A Journey of a Lifetime: Purdah to Piccadilly by Zarina Bhatty

Source: Feminism in India

About the Book

Tracing the life of Zarina Bhatty, a Muslim woman born and brought up in pre-Partition India, this memoir narrates the experiences of a woman who strove to break out of the stereotypical roles imposed by the society of her times. It chronicles her life over 80 years, portraying the political and social conditions of undivided and post-Independence India. Zarina’s story is a story of grit, perseverance and determination to battle against all odds —a story that was waiting to be told.
About the Author

Humanist by faith, sociologist by profession, feminist by conviction, Zarina Bhatty was brought up in burka (seclusion) in a traditional Muslim family in Lucknow in pre-Partition India. She is the former President of Indian Association for Women's Studies (IAWS) and of Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), New Delhi. She has researched, published, and lectured extensively in India and abroad on Indian Muslim Women’s issues and on women in the unorganized sector.

Her pioneering study on women in the bidi industry, undertaken and published by the International Labour Organization (ILO), received considerable recognition. Zarina Bhatty studied sociology and political science at the London School of Economics and taught at the University of Delhi. She later worked as Gender Specialist with United States Agency for International Development (USAID), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and Islamic Development Bank (IDB). She is also the recipient of the Devi Awards 2015. After retiring from work, she has been living a quiet life in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India.
My thoughts

Purdah to Piccadilly can easily be called a coming-of-age story of not one but three generations of women which includes Zarina Bhatty, her mother and Zarina’s daughters. How they struggled to educate themselves despite facing resistance at home, how they tried to balance the rope walk expected out of every woman of maintaining a balance between home and work and how they never allowed their past to define their present. Rather, they made the most of all that life presented them with and never complained about the lack of anything therein.

In the fourteen chapters, the story of her life holds a lot of emotional connect for every reader however there are a lot of places where the narrative might seem to drag. Given the fact that it is a memoir and not a fictionalised account of it, this is something that can be easily ignored. Her story holds promise and is highly inspiring in every aspect.

The last lines from her memoir encapsulates the whole reason behind her writing this book,

Himmat-e-mardam, madad-e-khuda”
“May we all, especially women have the strength to move ahead despite the obstacles. I have done it, and so can you.”

Read the whole review on Feminism on India. 
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