With great clarity Nafees Fazal recounts the harsh patriarchal attitude in her own family and how that served as a lesson for her to carve out her own identity in a very tough milieu.
Athidhi Devo Bhava’ runs the adage which means that a guest is God. Nafees Fazal, the first lady Muslim minister of South India, has lived by this principle for her entire life. “Breaking Barriers” is the apt title of her biography.
Fazal has been extremely frank, in a gentle way in this book. With great clarity she recounts the harsh patriarchal attitude in her own family and how that served as a lesson for her to carve out her own identity in a very tough milieu. Muslim women are largely conservative.
In India, except for that brief period of time just before Independence, persons, both women and men from well-to-do families would certainly not choose politics as a career option.Yet the Thirteen year old Nafees idolised Indira Gandhi. From that admiration rose a desire to go into politics. With sheer grit and determination Nafees was able to realize that teenaged dream of hers.
Luck came to her in the form of her marriage to the handsome Hassan Fazal. Even though Hassan was from a traditional family, he had the guts and confidence in himself as well as his wife to thoroughly support Nafees in the rough and tumble of Politics.
Nafees was a dedicated homemaker till her daughters were settled in their young lives. At 31, Nafees went into active politics. The book takes an unvarnished look at the loyalty disloyalty, jealousy, duplicity and some wonderful bonds among politicians. Margaret Alva, S.M. Krishna, former Chief Minister of Karnataka (with his petite wife Prema) are people who stood by Nafees.
In fact, even during this book release Shri SM Krishna has the graciousness and honesty and bravery to admit that he had made a mistake about Nafees allegedly dancing at a party. This at an age where few politicians admit to making any mistake whatsoever.Women politicians in India tend to dress quite plainly. There is with a mistaken idea that glamour and politics are antithetical to each other. There is a commonly held fallacy that beauty and brains do not go together. Nafees was not hypocritical enough to dress drably, purportedly in “the service to the people”.
Nafees was well known to have terrorised doctors and medical personnel, with her sudden inspections of government facilities, some that her idol Indira Gandhi was wont to do as well. Nafees’ methods were unconventional; the results of such behaviour were not, except in the circles of patriarchal politicians who expected women to defer to them. Her honest revelation of many aspects of her personal life, show that Nafees has adherence to truth rather than duplicity. Nafees, along with her family are devout Muslims. They have been on Hajj. Yet there is an inherent respect and tolerance for all other religions in her. This kind of a religious attitude is a crying need of our times. Nafees’ goodness may have cost her, her political ambitions.
Her dinner table groaning with food, the warmth of her greeting, whether as a Minister or as a graceful individual, proves that this lady who has broken many barriers and proved her many detractors wrong, is, indeed a model not just for Muslims or women, but human beings to emulate.