Read Slum Child by Bina Shah Online


Laila, a young Pakistani Christian girl, lives in Karachi’s poorest quarter, Issa Colony. The grim circumstances of Laila’s life are counter-balanced by her energy, vitality and determination to survive. Nine-year-old Laila is spirited and intelligent. She lives in a slum but she is happy: she’s got plenty of friends to play with, and is well looked after by her beloved elLaila, a young Pakistani Christian girl, lives in Karachi’s poorest quarter, Issa Colony. The grim circumstances of Laila’s life are counter-balanced by her energy, vitality and determination to survive. Nine-year-old Laila is spirited and intelligent. She lives in a slum but she is happy: she’s got plenty of friends to play with, and is well looked after by her beloved elder sister, Jumana, while her mother works as a maid for rich families across town. But when Jumana contracts TB, their mother cannot afford the medicines that would save her life. Following Jumana’s lingering, painful death, and her mother’s emotional collapse, Laila discovers that her feckless stepfather is planning to sell her into prostitution to pay his gambling debts. Running away is her only option. Finding help from unexpected quarters, Laila makes her way to one of the families her mother worked for, and is taken into their household as a servant. There she finds unimaginable luxury, but also great unhappiness within this privileged family. At first Laila’s gift for making friends serves her well, but then disaster strikes, and Laila must flee again. But where is she running, and to whom? How can she hide from the terrible violence that threatens her? And how can she hope to find love, affection, and the chance at a normal life? Slum Child is the story of a girl forced to run alone, strong and courageous, to a future that cannot deny her happiness....

Title : Slum Child
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9789380658315
Format Type : Other Book
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Slum Child Reviews

  • Anum Shaharyar
    2019-05-10 05:21

    It was the first time I had been confronted with the notion that the truth was not a universal belief shared by everyone – that different people could have a different version of the truth that was the complete antithesis of what I knew to be my own story. It was devastating to me.There were a couple of reasons I was unsure about this book. An upper class author writing about a lower class protagonist from a religious minority that is so condemned in this country? Needless to say, I had my reservations, but there was no need to worry. In terms of handling sensitive issues, Bina Shah does everything right.That’s not to say that I loved this book. It was a good story, sure, and the analytical part of my brain gave it a thumb ups, but there was something missing. Some vague, unexplained connection that only a reader can understand, which makes a book amazing/spectacular/the-best-i’ve-ever-read rather than just a good book. And while this was not amazing/spectacular/the-best-I’ve-ever-read, it was still worth the read. The StoryLaila, a young Pakistani Christian girl living in the slums of Karachi, is our fiery protagonist, a spit fire of a thing. Spending her days skipping school and running around aimlessly with her friends, Laila’s life involves no responsibility because her older Jumana takes cares of their three step-brothers and everything else at home while their mother spends her days working for a Madam from a rich family in one of Karachi’s upper class areas.“At least if I were dead I wouldn’t be sick.”Things take a turn for the worse when Jumana contracts tuberculosis and the family is unable to afford the medicine to cure it. Jumana’s prolonged sickness and eventual death and Laila’s mother’s slow decline into complete mental collapse means Laila is forced into the role of caretaker. And in a country like Pakistan, where daughters are considered burdens by a significant number of the population, Laila’s stepfather is convinced by his friend to sell Laila off as a prostitute in a bid to make some extra money. Today I was a girl; tomorrow I would be a whore.Laila does the only thing that makes sense in the short amount of time she has to hatch a desperate plan: she runs away. With help from a recovering drug addict and an eager bus conductor, she makes her way to one of her mother’s rich clients and convinces them to let her work there. Living with the Ansaris gives Laila a chance at a new life and shelter over her head, but she is unable to forget the mother she left behind, and soon circumstances force her to rethink the decision she made to leave her old life behind.I felt dissatisfied with the way things were in my own life, and wanted to lash out at anyone who reminded me of how vast the gulf was between someone like me and someone like the Madam.The story is fast enough to not get boring and interesting enough to keep a person reading. Within a small page-count (only 288 pages, which is quite diminutive compared to other tomes taking on such heavy issues), Bina Shah has managed to tackle a significant number of important things: social concerns, gender issues, class differences, religious matter, each find an expression within this story.The Religious stuffThe thing we learned best, I suppose, was how to fit in. This was a vital skill for a Christian living in any Muslim area. We had to be nondescript.Our main protagonist is Christian, a minority in Pakistan that’s regularly harassed, discriminated against and in multiple cases made a victim of religious violence (Cast in point: a suicide bomber blew himself up at a park crowded with a large number of Christian families celebrating Easter in Lahore two days ago; the bomb killed 72 and injured hundreds more, many of them children). That’s why it is so important for books from the point of view of multiple religious identities in Pakistan to be written, read and discussed. It tickled me sometimes to think that I could just as easily have been born into a Hindu family, and then I would have been worshipping cows and elephants instead of our Lord Jesus. Or I could have been born a Muslim, and then I’d be bowing my head to the ground five times a day and learning how to read the Quran. Why had God made me a Christian?Of course, it would have been better if a Pakistani Christian wrote this book, but let’s face it, discrimination is a thing that is well and truly thriving in Pakistan, not only in cases of writing opportunities but even at a basic level such as the right to an education or job opportunities. Let us hope that one day we can read about a Christian from the point of view of someone who belongs to that religion, and until then we must believe that the writers who choose to tackle representation at least know what they’re doing. The SlumsIt was safe to say that nobody in the slum was unemployed; everyone had their own line of work, legitimate or otherwise, and everyone worked hard to keep themselves and their families fed. The one thing that worried me throughout about this book was how much research went into writing this story. Because writing from the point of view of someone who lives in the slums or belongs to a religious minority requires more than heartfelt empathy; it requires the extra step to ensure that the representation is valid and not contrived, that these characters aren’t stock figures and images of what the authors thinks poverty or religious discrimination looks like. I recognized the pragmatism in what he was saying: we shared that instinct. We had to say whatever would help us to survive; that’s how it always was for us residents of the slums and the sewers.It’d be fair to say that this book straddles that line uneasily; some scenes hit home, while others look like they’ve been viewed by a foreigner. Maybe one of the main problems is that much of the commentary on the religious or social lines is done through the mouth of a protagonist too young to voice these thoughts; in these cases Laila seems to be nothing more than a vessel for the author to express her thoughts. For a book about the slums to be realistic, you can’t write romanticized versions of what rich people imagine the poorer parts of the city to look like. In these cases, Laila’s narrative focuses more on her rich, inner life rather than on her surroundings. The things around her are part of the commentary that runs through her head, but they are the background to her reactions to all the other things in her life. The Social ClassesShe didn’t have to worry about being raped at the police station. That was a fate that awaited only those who were poor, or stupid. Like me.At its heart the story is about the divide between rich and poor, between those born in the slums and those who enter this world privileged. And throughout the book this divide remains stark, showing us how different the worlds and the lives of the people in these worlds remain. Sorry. What did that word mean, uttered by this boy who had never known a hungry day or a grief-filled hour in his life? It was only a courtesy, a word used as a unit of social currency, like please and thank you. Had I come into their lives just to teach them the meaning of this word?Laila’s time with the Madam and her family bring this divide into stark clarity; the Madam’s two children, Jehan and Maryam, are of Laila’s age but used to a life very different from her’s. As a reader who associated more closely with the former two than with Laila, it was interesting to see how Laila looks at the other two, baffled by their ways and their lifestyles. The ‘strong’ female character I can’t tell you how sick I am of the ‘strong’ female character trope which equates being strong with an ability to wield a sword. Give me a complex, three-dimensional female character who couldn’t hold a weapon to save her life but who’s both good and bad and funny/selfish/loyal/careless all at the same time, and it’s good with me. And in terms of character growth and female characters gaining agency, this story and its protagonist are a win.I couldn’t find the words to tell Madam how much I hated the fact that others always seemed to be in control of my fate.Laila starts out dictated by her circumstances and her religion and all the factors that are working against her, and she seems aware of those conditions, but in no situation does she fold in and give up. She is in turn compassionate and angry and optimistic and defeated; all there are natural progressions in her story, a valid reaction to the places she finds herself. And after a hard life of straining circumstances, by the end Laila finds her voice, sets out to make things right and ends up in a place better than where she started out. I announced, in a loud, clear voice. “Well, I know how to play cricket, and if I was on your team you would win because I hit the ball so hard I get a six each time.”RecommendationEven though the book gets so many things right, I still wouldn’t say that I loved it, and that’s because it lacked that most fundamental thing upon which rests the goodwill of any reader: a lack of ability to connect. On an intellectual level I can recognize that the book is good, but I never got engrossed in it, never cared one way or another what actually happened to anyone. So three stars out of five for all the smart handling of issues, but not much more. Read it for the intelligent bits, if you will. **I review Pakistani Fiction, and talk about Pakistani fiction, and want to talk to people who like to talk about fiction (Pakistani and otherwise, take your pick.) To read this review completely, go through more reviews or just contact me so you can talk about books, check out my Blog or follow me on Twitter!

  • Famma
    2019-05-13 11:45

    I don't know what to say. After reading this book I was speechless for a little while. I know there are many slums in Karachi. As a matter of fact Orangi town is the Asia's biggest slum. This book is all about the life in slums and how they live day to day. What they do. How they take care of each other. The people in slums are united, no matter what their ethnicity is, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Punjabi, Sindhi, balochi etc they are united under poverty flag.The protagonist is nine year old Laila, it’s about how she faced her sister death and her mother sickness. The burden and difficulties a young child faced. How she ran when she heard that her step-father will sell her for prostitution for 15000 Rupees to pay off debts. It’s not a happy story; it’s fictional but will make you cry. I imagine life worse in slums. No basic necessities, malnourished children roaming around, drug addicts, rapist, no education, no water, and no electricity in short hell created by humans. The vast gap created by rich to remain rich and poor remains poorer.I don’t agree with the ending. Things like that happen in dream. I was totally engrossed and the ending made me realized it’s fictional. Few things are debatable but I must applaud author Bina Shah for such creative emotional writing.

  • Abdullah Mo
    2019-05-09 10:34

    For academic literary researchers, it would be interesting to draw parallels between Bina Shah's portrayal of Pakistani Christians and that of Muhammad Hanif in 'Our Lady of Alice Bhatti'. No doubt the story-line is idiosyncratic, where a nine years old Pakistani Christina girl is the narrator and protagonist, however the treatment of events and the narrative itself, I found a little less engaging. There were hardly any lines that I would love to quote and cherish, for long, the joy of, either in terms of profoundness of thought or the construction of it. Laila, the lead lady, lives two equally challenging lives, one in Isa colony, the Karachi Slums, and the second in the rich house of Ansaris as a maid. She is brave. Bina, to some accuracy, depicts the ordeals religious, economic, and social minorities face in Pakistan. This portrayal is twofold that simultaneously exposes the fickleness of our social fabric and reweaves some hope of coexistence and care. Sex, sexual exploitation, sexual frustration gets some significant space in the course of events in this book. Religion and interfaith harmony is another noteworthy leitmotif. Despite having many questions in my mind on the validity of delineation of Christian and Muslim experiences in the novel, it was a valuable read that has contributed to enrich the Anglophone Pakistani fiction tradition.

  • muhammad Hafeez
    2019-05-18 11:43

    GoodReally good A Story from being a slum girl to a girl with ambitions and courage to save her mother

  • Samra Muslim
    2019-04-23 08:37

    For some odd reason I've not read Bina Shah's work before (surprising because I make an effort to read Pakistani writers). Having gotten that out of the way - I must admit, I like Shah's writing style - easy, simple and very real - thus the mass appeal and appreciation for her literature !!Moving on to the book and Laila's story, not very impressive and honestly put very ordinary tale of a poor person belonging to our region (India/Pakistan/etc) who from the age of 7 onwards is facinated by everything rich (even the sea) and opts to escape from all situations tough!! Laila's dad running away after the death of his son, mother's escaping into madness after sister's death, Laila herself running away from home to avoid being sold ... blah blah ... this is neither a story of the protaginist succeeding against all odds nor her succumbing to the pressures of her life ... its just a tale of how life is for the ones living in the slums of Karachi ... !Decent effort - but as a regular reader I wasn't wowed at all ....

  • Areesha Khuwaja
    2019-05-20 06:27

    I was on an epic journey with Laila and I discovered my own city through this book. I realized how many different kinds of people live here and how they live. I am better at understanding people now. I can somehow understand that the reason behind the things they are doing must have something to do with their background. I imagined myself as Laila and understood what a brave girl she is and it helped me figure myself out. I kept thinking what would I do if I were in her shoes? We encounter with girls like these everyday but we don't give them much importance. They are almost invisible to her. Through Slum Child I got to meet and got to know people belonging to different classes, races and religion here. It seemed to me that I knew more about west than my own country, my own city.It made me look at things, look at my life, this city from a new perspective. It made laugh and wonder and feel the pain and cry. I recommend this book to everyone.

  • Joe
    2019-04-24 08:24

    Enjoyable, entertaining and easy to read. I think the author did a great job of capturing the personalities she was striving for, although a few instances were misplaced or clichéd. Having spent a lot of time among Christians in the slums in Pakistan (although not in Karachi), I was looking forward to reading this book. I'm not sure that she captured the religious aspects as well as I'd hoped, but I don't think it took away from the story.

  • Sahar Ammad
    2019-05-16 06:39

    A very good start by portraying the real slums life..the problems they face,the way they think & feel,the way they live..!!...some points i feel are not well explained or you can say,are added just to have some variety in book.. and also I think the end is so dramatic. Good book but a very predictable one.

  • Finsomni Ak
    2019-04-23 04:35

    Nice story of a girl deprived of poverty.. Good depiction of emotions.. Bina added the disasters in the novel to make it spicy where ever the story started getting bore, and that is a quality of a good novelist...

  • Sumit Gunjan
    2019-05-08 10:31

    A very nice story of a girl raised in slums of Pakistan. The book helps the reader to know about the life of a girl child in slums. The book gives some very beautiful insights and learnings. Would like to thank "Bina Shah" for such an beautiful effort.

  • Amanda Sheley
    2019-05-10 09:34

    A touching story about a little girl just trying to stay positive despite the hard life shes been given. Inspiring read.