Amina: The Silent One
by Fiza Pathan

"Remember, a woman must never be seen and must never be heard."

The birth of a child is usually considered to be a joyous occasion. When little Amina was born, her parents could only mourn the loss of another chance to have a son instead of a third and unwelcome daughter. For Jaffar and his wife, Rahat, who live in the Bandra Reclamation slum in India, having another daughter means having another mouth to feed. Unwelcome daughters are sometimes quietly abandoned, which Jaffar and Rahat attempt to do. But the man that they turn to for help in this unpleasant endeavor severely admonishes them and tells them to treasure and educate their daughter. Jaffar and his wife take this advice to heart and steadfastly spend much of their income on their daughters' education, despite the condemnations of Jaffar's mother.

The story depicts a land of desperate poverty where shanties are made of mud, children play in garbage, and the ability to purchase tea leaves is considered a sign of prosperity. Jaffar and Rahat understand that education is the means through which their children can live a better life. Yet, tragic events tear apart the happy family and ultimately lead to a sham of an arranged marriage for Amina, who has become quite the musical prodigy.

This tale was not intended to be a suspense novel; yet, discovering Amina's horrific fate and her subsequent attempt at salvation is a nerve-wracking, nail-biting journey. The story comes full circle at the heartwarming conclusion, which depicts Amina embracing her liberation through music.

The author does a remarkable job of portraying the gritty existence of living in a slum in Mumbai. It feels as though she hasn't written a fictional story, but rather has pulled back the curtains on a grim reality to let the reader experience what it is like to have hope in a land in which despondency reigns.

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