Shabanu Essay, Research Paper
ShabanuThe book Shabanu, written by Suzanne Fisher Staples, was published in the year 1989. This fictional book takes place in the deserts of Cholistan, which is located on the boarder of Pakistan. The main character in this book is a young girl, at the age of 11 when the book begins, named Shabanu. She has a 13 year old sister named Phulan, who is coming of age to be married. Phulan is betrothed to her cousin Hamir; Shabanu is betrothed to his brother Murad.Shabanu is a very vibrant young girl who loves to spend her days out by the toba, the watering hole, with her beloved camels. Usually girls are expected to stay in the house with their mother and learn how to cook and clean and all the other things that wives are responsible to know. Although, because of the fact that in Shabanu s family there are no boys to do the chores Shabanu must do them. She really does not mind, in fact she loves having the freedom to get dirty and be with the camels. She is not looking forward to getting married, because when she does all her freedom will be lost.One morning on her way out to the toba to watch after the herd of camels Shabanu saw a flock of vultures, which meant that either something was dead or near dealth. When she got closer to the toba she began to hear the sound of a camel in pain. Shabanu started to run. When she got to the toba she saw, with great dismay, a dying pregnant camel who was in the middle of giving birth. Shabanu labored for what seemed like hours upon hours to free the calf from it s dying mother. She was successful; the baby was saved. None of the other mothers would feed or except the baby so Shabanu was forced to raise it. Her father named the calf Mithoo and gave it to Shabanu to have.The rest of the season was spent getting ready for Phulan s wedding. Then the time finally came go to their relatives house where the wedding ceremony would take place. Upon arriving at Hamir s family s land they set up here house, made of mud and dung, and Shabanu and Phulan went to the toba to wash up and get water. On their way back they find themselves in the presence of the wealthy neighboring landlord. In self-defense, Shabanu robed the landowner of his dignity and the resulting conflict ends with Hamir being shot. So it is decided among the adults that Shabanu s husband-to-be, Muad, will take Phulan as his wife. Shabanu is crushed because she was just getting excited about getting married to Muad. Furthermore Shabanu has been sacrificed to the murdering landowner wealthier more powerful older brother, Rahim-sahib, to be his fourth wife. This secures that Murad s land will always be protected from Rahim-sahib s wicked brother. The book ends in a desperate escape on Shabanu s part for her freedom, but instead she gives her potential freedom up to save the life of her camel Mithoo.
I enjoyed this book a great deal , especially the descriptions of the camels and the annual fairs where the nomads meet relatives and friends. Shabanu seems most real to me when she is with her camels, and I do believe that the author did an accurate job introducing us into the woman s world. However, I am concerned about the author being bias and putting a Euro-centric point of view in this story. I question whether or not Suzanne Fisher Staples really studied this culture well enough to write about it. I do not agree that this book be read in a History class because there seems to be a bias against the practice of arranging marriages. While the bias may be justified by our Western preferences, I do not think it should be placed in a work of literature that was made to teach us about the nomads of Pakistan. Instead of educating students about Pakistani desert nomads, it may just confirm uninformed beliefs that people who are culturally different are morally incorrect. I did some research about this story and the culture of nomads and I was disturbed to find out that this book originated from a popular Muslim story about a little orphan girl named Shabanu who has to live with her grandmother, and that the part about Hamir s death and Shabanu having to become Rahim-sahib s fourth wife was all made up by Suzanne Fisher Staples. This is the part of the book that creates the feeling in the reader that the practice of arranged marriages are wrong and unjust. I also found it peculiar that Shabanu calls her father dadi which is suppose to be nomad for dady. I found this so peculiar because of the close relationship between the nomad and the English words. Sure enough this was not the correct use of the word dadi in fact this actually means paternal grandmother. Since the origination of this story was about a orphan who lived with her grandmother this mistake is especially disturbing. Did Suzanne Fisher Staples read the original story of Shabanu and think that she was an orphan who lived with her dad? If so I would be thoroughly disappointed. Also I believe that if the author would have let Shabanu tell her own story without bringing her own western perspective into it, it would be a far better story.