Book Review: Rafina -A Novella by Shandana Minhas

(C) Privy Trifles
ISBN 978-938621-5383

Genre: Fiction 

Publishers: Pan Macmilan India

Price: Rs. 450/-  ( I got the book for review from the publisher)
Behind the Book

Rafina looks at the glamorous girl on the billboard outside her window in Karachi and thinks, It won’t be long before I'm up there. Too poor for college and dismissive of marriage, the clear-eyed young woman cajoles her mother's friend and Radiance beauty parlour masseuse, Rosie Khala, into taking her on as an apprentice. Thus begin her brave misadventures – from clumsy parlour assistant, to mostly dependable tea girl, till in a stroke of serendipity, she is ‘discovered’. Poised to have everything she thought she wanted, the only thing standing between Rafina and that billboard are the people who think she should still be using the service entrance.

About the Author

Shandana Minhas, born on 26th October 1975 in Karachi, is an award-winning Pakistani writer. Her first novel, ‘Tunnel Vision’, a first person meditation on life as a woman in a man’s world (“In a coma, reduced to the sum of my biological function, I was the perfect woman. Pretty. Pliant. Docile. Accepting…”) was published in 2007 and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. It was later translated into Italian as ‘Pakistan Graffiti’. Her second novel, ‘Survival Tips for Lunatics’, was published in 2014. A “bitingly funny” adventure in which a bickering couple accidentally leaves their two sons behind on a camping trip in Pakistan’s turbulent Balochistan province, it became the first children’s book to win a general fiction prize in the region, taking the Karachi Literature Festival fiction prize in 2015. Her third novel ‘Daddy’s Boy’ – an “amorality tale” - was published in 2016 by 4th Estate. Mohammed Hanif called it “heartbreaking and hilarious”.

Ms Minhas has also written for stage, screen and opinion pages. Her short fiction has appeared in literary magazines, and been adapted for cinema. She is a college dropout, and a mother of three. She still lives in Karachi where she co-founded, in 2016, the indie press Mongrel Books.

I have always enjoyed reading stories based in Pakistan and this one was no different.

Rafina comes across as a someone who is you and yet so much different in so many ways. It was perfect roller coaster ride in terms of emotions. There were pages where I laughed like crazy while there were pages that tugged my heart like none another.

As a character, there is not much in Rafina that you can hold onto or allow it to grow as the book proceeds into the plot. But still, there is something about her, which pushes you to keep rooting for her till the end. You can feel her desire, her zeal and her enthusiasm of wanting to make her dreams come true at any cost. I loved her confidence and belief in her own capabilities. It is something we all could learn a little bit from.

As her story progresses, we move from her dingy home to the palatial homes she does rounds of as an assistant to her Rosie Khala for beauty treatments. The observations here are so apt and ones that give you a glimpse of the rich and famous in Karachi. It is hilarious to see their lives through Rafina's perspective.

Later on, she gets a job at one of the biggest salons' in Karachi and her journey there is nothing less than of someone who is star struck and is just miles away from her dream. She can see her dreams, beckoning her, waiting for her to claim them just by spreading her arms. Yet she waits, patiently for it to become more real for her to believe it. Not one has she let it all create self-doubt or moments where she is dejected. Rather it is motivating to read, how is some of the darkest moments she has managed to see the best side of it all and turned things into her stride. Finally comes the finale to this whole marathon, the moment when her dreams come true. The climax looks a bit rushed up, though.

Written in lucid language, the author manages to strike a chord with you. The ending does look abrupt but as it is supposed to be a novella, there is a lot that is left to the reader's interpretation and imagination.

Loved reading this and thoroughly enjoyed. Would recommend it to brighten up a lazy Sunday afternoon as this is a quick read.

Foodie Verdict

This book is like Masala Foam- unique and stands out with its distinct flavours!

Source: Polka Cafe