Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

An Inside View of Pakistani Life and the War on Terror 'Blind Man's Garden' Shows Travails of a Confused Nation through One Family's Grief

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

An Inside View of Pakistani Life and the War on Terror 'Blind Man's Garden' Shows Travails of a Confused Nation through One Family's Grief

Article excerpt

"THE BLIND MAN'S GARDEN"

By Nadeem Aslam (below)

Knopf ($26.95)

Author Nadeem Aslam's superb new novel "The Blind Man's Garden" depicts the agony of a family tormented and grief-stricken as the result of the decades-long radicalization of Pakistan. It is also about the sufferings of the innocent in that society caused by the propagation of Islamaphobia in the West.

Mr. Aslam, a Pakistani writer living in Britain, is the author of two previously acclaimed novels, "The Wasted Vigil" and "Maps for Lost Lovers." With his third novel, Mr. Aslam provides accurate insight into the war on terror, the working of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the role of the warlords.

"The Blind Man's Garden" also examines the various elements in Pakistan supporting the Taliban and al-Qaida. The reader is transported from the traditional lands of Punjab to the badlands of Pakistan's northwest region and to the tribal areas that lead to wartorn Afghanistan shortly after the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Beginning in rural Pakistan, where radical ideas are often taught to young children, Rohan's inability to harmonize with the pressures of modern life is clearly depicted. Moving on, Rohan unknowingly radicalizes his son Jeo, a medical student.

When Jeo secretly plans a trip to Afghanistan to help his suffering Muslim brothers, he'll leave behind, Naheed, his 19-year- old wife. The plot of "The Blind Man's Garden" mirrors the intricate and complex structure of Pakistani households and matrimonial decisions where a boy and a girl are often married by the choice of their parents, even against their will.

Naheed truly loved Mikal, Jeo's best friend, yet her mother finds him unsuitable considering her financial obligations. Mikal goes with Jeo to protect him. However, both men are betrayed at a very early stage and are captured.

While being sold by one group of militants to another, Jeo is killed and Mikal ends up in a warlord's jail. Passed around among several warlords, he is told that he will be ransomed. Months later, Mikal is sold to Americans and identified as a terrorist.

The story revolves around various aspects of Pakistani society where an extremist version of Islam often thrives in its rural settings. …

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