NIRMALA: THE MUD BLOSSOM, by author Fiza Pathan, is the heartbreaking story of a young Indian girl who endures numerous hardships, while living under the regime of abusive parents and a poverty-stricken lifestyle. Pathan successfully brings to life the tale of this strong girl named Nirmala (which translates to mud blossom) as she works to fulfill her goal of achieving an education despite getting frequent beatings from her parents and living in fear of being kicked out of her home.
The streets of India come alive in Pathan’s telling of Nirmala’s daily conditions, which include existing in squalor and being beaten with a belt by a mother who favors the three sons of the family. Nirmala has a love of learning and a determination to do well in school. However, her goals are completely ignored and often mocked by her parents. Pathan effectively describes the extensive gender inequalities that exist in families in India (and in the culture as a whole). Even after Nirmala grows up, she often finds herself without a voice and without basic rights that most would take for granted in America.
Although NIRMALA has elaborate descriptions, they are not frequent enough. The novel also feels a tad short; many of the dramatic scenes could profit from a little expansion (perhaps delving more into Nirmala’s feelings about her situation). Overall, the feeling that the book should be longer is really a testament to how well Pathan is able to illustrate characters that truly come to life off the pages. The novel really shines because of the dramatic events and a few twists and turns that give an unexpected realistic quality to the book.
Anyone who reads Pathan’s story will fall in love with her protagonist and will feel sad when the book comes to a close.