Book: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

This is a true story of an Afghani family torn apart by Taliban rule, told by a journalist who lived with them for a while. Out of 11 children, five sisters stay back in Kabul at the height of the Taliban regime while their father and brothers flee to avoid being sucked into the Taliban ranks. The book follows those girls left behind – how these educated, bright, resourceful women suffered during the regime, and emerged on the other side as world class entrepreneurs.

The writing is good, nothing spectacular, and I never really got too invested in the story. What did remain with me until afterward was the fact that when to the rest of us in the world Afghanistan was just headlines that gradually faded into background noise, there were people, real people, living through what can only be described as hell every day for five years. To not be able to step out of your house without a man, to fear public flogging for flashing a wrist, to have to drape a bedsheet-like garment on yourself in the heat of summer, all amidst the constant fear of death in war, these are things I cannot even imagine surviving. And yet these women lived through all of that and more without a broken spirit, with courage and empathy for others like them. In that respect, the story is inspiring and I’m glad I read it.

PS: Another book, although I hesitate to call it that, that I read on the side was 50 Shades of Gray. In my defense, I’m averse to reading anything that makes it to bestseller lists (I doggedly avoid them, in fact), but I was stranded on an airplane journey without anything to read. I did not buy it, but since my sister-in-law was only too happy to part with her copy, I took it. I really hadn’t realised how pathetic it would be.

In my opinion, only one kind of people will like this book: those who are in a coma and are being read to. And then only because someone else is having to read that crap.

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