The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Penguin Random House, 2007
Style: Dramatic Monologue
Just finished reading a reluctant fundamentalist and I assure you I will not sleep peacefully for a long time. Firstly, the rush of completing a book in one sitting has been entirely absent from my life and feeling it again today makes me feel more alive than I have in quite some time.
Secondly, I cannot decide what I feel about the book. There might be spoilers ahead so I insist you stop reading this post. I do not understand how to feel about it. The way India-Pakistan relationship has been described from Pakistan’s perspective is slightly moving. I do have friends in the country but I must admit all of us are too shy to directly broach this topic. We take our solace in promising each other our friendship and inviting each other over for kheer and biryani is one of the thing we bond over. Surprisingly even our discussion about cricket are muted. This book gave me a look into their heads and the proposition is scary. The book just brushes over the topic but it is too poignant for me to ignore. Does America win, and we both lose?
Thirdly I wonder about the title. Fundamentalism has formed part of multiple contexts in the book. Beginning with his job where Changez is asked to concentrate on finances and not worry about the layoffs and the lives that are attached to his cold analysis. About how the corporation expects that one distance themselves from everything else. I like how the street violence against Muslim’s after 9/11 has been downplayed in the book, how September has been related to new beginnings. How his entire story, so breezy at first develops into a character one would not quite like. A character one would begin to distrust. From obsessing over his brains, mannerisms and appearance to doubting his motives behind everything. To being convinced that he is politically motivated and a fundamentalist of the highest order, blinded and brainwashed.
The most interesting concept is that of his comparison with Janissaries – Christians who were raised by the Ottomans to destroy the own civilisation and thus develop a loyalty out of not having any alternative. Isn’t this the same image we get when we think of the ISIS? We imagine kids being raised for war and suicide. We see us, Asians, being so intimately linked with the Americans that we justify their dominance and their need in our homes. Our homes of history and grandeur that they are far from comprehending. That we might begin to forget if we fall prey into the the alternate kind of fundamentalism.
The ending of the book does not tell us who won. It gives us a choice. Which world order so we wish to subscribe to? The answer will split us, will make us angry. It will make us the reluctant fundamentalist.
PS: I checked out the image results for the movie and it does zero justice to how beautifully I had pictured everything.