The Upstairs Wife entwines two emotional stories and unfolds them in a brilliant manner. The main story revolves around Amina and her husband Sohail but in their shadows is the history of Pakistan itself. Later the history of Pakistan, the conflicts, the revolts, takes over the book and the story of Amina goes in the hiding.
Written by Rafia Zakaria, an attorney and political philosopher and a regular columnist to Al Jazeera and Dawn News, this is one book you don’t want to put down.
The book begins with Rafia’s family eagerly waiting to hear the news of her Aunt Amina’s husband but a bigger news breaks. The death of Pakistani Political leader Benazir Bhutto . What follows are riots and turbulence in the country.
The book goes back to Amina coming back to her father’s, as her husband, Sohail has decided to take another wife. Bear it in mind that at that time polygamy was not that common. Rafia at that age thought that a man could not have two wife. Amina is broken and the family, humiliated.
The book then goes further back to the creation of Pakistan infact waay before the time of partition. A great deal of information is provided on the events which lead to the partition and its aftermath.
The story of Amina and Pakistan go on in a non-linear manner. She eventually is sent back to live with her husband. There is a partition in the house and both the wives live on separate floors. The life of Amina is woven with stories of Pakistan.
This book provided information which I didn’t know about. For example, one of the main reasons for Pakistan-Bangladesh split was the Bhola Cyclone. Also I didn’t know a lot about PNS Ghazi and the mystery which surrounds it.
What sets this book apart from other history books, is in the intimate details. The focus is not on the ruthless or oppressive policies but its effects on the people. Once a land full of hopes and dreams is now dwindling.
The only flaw in the book is that it does not go in a linear manner and the personal and political events have nothing in common. But overall I think it is a brilliant book which delves into migration, coups, riots, political traumas. The sad part is that women no matter how powerful are powerless in the face of laws and policies. Sad that such dreadful things happen in this day and age.
The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan is beautifully told and is highly recommended.
Keep Reading 🙂