In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 11.49.07 PMIn Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin – This is a book of several vignettes all taking place in Pakistan, not that long ago. It is about a place where there are modern feudal landowners and many poor people who work for them as servants, maids, sweepers, gardeners and other misc jobs. Some of the landowners are richer than others but no matter what class you are, you live your life with trials and tribulations. There is corruption everyplace. Everybody can be bought. The poor are essentially slaves to the upper class for whom they work. It is possible to get some reprise with sexual favors to the higher ups/ There is no real justice as people favor their families or people who pay them off. Stealing and lying are very common.

In one story a servant girl has a relationship with the master of the house. He dies and the estranged family and the wife and children send her away. In another story a young man from Pakistan goes to college and meets and American girl. They meet his family and his mother thinks that she will never really make her so happy. She isn’t sure either. Another story tells about relationship where a promiscuous young woman is about to settle down with a stable young man whom she believes she really loves but the relationship deteriorates. We meet a poor man who barely subsists with a portable shack and has the most menial job for a great feudal lord. He improves his lot a little by the generosity of a member of the owner’s family.

He finally marries a feeble minded woman and thinks he might have the semblance of family and maybe a child. He ends up with neither as she runs away. He is initially accused of kidnapping her and is beaten by the police. Eventually he returns home. His wife never returns and he dies a sad man.

What can possibly be the point of these stories? Certainly it is to tell us about the essential state of slavery that has existed in Pakistan for many years. Even the good deeds by a few people at times is not shown to be consistent with any real desire of those in power to change things. Certainly those without power are shown to have very little desire or ability to change the status quo. Not being very familiar with the history of Pakistan I can only hope that there has been some radical revolutionary changes there but I suspect neither.

It would be foolish to think that some unfairness only exists in Pakistan We know the history of this country about slavery and the remnants of discrimination that still exists. Despite a growing middle class we witness the lower class struggle in this country especially those who hold the poorest jobs often immigrants. So we can accept this book as more than a story about Pakistan but it still a stretch to feel that this is much of a contemporary tale of our society. It is hard to identify with the characters in these stories and overall it is a sad, depressing book which hopefully will help to keeps alive our empathic ability to change the world and establish basic fairness to all the inhabitants of this planet.

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