Nirmala: The Mud Blossom
by Fiza Pathan

"I'm a mud blossom, and the mud is my home. I was not born from my mother, but from the dustbin."

Nirmala: The Mud Blossom is a harrowing account of one girl's life in Mumbai, India. While there are a variety of themes befitting minority issues that run throughout Pathan's short novel, high on that list is survival.

In her fifth book, rising author Fiza Pathan has crafted a story that is more factual than fiction. Based on a fictional character, Nirmala Acharya, Pathan narrates how Nirmala's life is no different than many Indian girls today. Earmarked as worthless at the time of her birth, Nirmala is an incredibly intelligent girl. Yet since she is not only female, but also the first born in her family, her parents only see her as a burden. According to ancient Indian custom and tradition, boys continue the family name, bring in money to the family when they are old enough to work, and are the recipients of their future wife's dowries, as well as an image of pride to their mothers for producing sons. Girls, on the contrary, offer to parents "a state worse than barrenness." Parents fear that their daughters will be raped and pregnant before marriage and that their futures will be riddled with bride burnings and possible widowhood.

Pathan does not mince words, as her descriptions of Nirmala's beatings are vivid. If that isn't disturbing enough, Nirmala's neighbors, who bear witness to the atrocities imposed on her, do little to nothing in coming to her aide. In contrast, Pathan offers moments of hope as Nirmala has dreams of becoming a doctor some day. For Nirmala, education is key and a means of escape from her deplorable environs. It is just a matter of time whether she will reach that goal or not. Eye-opening, riveting, and not for the faint of heart, Nirmala: The Mud Blossom is very much a must read for all.

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