You are on page 1of 5

"Maps for lost lovers as a Modern and Feminist novel

Nadeem Aslam was born in 1966 in Gujranwala in Pakistan. He came to Britain at the age of 14 when his father, a Communist, fled President Zia's regime and settled the family in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. He went to Manchester University to read biochemistry but left in his third year to become a writer. At 13, he had published his first short story in Urdu in a Pakistani newspaper. His debut novel, Season of the Rainbirds (1993), set in rural Pakistan, won the Betty Trask and the Author's Club Best First Novel awards, and was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel award. His second novel, Maps for Lost Lovers, is published this month by Faber & Faber. He currently lives in north London. This novel written by Nadeem Aslam was published in 2004.Maps of lost lovers is considered as a modern novel because it focuses the issues of modern man ,his emotional and mental suffering in relation to the contemporary issues. The relation of man with his religion and particularly the issues of immigrant Muslims with their religion are discussed in the recent scenario that drags the novel in Modernist camp. The novel relates how the Pakistani immigrant community deals with the murder of the lost lovers referred to in the title and the challenges the honour killing poses to their religious beliefs. The main characters of the narrative, Kaukab, Shamas and Suraya represent conflicting perspectives on life in the diasporic community and on coping with the tragedy. By focusing on the setting and the atmosphere created in the novel and by connecting it to the intersections of gender and religious identities, this term paper aims to point out the ways in which Aslam‟s novel gives the reader insights into its Pakistani immigrant community and offers different interpretations of this community. By subversively reconfiguring the patriarchal society, the novel exerts manifold criticisms of the Muslim immigrant community as well as of the Failing, multicultural British society. The novel begins with the disappearance of the lovers Chanda and Jugnu and the ensuing arrest of Chanda‟s brothers for the alleged murder of the couple. In the months that follow the honour killings, Maps for Lost Lovers dramatises how the Pakistani inhabitants of the tightly-knit community try to cope with the anguish and uncertainty which the disappearance of the couple brings over them. Wavering between the unlikely hope of their running away and the almost certain knowledge of their deaths, the novel‟scharacters have to deal with challenges to their religious beliefs and the question of following Islamic Law in exile. Although the novel portrays “some of the worst aspects of life in Pakistani communities — honour killings, religious obscurantism, gender inequities to name only a few,” it is also a “book of great humanity and compassion” and mainly a novel claiming the rights of women and the in equality and in justice done to them on religious basis .Maps for Lost Lovers spans a year in a Muslim community in a nameless English town. The 65-year-old Shamas, director of the Community Relations Council, and his devout wife Kaukab, are waiting to learn what has happened to Shamas's brother Jugnu and

Kaukab. Her youngest has not been home for eight years. Maps fors lost lovers is considered as Feminist novel due to the presentation of women subjugation. "I'm from a working-class family and I've always lived in these places. Focussing on the atmosphere of the novel in combination with the gender identities that it presents. it can be read as inherent criticism of colonisation in that certain structures of the British Empire are invoked. and Pakistanis with halting Eng. There's even abuse by a paedophile cleric.The novel is no doubt a feminist novel."Talaaq.ince is killed every 38 hours. "A woman in one Pakistani prov. a non-believer.and that's three too many. several pages into the narrative Chanda's brothers are arrested. he references every headline-grabber: from an exorcism that leaves a rebellious girl battered to death to the aborting of female children. . "The guys from the mosque pulled a gun on the family that was going to the police. the novel can be read as a criticism of Muslim immigrant communities in Britain and their wish to avoid integration." While Aslam is critical." he says. who has vanished five months before. Here it's a neighbourhood curse to say "May your son marry a white woman". he also shows great compassion. cannot communicate with his religious wife. it can be read as backing up the suspicious held within non-Muslim British society concerning Muslims. as well as confirming the stereotypes of Muslims presented by the media. feels despairing because her children reject her values. the emotional dilemmas of the main characters like Kaukab. The locals nickname the town Dasht-eTanhaii.lish might only talk to three white people in a year . in a Midlands town. Their mental and psychological suffering. Second.which can deprive a woman of her security in a moment of marital rage. Chanda and Surya are described through out the novel depicting the plight of today's so called "free women". or The Desert of Loneliness. Shamas. And finally. Aslam is sensitive to the plight of women. Indeed.restrictions of religion on women and honour killings are the topics that are treated by Nadeem Aslam. reproduced and proven to be leading to the catastrophe. arranged marriages and Muslim divorce ." says Aslam. the novel can be read in at least three ways: first. the domestic violence manipulation of women. Shoppers gossip at Chanda's parents' grocery store over the loquats and hibiscus-flower hair oil. Although their bodies have never turned up. is contemporary. however. and points out that each shocking incident in the book is based on a true case. brimming with cultural issues concerning Asian Muslims in Britain: racism. which happened. its people suffer a terrible emptiness. Talaaq. This is a working-class community suffocating in its intimacy and secrets.their domestic issues and for most the case of honour killing. he says. Her oldest son already has a failed marriage to a white woman. Talaaq" . Displaced but unwilling to assimilate. The story. meanwhile. It is however the interweaving of these possible readings that reveals the novel‟s potential as promoting a mutual understanding between the internally diverse immigrant community and the British host society.his young lover Chanda.

or if Shamas was back from work. It is thus not only the value systems and attitudes toward honour killings of the characters which are revealed. so she lets the woman talk. but she is alone in the house. guilt. their religious differences and their fear of interacting with white people paralyses them. The new name which the diasporic South Asian community has given to the English town — Dasht-e-Tanhaii. unwilling to let on the pain in its breast. representing the manifold nationalities that came under the rule of the British Empire. always afraid that their neighbours might learn about their secrets . No one speaks. Although the characters share a similar cultural background and the experience of exile. who relates that she had made friends with some women in the area but she barely knew what lay beyond the neighbourhood and did not know how to deal with strangers. not wishing to provide Shamas with the opportunity to make a disrespectful comment about Islam. The inhabitants of the town have come to England from all over the South Asian subcontinent. the glorification of Pakistan provides the immigrants with role model for their society.Kaukab therefore exalts the Pakistan of her memory into an idealised nation in which Islam still figures prominently in everyday life: "If her children were still living at home. in which daughters are betrothed to their cousins in Pakistan and lovers of different religions are forbidden to marry and in . translating as “The Wilderness of Solitude” or “The Desert of Loneliness” (page no 29 of the novel) — is a telling name for the neighbourhood." Within this „diasporic imaginary‟. Kaukab would have asked the matchmaker to lower her voice to a whisper. (page no 32) The inability to interact with people of a different skin colour or different religious beliefs renders it impossible for the people of Dasht-e-Tanhaii not to be lonely.The open perspective structure of the novel. The claustrophobic atmosphere created in the novel forces the characters to spend their lives in solitude. gives insights into the norms and value systems of the characters and thus allows for an inspection of the represented society. not wishing her children to hear anything bad about Pakistan or the Pakistanis. honour and fear are like padlocks hanging from mouths. No one makes a sound in case it draws attention. No one breathes” (page no 45). created through the various individual perspectives in the text and their relation to each other. The neighborhood is described as lapsing into silence because “it hoards its secrets. Representative of this community is Kaukab. They recreate patriarchal social structures in which the women wait at home for their husbands to return and are afraid to be seen talking to other men on the street.she was full of apprehension concerning the white race and uncomfortable with people of another Subcontinental religion or grouping. but also their experiences of the diaspora in an unspecified English town in which the drama around the lost lovers unfolds. Shame. Through this narrative technique of presenting different perspectives. the reader is invited to share the perceptions of the characters. or hint through his expression that he harboured contrary views on Allah‟s inherent greatness.

Shamas. a gentle. part of the generation that must attempt . which can. however contradictory they might seem.psychological dilemmas of the modern man. Islamic or Christian right-wing movements. problems of the modern man with religion and the emotional. in its extreme forms. In various parts of the world. Islamic law-abiding community. in the following section I will argue that the novel actually challenges the idea that the claustrophobic sentiments are created solely by men and instead presents female characters who also maintain a struggle for the patriarchal society. Aslam has populated this place with a remarkable cast: Jugnu's brother. the gender roles of the characters seem to be as traditional as the rest of the customs which the immigrants live by. However. using religion as the basis on which to enforce their subordination. Shamas's sons and daughter. Ania Loomba has pointed out two significant developments in this field: “Many postcolonial regimes have been outrightly repressive of women‟s rights. In this strict. especially for postcolonial feminists. an alliance between fundamentalism and the State. In this way.” In some Islamic countries the national identity is based on an Islamicisation of civil society. Maps for lost lovers is considered as a modern novel due to its treatment of contemporary issues. the novel exposes possible misconceptions concerning gender roles in religious communities. however.” These two opposing developments. liberal man with no time for the orthodox form of Islam to which so many in his community cling. women have been active campaigners for the Hindu. Most importantly.issues of the immigrants. Ania Loomba also sees a development that tries to “harness women‟s political activity and even militancy to right-wing movements and especially to religious fundamentalism. Additionally. the novel offers a reading and interpretation that puts love and loss into the focus of the narration. Maps for Lost Lovers also comments critically upon the repercussions of British colonialism and how the colonial intrusion into different cultures affects the former colonies even years after their independence and how the long-term consequences in turn interfere with the immigrants‟ integration into today‟s British society.the post colonial Britain.which fathers renounce their daughters for living in sin after three failed arranged marriages .this novel of Nadeem Aslam was published recently in 2004 and focuses the issues of modern "lost generation" It is a town with a large community of Pakistani migrants who have renamed their new home Dasht-e-Tanhaii: The Wilderness of Loneliness or The Desert of Solitude. deal with stereotypical assumptions such as that of the figure of the “immigrant woman victim” the novel can be read as a critique of both the closed immigrant communities that avert all attempts at integration. and the host cultures that easily fall for prejudices without trying to look behind the façades. However. entail severe curtailment of freedom for women. The question of the relation between religion and feminism has posed itself as a difficult field for research.

Suraya. "one day he slapped her with his coarse rectangular hand and the next day he began to shake her violently. she is the young bride who used to step out of the bath and wake up her husband by twisting her hair into a yardlong rope and letting beads of water fall over him.their domestic issues and for most the case of honour killing.The novel is no doubt a feminist novel. A woman brought up to believe in an unforgiving.and the role of man is to take it" and the next day he took the final step: he said the word talaaq three times" (page no 162) "The girl was taken into the cellar and the beating lasted several days with the mother and father in the room reading Quran. who was "mistakenly" divorced by her husband in Pakistan while he was in a drunken rage. Chanda and Surya are described through out the novel depicting the plight of today's so called "free women".and the day after that he waved his knife and shouted" The role of woman is to give life. bigotry and ignorance.the holy man heated a metal tray and she was forced to stand on it.. the novel highlights women subjugation and cruel practices in the name of religion. Most scholars assert that all movements that work to obtain women's rights should be considered feminist similarly all the literature that focuses women problems and issues is considered feminist .to forge a link between the Pakistani and British parts of their lives without being consumed by anger or pulled apart by conflicting demands. but then grew into a woman who equates sex with shame and sin. to support my statement I will give some references from the novel. the domestic violence. manipulation of women. Kaukub.restrictions of religion on women and honor killings are the topics that are discussed by Nadeem Aslam in this novel Throughout the history of humanity women were silenced by Patriarchal society. she is the voice of condemnation raised against all transgressions from orthodoxy and also the voice telling us: "Islam said that in order not to be unworthy of being. only one thing was required: love. the emotional dilemmas of the main characters like Kaukab. She is the devoted mother behind the headlines about the parent who sends her British-born-andraised child back to Pakistan into an arranged marriage. But the most extraordinary of the characters is Shamas's wife. injustice." Maps for lost lovers is filled with stories of cruelty. and now (by the precepts of the Islamic sect she follows) must find someone else to marry and divorce her before she can return to her former husband and their son." (page 190) Maps for lost lovers is considered as Feminist novel due to the presentation of women subjugation. narrow-minded version of Islam. Here are characters hemmed in on one side by racism and on the other side by religious obstructions To sum up my argument I will justify the statement that Maps of Lost lovers is a feminist novel as it exposes the brutality of Pakistani men towards their women.she was not fed or given water for the duration and was not allowed to fall asleep even for ten minutes. as a result they tried to speak out and claim their rights. Their mental and psychological suffering.