A book review by Saleha Chowdhury
A book review by Saleha Chowdhury
A Muslim Boy
Writter Azik Chowdhury
Every book has a story – long or short, good or bad, natural or supernatural, weird or normal. But to me the most important thing always is – how the writer tells his story. His style of writing , depiction and his character formation. From that point of view I feel Azik Chowdhury’s story telling capacity in A Muslim Boy is brilliant and captivating. Sometimes he can even mesmerizes the reader. I read this book with great interest to know how a Bangladeshi immigrant portrays his life’s experience of a secondary school in London. Eleven year old Shanti Sedan ( the main character in A Muslim Boy) misses his home in Bangladesh. His family moved to London in 1972. Shanti feels and realizes adjusting to British culture is tough. The customs are there different and a racial discriminations and prejudices are common. In his secondary school life Shanti finally finds four boys who share his love of football and have the same problems -struggle to fit in. Those four boys are Olla, Nat, Baldev and David. They all come from different ethnic background. The teachere are very stern, strict and metallic with a few exceptions. There are so many rules to follow and remember. Shanti’s progress displeases his father, he was furious and his punishment is a bit brutal. The main reasons for that Shanti often gets into mischiefs and cuts classes with his new friends. Then father and son’s relationship was not amiable but rather like a dictatorial boss and his timid little subordinate. (I think it’s not uncommon in Bangladeshi culture). The time span in this book is 70’s and early 80’s. When Britain was under some racial discriminations and some unhappy incidents. He uses every bit of his experiences of that time to make his piece of work complete. Cruelty mixes with kindness , tolerance with intolerance, fear with bravado. And oneday Shanti in his bus journey finds hate and love at the same time. That chapter is Intolerance. My favourite one.
The book begins with Shanti’s first day at secondary School. When he was getting ready to go to school. We see Father is helping his son with his necktie and its knots and saying – This is a windsor knot, and gentleman wears this on special occasion, its your first step to becoming a man, Did you know the Duke of Windsor wore his tie this way? And ma? Ma wiped her eyes with corner of her sari and her chin quivered. The tears flows freely and whilst she kept wiping them away , her tears were winning the race.Then the three of them left house together. Ma said bye bye at the bust stop with more tear drops and father was taking Shanti to the new secondary school. In each chapter we see different incidents at school and Shanti’s likes and dislikes. His learning and growing up at the same time. The school experiences of life and understanding a brave new world was going hand in hand.
Sometimes father was bit stern. No reall friendship between them. So Shanti did find a `Bepe’ a maltese cafe owner who has a positive effect on Shanti and became his very good friend and a father figure. A genuine friendship blossoms between those two different age group. This is a very heart-warming chapter to read and a chracter to remember. Like Shanti I like Bepe too.
The story also has three more concluding chapters where at the end Shanti declares to Bepe – `Would you like to know the meaning of my name Bepe’?
Beppe nodded with his hand still resting on Shanti’s arm.
‘It means peace, and I am at peace , you understand?
That’s how the book ends. A troubled boy finds peace. Probably his parents too.
Like I said as usual the book has a story but his style of writing with humour, satire, fun, pathos, fluency and with every well chosen word makes it worth reading. Once, starts to read continues to do so until finishes the book with smile and tears at the same time. Anyway that’s what has happened to me. I think the style is really heart warming and refreshing. I have found another uniqueness, – each chapter has a one word title – Fear, Hendon, Friends, Punctual, Escape, Loathing, Fire, Rules, Racism, Football, Identity, Beppe, Choices, Tolerance, Defeat, options etc. I have seen chapters with titles before but not with one word except Jane Eyre. The book has thirty four chapters. Each chapter has the flavour of a short story, combining those thirty four chapters makes a bigger story or a novel of 350 pages.
There is a secret in the book. I hope one day a curious reader would discover that secret. The ending is refreshing and emotional too. Shanti at peace. And readers feel good for that I believe.
I just wish all the readers love this book the way I do. But we know readers opinions always varied. But the good news is he got some good feedback in the meantime and I feel proud of Azik Chowdhury.
Azik Chowdhury has been writing for a long time but this book is his first novel in print. He was born in Dhaka Bangladesh on 10th of Frbruary 1965. He lives in London now and by profession a computer consultant. The book has been published by Amazon.com and price is 12 pounds only.
Hope he would produce some more. A late starter, I believe can definitely do more. He has talents. Now I know he published one more The Refugee. And another is waiting to be published. And he is on his fourth book.
I wish him all the best and my blessings are always with him.