The Begum: A Portrait of Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s Pioneering First Lady by Deepa Agarwal & Tahmina Aziz Ayub

Author – Deepa Agarwal and Tahmina Aziz Ayub
Genre – Biography
Publisher – Penguin Viking
No. of pages – 216

Ratings – 4.5/5

About the book –

Detailed story of Irene Pant – later known as Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s Pioneering First Lady post her marriage with a Muslim political leader.
Ra’ana’s life story embodies all the major tropes of the Indian subcontinent’s recent history.
Three religions-Hinduism, Christianity and Islam-had an immense impact on her life,
and she participated actively in all the major movements of her time-the freedom struggle, the Pakistani movement and the fight for women’s empowerment.

(You can listen and watch the review of this book on my YouTube channel – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtuWPxS32BU)

Review –

This is a story of a woman who sacrificed her comfort, time and money and her family life for Muslim League and for establishment of Pakistan. Who went against the time for the betterment of society during the delicate time period post world war and the partition period. It is a well structured and detailed book starting from her childhood days to talking about her strong and not-so-usual decisions politically as well as in her personal life as she grew up to her last few years before death.

IMG_20190301_173653_683.jpgThe book gave me many insightful details of the history related to Pakistan and the Muslim League which I wasn’t aware of much. Interestingly, the history did not bore me at all. The book has a lot of women empowerment element present. Irene Pant who was later recognised as Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan post her marriage to a Muslim political leader who later after the partition became the Prime Minister.

Ra’ana s history as a woman in politics was more than any celebrated personality after being the first lady. The first half of the book concentrated on Irene’s family history in detail.

Deepa Agarwal has penned down the entire details of the problems the family faced when they decided to convert their religion to Christianity. It came to me as no surprise that they were being treated as untouchables even when Taradutt was grieving on the death of his eldest daughter and was in an extreme state of trauma.

The story follows with her schooling in Nanital. This was very inspiring as how Irene’s mother went against the trend to educate her daughter and let her work outside which would have been a distant dream for most of the girls in that decade.

“Life did not mean just the pursuit of one’s own advancement or happiness but rather an obligation to make the world a better place.”

There were mentions of Champaran Satyagraha and Jallianwala Bagh Massecar by Gandhiji. The partition period and how the birth of Pakistan was demanded is explained in the book which a layman can understand easily.

There were quite a few many pages focused on Liaquat Ali Khan’s where I almost lost my interest. Another point which triggered me to argue was when she stated “Ra’ana made his goals/dreams hers too after her marriage.”

Part 2 (written by Tahmina Aziz Ayub) of the book focused on Ra’ana Liaquat Ali Khan’s political history and how she being a brave heart managed to continue with the welfare right from the next day after her husband’s assassination. Her main focus was on empowering women to get education and to step out of their comfort zone and to live their life with zest.

Wrap Up / Final view –

I, not being a history freak, enjoyed reading this book as it mainly focused on women empowerment and how a woman, despite of 100 obstacles in that era, when they were not considered as important as we are considered now broke free and made her own identity in politics as a social worker.

A woman in history who wasn’t afraid to speak the truth and took a stand for herself and her country which we often do not come across. Her interview printed in the last few pages shows that she was very much disappointed by the partition and the Pakistan’s politics when they mixed religion with the same.
Very much recommended. Very insightful.

You can buy this book from here.

– Kinjal Parekh

youtube.com/c/KinjalParekh

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