Honest, sublime and unputdownable, Sana Munir’s ‘Unfettered Wings’ speaks of many worlds and paints many hues with its own distinct colors in the mind’s firmament.
A girl caught in the midst of the Partition mayhem who after losing everyone dear to her finally marries a man twice her age for the sake of refuge, a woman who has legally battled her way out of a nefarious relationship and is now resurrecting her life from scratch, a girl who took bullets for her kindness towards a stranger, a woman who battled the trauma of childhood molestation all her life, a mother of 3 sons who realized the true significance of ‘motherhood’ only after giving birth to a girl child with Down Syndrome. These are some of the characters that pulls you like a magnet and leaves you overwhelmed with their incredible tales. These are the women residing the pages of ‘Unfettered Wings’ written by Sana Munir.
The book is a collection of 10 shorts that speaks about the ‘extra ordinary stories of ordinary women’ with each story having its own flavor and taking the reader on a literal journey through the various contours of Pakistan. It is most fascinating how the author has covered different parts of the country in her stories.
While reading the story ‘Maria’, I was literally transported to the quaintly beautiful Baluchistan, the land of the deserts, from where comes a merchant to the city of Lahore to sell his carpets. In his land, poetry is sung to the rhythm of ‘dutar’ that may not be a ‘’grand orchestra of sorts, but is so titillating that the vibrations reach from the eardrum to a place deep inside.” Simplistic Baseer lands in the city and falls in love with the beautiful Maria. Soon he loses his sleep over her and stands outside her mansion daily to get a glimpse of her. After days of waiting to see her in person, he finally makes it to her mansion one day, his naïve self gets exposed to the riches of her world. But he soon realised that for Maria ‘love’ has no meaning, its isn’t something she is seeking. Through her words, he understood where her ‘interest’ lies and could rationalize why so many men came in and went out of her huge mansion at different times of the day. With a broken heart, this rural lad left her mansion that day. He ‘stopped standing in front of Maria’s house, but she kept house in his heart….she stayed in his subconscious mind, when he made love to his wife, who bore him 4 children’.
Each story in this fantastic collection will tug a string in the reader’s heart, with its wonderful narration and immense impact.
In the story ‘Habiba’, the author takes us to the rugged terrains in the district of Nushki that’s surrounded by hills and rocks. Habiba’s father is a contract killer who takes ‘assignments’ of kidnapping high profile people. Habiba, the rebellious of the two sisters, with a heart of gold, falls for this ‘prisoner’ who was stationed at their place and eventually meets a fatal end for an act of kindness towards him, which was misunderstood for adultery. Girls like Habiba are the ones who follow strict purdah and hence are totally cut off from the outside world. The author describes, “at fifteen years of age, Habiba’s beauty has not been admired by a man’s eye. She always had every bit of her skin covered, except her eyes – they were like a poetic mix of blue and green, with specks of gold and black in them.’
The harsh reality of the patriarchal society in the rural parts of Pakistan and the vulnerability of the human heart is effectively brought through this touching tale. The effect of the last few lines of this story are tremendous and I for one, couldn’t move on to the next story before taking a few moments to let the heaviness subside.
In the story ‘Eeman’, the author takes us to a strange world, that of motherhood that emerges and evolves with the birth of a girl child. With three sons already borne out of her, it is only when Zainab gave birth to Eeman that she realized the true strength of a woman, a girl. The author writes, “every time a woman gives birth to another, she is possibly channeling another mother into the world, another source of God’s system to keep the world running. A female foetus develops ovaries and eggs in her body, even before she comes into the world. She is prepared to be a mother even before her own birth. That, and that alone is reason enough to welcome a girl child’. Powerful lines, it really moved the woman in me to the core.
The story ‘Meera’ again takes us to this urban world of Pakistan where the protagonist Meera is this college professor who at later stage of her life, ventures into a new world – that of writing and publishing her own works. Here, through Meera’s journey, we get a slight glimpse of the real challenges that an author writing in English language faces in Pakistan. Facing printing difficulties and other hurdles, Meera explores the internet and gets in touch with literary agents in Delhi, and subsequently gets published through an Indian publisher. Due to the political tensions between the two countries, vehement protests and abuses are hurled at her by many, but Meera remains undaunted by them all. She continues her writing journey and eventually gets recognized in her own country as well.
All these 10 women are known to us, we can all relate to them. As for me, after reading and breathing them for all these days, they have become a part of me now.
The protagonists in this collection are strong woman who face hardships, challenges and extreme circumstances with grace and elan. These are woman who lead simple lives, but their battle makes their lives special. They are the ones with undaunted spirits, they are the ones with Unfettered Wings.
Here’s the Amazon link to the Book, Go grab your copy –https://amzn.to/2Nfck1a