the reader of Emma being conniving who wants to usurp Carrie’s life, which is why both women will compete over Carrie’s husband Adrian. Clearly, this is not all! The book offers much more to the reader’s delight.

If you want to read full review, the link is https://www.dawn.com/news/1471385

 

 

 

Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

handmaid tale

Photo by writer

It took me a while to digest Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale. When I first start reading this novel, I had no clue what world I was about to discover and let me tell you it was all doom and gloom. The storyline was disturbing and stayed with me for days.

The Canadian author has hit all the right buttons to stir up the reader’s uneasiness. The dystopian world she describes in the novel is stark and skewed by religious fundamentalism. Written in 1985, the story revolves around Offred, a handmaid (female slave) in the new Republic of Gilead. The Gilead was formed after attacks on US government. The totalitarian state that took control has rigid laws against women. Women rights like equality, sexual reproduction rights and general human rights are deemed punishable by the men of the society. The fictional world has food rationing, class hierarchy and public hangings for wrongdoing especially for women. Does this ring a bell?

Offred (not the real name) is part of class called the handmaids. The purpose of handmaid in the society is to conceive and bear children for the families. They are dressed in red colour and symbolism of fertility. Women here are only considered for childbirth and taking care of household. The Commander, where she lives as handmaiden, sees her as more than simply a surrogate.  Serena Joy, the Commander’s wife, is naturally jealous of Offred, but she is desperate for a child so, when Offred fails to become pregnant, Serena Joy arranges for her to sleep with Nick, the chauffeur.

margaret atwood

Photo by writer

Offred is reluctant to accept this world and she cannot suppress her desires. This is why she thinks about her past life and how one day she can leave this dark world. The end of the story leaves you in suspense of whether Offred has found the freedom or prison.

The narration is very erratic as it jumps between past and present, and at times makes you confused due to obscure description. It is what author has emphasised to show in the novel. She wants readers to be perplexed while reading the novel because the world of Gilead is extremely disturbing and secretive.

The story is about power, fundamentalism and misogyny. It’s horrific but somewhat true to reality. I felt hopelessness and sadness while reading this story.

A word of caution: This is not a happy read. So if you want to have a nice weekend, do not pick this novel.

“Remember forgiveness too is a power. To beg for it is a power, and to withhold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest. Maybe none of this is about control. Maybe it isn’t really about who can own whom, who can do what to whom and get away with it, even as far as death. Maybe it isn’t about who can sit and who has to kneel or stand. Maybe it’s about who can do what to whom and be forgiven.” – Excerpt from book

The Handmaid’s Tale

By Margaret Atwood

Vintage Fiction, London

ISBN: 978-1-0-099-74091-9

320pp.

 

Sibling’s love-hate relationship

This article has already been published on Geo Vision website. I wrote this article for the website and now sharing a few chunks over here on my blog so that my readers can read. This was a different drama of its time produced by Pakistan Television Industry. 

meri behan maya“Our women are strong but in our serials, they are depicted as fragile and connivers,” states Hasina Moin, an acclaimed writer who has also written some of the epic dramas including Tanhayein, Ankahi and so on. After taking a long break, she started with the serial ‘Meri Behen Maya’; a story of two sisters where you saw the bond of love and support which unfortunately lacks in our dramas now-a-days.

So, what was the main concept behind writing Meri Behen Maya (MBM)? According to Hasina Moin, I feel really hurt to see women cry and wallow over petty issues, and unable to stand up for their rights, this is one of the significant reasons that compel me to resume writing again.

Women face domestic violence, they are harassed outside their homes and are treated as suppressive beings. Hasina Moin asserts that this is not the true picture that we see; she is of the opinion that these women have the potential and strength to uphold all the hardships with courage.

x1080-LeSMoreover, the other idea behind the serial is to defy the wrong depiction of sisters’ relation that promotes only hatred and nothing else. Hasina Moin believes that sisters do not deceive each other; rather they protect each other against the world. In her serial, she projected the positive side of sisterhood. One of the primary reasons to resume writing was to clear misconceptions regarding women, Moin adds.

MBM promoted the love-hate relationship between two sisters who at one moment were seen fighting with each other and at another moment they were sharing interesting stories while munching popcorn.

The portrayal of sisters in this serial was played by two female protagonists who are fearless and lively, and believe in living on their own terms. Annie Jaffri played the character of a younger sister Maya; she is upfront and bold, also expressive and does not conform to anything that she cannot relate to. According to Jaffri, the character is more like me, I am outspoken and love outings, even her family relate to her role.

Whereas Neelam Munir played the role of older sister Zarmeena; she is sensible and tries to cover Maya’s mess. Munir is the complete opposite of her character, and therefore she had to work on her body language, style and the behaviour. Munir shares her experience that to perform it accordingly, she observes her elder sister which helps a lot in understanding her character in the serial.

meri behen 5In replying to the question regarding the ‘look’ in the serial, both Munir and Jaffri say that western attire was more preferred for their characters, the decision was made after having a thorough discussion with the team.

However, when asked about the atmosphere on the sets and how did they find working with each other? Both female protagonists spoke highly of their team and they found it very helpful. Though Jaffri’s association with Azfar Ali is not new as she has also worked in Dreamers with him, so far it’s been good for her. Moreover, the teasing which was seen onscreen of both sisters was only for the serial, quips Munir and Jaffri with a smile; nevertheless on-set they both had a very congenial relationship.

The script was a refreshing one and every actor had performed well. Moin is all praise for the team. She had a very good working relationship with Iqbal Ansari who is also the Project Head of MBM; overall it had been a good experience.

untitledMoin signifies the importance of making children bold and confident, so that no one sabotages their rights and fight for themselves.

Seconding Moin’s opinion, Jaffri also says it is important for young girls to be strong in these times and do not give in. Munir on other hand believes that fathers should avoid second marriage and do not try to impose step-mothers on their children, it leaves a bad impact on the minds of the kids.

In a nutshell, dramas are always a revelation of our society, whether it’s good or bad but these days, where every other drama emphasises more on negative side of our society, Meri Behen Maya highlighted the ups and downs of familial relations.

 

 

 

A Tale of Harassment

Harassment is one issue which most of us ladies have experienced one way or another..
This blog is about harassment episode which I faced three years ago

Find link below for further reading:

Our Company said if he didn’t touch you, it isn’t harassment

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/42465/our-company-said-if-he-didnt-touch-you-it-isnt-harassment/

15036585_10157703107885035_6685227320351913996_n

Photo: Express Tribune Blogs (Online)

Ramadan: Need to Think Again!

zm_0310_rt

Women Offering Prayer during Ramadan: Online Photo

As we all know that the month of Ramadan has arrived in Pakistan. It is a month where the Muslim community fasts from dawn to dusk with an aim to celebrate countless blessings by Almighty Allah.

Okay my blog post is not about Ramadan or its benefits. I want to share something which I guess Pakistani women might relate to.

Coming to the point, I was having a discussion with my friends about how the hot weather have made fasting difficult for people at large during Ramadan.

Suddenly out of the blue, one of my male friends said, “Kitna asaan hy roza na auraton ke liye ke kum az kum tum log ko taraveeh nae parhni hoti is garmi me?” (How easy is the fasting for women as they don’t have to pray taraveeh in this hot weather?) .

While in favor with his statement, my other male friend also jumped in and added, “Kitna asaan hy auraton ke liye is tapti dhoop mei zuhr ki namaz ke liye masjid nae jana parta” (How convenient is the fasting for the women that they don’t have to go to mosque to perform Dhuhr prayer in this scorching sun?)

My question to all those men who have this thought, just because not going to taraveeh or for Friday prayer in the scorching weather, you think fasting is undemanding for the women? How easily is it for men to pass these comments without even realizing that fasting is itself a difficult process regardless whether for men or women whatsoever?

How come they forget about those women who give themselves away in the kitchen just to satiate their hunger? Do you really think that only because women don’t have to go to mosque for taraveeh or Dhuhr so fasting is easy for them?

Here is an eye-opener for all those men who think that it’s easy for the women.

Getting up first at the time of Sehri and preparing predawn meals for everyone in the house. Later waking up everyone in the house including men of the house and what they just do; come to the table, eat their meal and go back to sleep. However, these women not only eat their meal but she has the duty to wash all the dishes and tidy up everything before leaving kitchen.

Afterward while fasting whole day they make lunch for their kids in this hot weather. That is not all, women start preparing iftar in the early hours of the evening for their family.

As it is compulsory in our tradition to have variety of dishes at our iftar table, so they are required to cook various scrumptious dishes in sweltering weather.  Following iftar men usually take rest but women get busy in making tea along with washing the unclean dishes. In all their busy routine they also perform the obligatory duties.  Considering the routine, how do men think that it’s easy for women?

As far as other matter is concerned so I would like to add that Muslim women can attend mosque but proper arrangements need to be implemented. Most of the mosques do not have separate compartment for women and hence special arrangements are made for women to offer their taraveeh prayer but praying taraveeh in mosques is still a rare sight in our country. Meanwhile women do not have an easy access to mosques which have separate section for women as it’s quite far from their homes.

Last year I got an opportunity to spend my Ramadan in Abu-Dhabi (Capital of United Arab Emirates). I never thought that I would offer taraveeh in the mosque. Not only taraveeh, the mosque was also opened for women to pray on Lailatul Qadar nights. Women would come alone or in groups to the mosque after midnight without any fear.

Most of the mosques in UAE have a separate portion for women and it’s just not particular for Ramadan but women were allowed to pray in the mosque at any time they want.

Having said that, most of the women in our country do not have option, they are required to do all this without complain. And going through this entire process do you really think that fasting is easy for women especially in this weather? I believe you need to think it again!