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I am Malala


From a nation born at midnight
KS NARAYANAN | New Delhi, November 15, 2013 12:51
Tags : I am Malala | Malala Yousafzai & Christina Lamb Hachette |

Last month many millions were disappointed when the Noble Committee chose the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for peace prize instead of Malala Yousafzai, the courageous Pakistani schoolgirl was shot in the head by the Taliban because of her crusade for girls’ education last October.


The Noble Peace Prize like many things in our lives is clouded by controversies. The award went to an organisation whose inspectors have been dispatched to Syria to find and destroy chemical weapons. As in the past the prize was given before the mission had borne fruit.


But had the peace prize gone to Malala it would have electrified the global fight against Islamist fundamentalism and religious obscurantism. It would have been inspirational for the cause of girls’ education, which is critical in helping developing countries thrive.


Of course there are many people and their battles are far above the sly ways of Noble Peace Committee.


I am Malala:The Girl who stood up for the education and was shot by the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai with Christiana Lamb, is not a story merely about the dreams and struggle of a school girl and her classmates in Swat Valley terrorised by Islamist-fundamentalists in Pakistan. The book is also about Swat Valley as much as it is Pakistan. It is equally about on-going global battle against terrorism. It is also equally the story of callous and neglected education opportunities particularly for girls in South Asia. While Talibans are Central to the story of Malala and millions others in Pakistan, home grown separatists in Kashmir, insurgents in North Eastern States and Maoist in  Central India opt similar extreme tactics over womenfolk.



To recall the heroine Malala was high school girl in Swat Valley who was shot in the head at point blank range while riding the bus home from the school, she was not expected to survive. But she survived and succeeded not only to tell her story but also be an inspiration in our battle against illiteracy and girl child’s right.


In the book, Yousafzai writes: “I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday. It was Tuesday, October 9, 2012, not the best of days as it was the middle of school exams, though as a bookish girl I don’t mind them as much as some of my classmates do.”


On their way back home a gunmen boarded a school bus and asked: “Which one of you is Malala? Speak up, otherwise I will shoot you all”. When she was identified, a gunman shot her in the head and the bullet passed through her head, neck and embedded itself in her shoulder.


Yousafzai was flown to England where she was treated at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Brimingham.


I am Malala traces the history of Baluchistan, Pakistan’s experiments with Democracy, Martial Law imposed by Zia-ul-Haq and his campaign of Islamisation and subsequently how life became restricted for women.


Much against jaundiced view that anyone professing Islam could be terrorists or could support them, I am Malala is also the story of ordinary people on the ground with grit and determination carrying on with their struggle. Zaiuddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father is immediate inspiration not only to her daughter and student but to Swat Valley, Pakistan and to the globe.


The book is also about how Zaiuddin built the Kushal School with help from like minded friends and struggled to keep it going against all odds of financial troubles and threats from Taliban.  He championed and encouraged not only his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.


It is reported that Malala has won two million pounds to narrate her story. It was co-written with journalist Christina Lamb, who has reported from Pakistan and Afghanistan. The story of Malala is interwoven nicely with the personalities, events and history of the region and that of Pakistan and global players like Russia, US… Equally it brings out story of ordinary men, women and children and how they face attacks from US Forces but also face ire, threats and deaths in hands of fundamentalists and how they struggle to rebuild their lives again from the scratch. The book is peppered with many other stories from lives of both father and daughter.


It would be better to read the book to get our priorities on education right instead of accelerating global arms race.


For millions of other Malalas in the swat Valley, Pakistan and its South Asian neighbours the race against illiteracy and right to life, right to dignity is a long-drawn journey.

Author: Malala Yousafzai & Christina Lamb Hachette

Edition: Paperback

ISBN: 978-0-2978-7092-0

Pages: 279

Price: Rs. 399

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017