Book Review Reham Khan
I bought this book on Amazon Kindle app and it was worth nearly £7:00. I am not into politics nor any personality worship ever attracted me, regardless of personality or the field of expertise that they have name or fame in. I therefore am not a regular reader of biographies. I picked this book because of a huge surge of social media messages that were attributed to it. Most of these messages were rather discriminatory, misogynistic, derogatory and insulting in nature. I got intrigued into finding the reality behind the apparent presentation. Of course any attempts would be relevant to what my understanding of reality is. All I knew before picking up the book was that author is ex-wife of famous former cricketer and politician Imran Khan. As much as I am interested in justice and justice movement in Pakistan, I am equally uninterested in personality of any politician or cricketer including Imran. The purpose to read the book was to find the reason why this woman in treated in a way that she was treated by some people on social media.
The experience however brought me to many other aspects of the script some of which were exceptionally good and other completely unimpressive and rather ridiculous.
As the name suggests, it is a biography and the main subject in the book is none other but Reham Khan herself. I read a few other biographies that were written by experienced fiction writers in Pakistan like Qudrat Ullah Shahab and Mumtaz Mufti who carry their “me” in the background but discuss reader’s “you” as a subject and discuss the progression of their lives with detailed introduction of characters, cultures, reflections and analysis (analysing himself almost to the level of self-attack in case of M Mufti) offering and enabling readers to develop and make their own opinions. Unlike them this author has an altogether different style of writing. It’s hugely focused on “I”, “My”, “Me”, “Mine” way of expression, that mostly feels as reporting or commenting on a live broadcast that she is presenting to the reader. That seems to be in keeping with her profession too. The difficulty for a common reader is that, unless there is some common reference or some possible projective interest in characters that a reader usually develops by identifying themselves with characters, it is usually hard to remain completely objective and read a commentary of personal impressions and opinions throughout the thirty chapters.
In preface the author clarifies that the purpose of writing the book is not to take revenge, not to set record right, to prove her innocence or to incriminate others. She describes that the script is “account of a public figure who happens to be a human being”. It is account of a mother who is responsible for three kids and account of a young girl who grew up too quickly. The author also describes it as account of her two daughters, story of her son and a story of hope for those who have lost hope in life for any reason.
The author describes progression of her entire life beginning from offering the background of her forefathers to her childhood, schooling, getting married, having children, getting divorced, finding a career, raising up kids, introduction to politics after a change in career choices, getting married second time and getting divorced again finally finishing by description of current life circumstances and times.
From the point of view of account of a young girl growing up very quickly, a responsible mother raising three kids, a divorcee twice and human being fighting to save her human side despite being a public figure, the book offers an impressive look into the cultural strengths and weaknesses that we observe in most of families in Pakistan. The author seemed to have pledged that she is not going to criticise her parents and family throughout the book but what she describes is a rather unrealistic and partially thought after decision done by parents to get her married to one of her cousins who is nearly twice her age. She never questions it and never asked them that what happened to their plan of bringing him like a hair out of butter out of his dysfunctional family set up. Unfortunately, he (as described) turns out to be the most dysfunctional individual in entire family that she found once she started living with him.
She is subjected to severe domestic abuse of all sorts that according to her it is extended to her children too. The advice from family is to carry on and bear it, in short don’t complain. She finally takes her own decision without being supported by anyone to get divorced and finish the never-ending circle of abuse. She was continuously emotionally tortured with phrases like “Haramzadi khati mera hay” (husband), “You would be good for nothing, except for being a show girl on page 3 of Sun magazine” (husband).
She seems to have waited to get British nationality after immigration to UK and then gets divorce through British court. Although she describes that the judge didn’t dismiss her husband from working by stating that if you do this then you won’t get anything from this person (means financial support for mutual kids), however she doesn’t clarify if he had been at any level financially contributing towards care of three children or not. A supportive UK government system is on her back for her and her kids though, and using that she chooses to find a career and starts progressing in it.
She takes pride in describing that she had been doing multiple jobs and career progression, like most of single parents do in UK, luckily the system is supportive. This however was her first experience of finding a career hence difficult (an average person in UK starts this pursuit at the age of 16 years old). She however accepted the challenge, embraced the difficulty and overcame it. The family is not described to be happy by her decisions. However later despite being discouraged for making these decisions it was her who moved to Pakistan to look after her mother who needed her in extreme of her age. In Pakistan she gets a TV anchor job based on some broadcasting experience and qualifications in UK that introduces her to Pakistani politics and her second husband Imran Khan. Introduction and later marrying Imran Khan, though was an emotional achievement but it brought its own set of huge challenges to her.
So, for the reader the description is that of an ordinary, typical Desi teenage girl, who has been given some very basic qualifications and is departed with so called life partner at the age of nineteen. She starts fighting her personal battle after having three kids (the last one is born when she is thirty years’ old). After the divorce with first husband in 2005 she is already 32 years’ old. She throws no light in her book that what were her career aspirations prior to this and that if she had taken any directions in those 32 years or not re career choices, except for informing the reader that her husband was against women to work, another painful aspect of family script in Pakistani society. For seven years after divorce she is in UK and then later for few years she is in Pakistan. During the span of seven years in UK she progressed on her career, did some TV programs and worked as a weather broadcaster. She learnt that all very quickly and progressed from better opportunities one after another.
Once she is in Pakistan she is actively and quickly learning all the arts and is going through the challenges that life is bringing her. During one of political interviews she comes across Imran Khan, falls (almost literally by her later description) in love and marries him. Again, it is against common cultural script and she experienced opposition from family and this time some opposition from kids too.
She is exposed to a huge number of people and characters in the span of ten months when she is married to Imran Khan. All she had was some core values and principles that she received from family and experience of life, some basic level qualifications and some limited experience through job. With this asset in hand she had been trying to tackle anything and everything that is thrown her way and she claims credit for that. I give credit to her whether it is breaking a rotten script to continue to endure abuse, to start pursuing a career at 32, to decide to move across Pakistan as a part of job in difficult and war stricken areas, to decide to get married second time and listening to her heart, breaking the limiting traditions and being bold, upright and sticking to personal opinions against the giants and midgets in Gulliver’s land of Imran Khan, deciding to have the second divorce rather compromising on principles and carrying forward with another life and career ahead. I think no one can deprive her from these credits and any reader will accept and agree with entire description on face value without getting doubtful about that at any level.
However, the other aspect of author’s account is that of her stay in Gulliver’s Land. The first thing an honest reader asks himself is that why should I agree with this author? Am I given a single reason that why should I trust the author? Although the author is describing herself as a self-righteous person and take all the pride and honour in sharing her own and her family’s nobility, religiosity, honesty and integrity, but all these descriptions are self-proclaimed without any collateral evidence, any cross witness or any other confirmatory factors whatsoever.
If such a principle cantered person (that what she is claiming that she is) is exposed to the kind of corruption that she claims that she was exposed to then that can produce in a reader a strong sense of sympathy. It can generate awe that she fought well with the evil that she is describing that she encountered but there is nothing in entire script that would generate in a reader a sense of blind trust or unquestioned agreement merely based on description of her claims.
It takes more serious turn when the author offers the commentary and verbal broadcast of incidents, situations, interaction and observations that raise hugely important questions on the character of those that she is interacting with especially her second husband. Throughout the entire script the character sketch, the good, the bad or the worst characteristics described by author are based on personal observation or else just one additional source of information which is her husband’s mobile that too is accessed without his formal permission, an act that he tends to despise.
Although she claims that she is driven throughout by the desire and motivation to be a good wife and act in her husband’s best interest. However, despite that author doesn’t offer anything to the reader about any attempts made by couple to understand each other or to resolve the differences. There are no reflections at all on the positive side of either husband. Ijaz Rehman is a complete and absolute evil and not a single word of positivity or praise in expressed about him, so is the expression about Imran Khan who has a huge public persona, a chain of achievements and unlimited fan following. But it seems that the only thing that mattered for author was the husband aspect of Imran and nothing else. In my opinion it must rightly be the primary aspect and approach for a wife but again Imran is not reader’s husband and has several other aspects attached to his personality too.
The author seems to contradict herself and feels mixed up about her values and approaches too. For example, she described herself as a practicing Muslim and takes pride not to indulge in backbiting. The overall approach however about most of characters described in the script are those based on loose accusations and personal discussions between husband and wife. Though author is proud to adhere to values of self-sufficiency and financial independence but doesn’t seem to appreciate that personal information in a marital relationship is meant to be kept secret as a part of personal integrity too rather being shared publicly especially if you are claiming that you are not driven by emotions of anger or revenge.
Though the author claims to be delivering best values to kids but doesn’t mind sharing that she provokes controversy by frequently saying that all men are bastards, some are obvious bastards, and some are covert bastards. Those who are apparently recognisable as bastards are good as you can recognize them whilst the well-mannered ones are coldest of bastards. At the same time, she continues to moan throughout by the misogynistic treatment that she is receiving from society especially the Pakistani people in Guliver’s land.
She has expressed some candid and explicit views on habits of her second husband and about the material that she has noticed on his phone (without having the permission to access it) that has generated controversy in a patriarchal society like Pakistan where lots of alpha males and females had already been waiting to attack her at any weak point on social media after publication of this book. However, I think for any ordinary reader, especially one living in the West, it is nothing more than a red herring, that can distract the reader from primary appreciation that how the truth of these statements would be established. There seems no apparent way to establish the authenticity of these claims.
Finally, I think the book has some important messages for Pakistani women. If you have your core values, belief system and word views that you feel satisfied and comfortable about then you can fight any life battle, face any difficulty and tackle any character in entire world. Be proud of them, look at Reham and listen to her story without criticising her, you will find how many potentials and talents are hidden within you. You will learn from her story that you are not inferior to anyone in the world and whatever level you are dealing with some characters in life, the faces of characters may change but the mindset, the commodity focused thinking, the lust, the greed, the anger, the hate, the discrimination, the family limitations, the social taboos, the outdated scripts that are obsolete in the world now but practiced in our society, all remains the same and if you adhere to your personal strengths and good values then you can defeat them all.
The other important message for any reader regardless of gender is that there is no value in academic world of any statements or claims without any evidence. Emotional reasoning carries no worth towards honest opinion or decision-making process. No matter how damaged, abused or broken you may be, at the end of the day your narrative is nothing but a single sided statement. I was recently reading Charles Darwen’s “Origin of species” and throughout the book I kept reflecting that I wish this author knew about something called genes or chromosomes. He could see everything, he was describing everything, and he was sharing all the observations, just short of naming it. Of course, we had to wait for George Johann Mendel to introduce us to genes. Reading Reham Khan I had been reflecting that I wish this author knew a little more about theory of knowledge (epistemology), logical thinking, evidence-based criticism and importance of proof in pursuit of justice. It’s a nice read after all to acknowledge the unhealthy and unhelpful cultural aspects of Pakistani society that a woman is subjected to.
Kindle has introduced a new feature where it tends to tell the reader how many times a passage from a book is copied or highlighted by other readers that bough the same book. I noticed that the maximum number of highlights on some passages that I noted were 19 as on today (02/08/18). That shows that the book seems to have gained some popularity in Kindly edition even if not huge.