ALTERNATIVE REALITIES: LOVE IN THE LIVES OF MUSLIM WOMEN
“Who hasn’t been in love? At least once in their lifetime? … People think only a man and a woman can make a couple … But, the truth is, anybody can fall in love with anybody. A man can fall in love with a man, a woman can fall in love with a woman. But society doesn’t accept such love.” – Nisho in ‘Rakhi Sawant of Sind’ Alternative Realities is a travelogue, a memoir, a satire and a feminist critique of Muslim women’s lives, interwoven with the author’s own ongoing struggles as a Muslim woman. Each chapter presents personal stories of women living in cities, small towns and villages in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – the three lands to which Nighat Gandhi belongs. In writing their stories, she attempts to break the silence enshrouding Muslim women’s sexuality, and the ways in which they negotiate the restrictions placed on their freedoms within the framework of their culture. Women like Ghazala, who prefers the life of a second wife, ‘living like a married single woman’, to being bound within the ties of a conventional marriage; Nusrat and QT who believe theirs is a normal marriage, except that they are both women; Nisho, who refuses to accept that her trans-sexuality should deny her the right to love, and Firdaus, writer and feminist, who can walk out of a loveless marriage but not give up on love, with or without marriage. Nighat also explores her own story as a woman who dared to make choices that pitted her against her family and cultures. Alternative Realities is her jihad or struggle to deconstruct the demeaning stereotypes that prevail about all Muslim women. It is a re ection of the myriad ways in which, despite these misogynistic forces, they continue to weave webs of love and peace in their own lives and in the lives of those they live with.”
Ghalib at Dusk and Other Stories
Nighat Gandhi, spent her early childhood in Bangladesh, lived in Karachi till the 90s and later lived off and on in India. Friendship and familial bonds have made her sprout roots in all three countries and has given her a South Asian cultural identity, broader than the definitions of passports. The stories are all slices of life from Pakistan and India. The writer focuses on the minutiae of human tamasha; it is the violated, the marginalized individual’s life that entices her as a writer, and whether the spectacle unfolds in the life of a Muslim woman in Allahabad or a Christian sales girl in Karachi, are merely incidental details of geography. Nighat.M. Gandhi maybe the only contemporary writer who lives and writes in India and Pakistan and these stories present the nuances of ordinary life in both countries and reflect a social reality. The first five stories are set in Karachi while the rest take place in India.