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Sabyn Javeri's political thriller Nobody Killed Her makes for a gripping, pacy read

Sabyn Javeri, author of the high velocity political thriller Nobody Killed Her, expresses slight exasperation over her much-discussed debut novel being referred to as a "thinly veiled account" of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.

She reveals that while researching a thesis subject for her PhD, she studied Muslim women leaders and their trysts with power. Having researched the matter in good detail, Sabyn maintains that the two women in her story who’re constantly vying for the position of the protagonist, have been developed by knitting numerous silhouettes of female political heavyweights from across the global spectrum.

Sabyn adds that her novel explores the convoluted journey through which women in a patriarchy acquire power and further grapple with hanging on to these structures that they’ve worked their way up. To conveniently dismiss then, the character of Prime Minister Rani Shah (from Nobody Killed Her) as a mildly distorted version of Benazir Bhutto, owing to the author’s nationality, would indeed be a grave limitation on the critic’s comprehension prowess.

No One Killed Her trails the life of Rani Shah, as told by the unreliable narrator, her Woman Friday Nazo Khan. The narrative takes us through Rani Shah and Nazo Khan’s odyssey from being political exiles to taking back the dynastic seat of power from the clutches of a general’s tyrannical military regime.

Sabyn Javeri with her book, Nobody Killed Her

Sabyn Javeri with her book, Nobody Killed Her

Sabyn maintains that the character of Rani Shah was inspired by not just Benazir Bhutto (whose persona enamored the author as a young girl) but also, the likes of Indira Gandhi, Aung San Suu Ki and Margaret Thatcher.

For Nazo Khan’s character, Sabyn sought inspiration from Palestinian liberator/terrorist Leila Khalid, Jayalalithaa and Mayawati. Sabyn points out that to assume Pakistan is the only county to have had a woman leader and a dictatorship would be naïve. Nobody Killed Her isn’t a biographical account and all those looking for the answers to Bhutto’s assassination would only be met with disappointment.

The book may have a woman-centric narrative, but has no qualms about thwarting the many naturalised orders of the day that women are expected to carry out. Sabyn shuns the idea of playing victim and offers a refreshing take on how a woman doesn’t assume the status of a human rights crusader because she was wronged by society or because she longs to see a world free of hypermasculine scum that have hijacked the public and private spheres alike.

She maintains that creating a story line is not as simple as responding to a cause by effect. Sabyn says that she itched to write an emboldening story of a “burqa avenger” who laughs at the prospect of slipping into the societal glass slipper of what’s gender appropriate. Her narrative breaks the tradition of the rich lyrical accounts that emerge from the continent that largely recounted women’s stories from the victim’s perspective.

Through the narrative we discover shades of the adage “a woman is a woman’s worst enemy” while exploring the relationship between Rani Shah and Nazo Khan, her personal assistant and prime accused in her assassination. Nazo has been incidentally hailed for being the ultimate feminist — for getting the party’s house in order through her under the table dealings.

Nazo, the narrator in Sabyn’s novel, is an unpredictable one. Sabyn maintains that this was a deliberate attempt on her part as she wanted readers to traverse through uncharted grey areas.

Sabyn also carefully debunks the notion of the absence of violence in privileged households. She says there are a number of invisible barricades closing in on you with the expectations that come along with being an upper class woman. The occurrence of rape and divorce is unflinchingly silenced owing to the ‘shame’ it brings to the family in question. In her book, where women from the lower classes use sex as currency, the head of the state is denigrated for not meeting expectations solely on account of being a woman.

Sabyn adds that a woman in power often comes under closer scrutiny than her male counterpart, drawing disproportionate flak for her misdemeanours.

On speaking with the author about her technique, Sabyn maintains that she regards writing to be a craft or a sport. She believes that she isn’t an instinctive writer but more of a planned one, who consciously works towards creating the desired tension at certain instances with the help of her scientific charts and graphs. She believes that anyone can write so long as they have the discipline and work towards building a compelling narrative.

Her next body of work, expected for release in 2018 is an anthology of short stories, titled Hijabistan. It explores the theme of the veil, or the purdah. The stories look into the issues of identity politics that revolve around the hijab among other narratives that speak of the metaphorical veils of ignorance.

Updated Date: Jun 04, 2017 16:04 PM

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