tv Book Discussion on The Upstairs Wife CSPAN March 1, 2015 1:17am-2:16am EST
please welcome them to politics & prose. [applause] >>. >> mrs. rafia zakaria first book talk for this book is the great privilege to have her in washington d.c. for the first talk. i want to start with her as the coniston also the introduction bin her work and answers the question of and women's rights and discrimination in bill kinds of issues so when you have written something as personal as this book which is part memoir in part history what is the origin to say something in the way that you have done? >> first of all, thank you
everybody for being here. authors say this all the time but it is a lonely job. there is nothing better than to sit in front of people who are interested. but i write mostly for the pakistan the audience a right for the largest newspaper and the genesis of this book was a woman wrote to me every week sometimes in response to the columns. it is difficult in the united states interested in a book on pakistan. talking earlier to my friend who said if you had a title that said the new car say
for more terrorists than anyone else. [laughter] then you could sell a book about pakistan but in particular from the city i am from is a harder sell. i envision this book really is introduce people to what it feels like tb pakistan the more than anything else. so it is a way to present the emotional landscape of pakistan. this is the dimension of the country that is lost and dominated by security issues by terror and violence.
for what goes on behind closed doors. >> you initially said during to that emotional landscape there are fictional writers about individuals and their struggles choosy natalie to write something that is deeply personal to take your own family story from your grandmother's your mother that is not difficult to put private life in pakistan in the way that you have. >> yes. it is difficult and continues to be a struggle. the way i looked at it, i
have to be true to my commitment as a writer in that i wanted to present as honest as possible a story that was true to my heart that capture the experiences of the people that love but when that comes up against the expectations that people have, it is a balancing act. but the motivating factor is i believe that a lot of suffering results from violence because those private boundaries on some dimension to go through similar situations that
field the struggle is a singular one. and to have the story told is for other women to share their stories but there are universal strands of human emotion that unite us and the central theme of the book is to be in love with someone who really doesn't love you. then i think is something every but he goes through or has been at some point. >> talk about the central character in the book which is also the title of the book "the upstairs wife" and what happened to her? >> the central character is my way can and the story
revolves around her husband taking a second wife and she came home to her father's house and what that was like as a child to know what was going on but not really know the matter or why she was so upset. that is the central character and i try to explore the whole idea of public and private and how the rich is the connection between the violence and the in the intimate relationships that can also take you apart. the portion that i will read right now is the view from the outside in this
neighborhood where everyone knows everyone else and they know that this man has taken the second wife. >> key has divided his home into multiple levels. >> with the arrival of the second wife the eyes of the neighbors were on the newly enlarged house. in the evening the lights on upstairs or downstairs watching the comings and goings busy distended the stairs between the two women. the only one there was one
man had a safe topic at the dinner table. from the nagging concerns of trafficking and school. visit upstairs or downstairs tonight? the most overworked of husbands has a newly created neighborhood to be reunited that was reliable fodder. >> what is interesting you take those observations what is happening then interlaced that throughout the book so "the reader" gets both sad and juicy as you describe it with the story along side the narrative of the political leaders in the one woman you rightabout benazir
bhutto and one of the leading female politicians in the world that the time as a larger-than-life figure and it looks as the freest woman. can you juxtapose those experienced? >> s.a. pakistan the woman living in america that is probably one of the most popular questions i amassed that benazir bhutto was a prime minister so that is a familiar face of pakistan the women but it is how i saw her as a kid when she was getting married herself and what that was like and
how i interpreted that growing up in karachi. more than anything you have an environment and that was definitely raised to be married and have children. wanted very much for her not to do that because it wanted one example of one that was not doing what every other woman i knew was doing that the alliance percenter around marriage and childbirth. i remember being sad because it is true purpose of the freest woman i know and she has to marry this man. his not particularly good-looking with no subtext
whatsoever but as a kid i remember thinking why she doing this? because not everybody has to do this to make these compromises. and that is the shadow because the marriages that uc that you interpret what your life will be like so that is why she is a significant influence in the book also u.s. to earlier about the origins as a pakistan the woman you cannot look at what is happening but not be despondent about the way things are or upset bayou
are not seeing a reflection or the public faces or the history or those important dimensions of life. so i get to a point where i feel this is the only way to reclaim pakistan to present through the eyes of women and that in itself for me was the ultimate subversive thing i could do. i have story after story of women who i love food tried to claim the country for themselves and they're not able to do so. i wanted to tell the story of the country because they
say history is wit -- written by the victors. but then to be more overcome because then there is the internet but they have been in day can be. then they continue to push this system or our push to be very constructive truces syracuse said it came from and that has to do with the ways to present the political history of pakistan. can you share out of this is part of the book? >> before i even say that i will say this in my
acknowledgements but pakistan the paper that i write for is on the front line of society that is transforming that is extremely violent. i am tremendously grateful that my editor really allowed me to push the boundaries to write articles about women or issues like the laws against adultery and the other things but these are more central. but i got letters from women who work in there fighting some of their daughters can work can have choices?
with doctors and hospitals and wanted to reflect that plurality in a book because i didn't want to present one story but to see as many as possible. so you understand the mixture of pushing and pulling. those to come out on the streets to fight and those who retreat and that is all a part of pakistan. but more recently at this point the history or the issue of polygamy within the context is being prevented as the solution from the dust to women in more of the authentic islam like way to live through marital relationship.
so with in those discussions of polygamy what is allowed or not but there is no discussion of the emotional ruin when that an arrangement like that can cause. so exploring those and relationships is the way to begin that conversation and it is also important because the u.s. is also engaged of what our intimate relationships and what is marriage and what are the boundaries of what we want in society? in a way that that is a way to relate to people who may not have any background to understand the central impulse of wanting to be
with someone or the only person in someone's life is universal. >> want to ask you that you wanted to be more universal by looking at the questions of love you are on the board of directors of amnesty usa and this central to what you do with your other work. but you also put together a book that is very literary with a personal touch so i would ask if you read the section of the man who founded pakistan who is credited as the central figure in its history but it is a story of the wife who died in 1947. could you read how he had
love and marriage in his life to be a politician. >> yes. to use that in a and though the theme of the book is migration with the idea we can never really go back and obviously it is true for all of our lives you can never go back to a time that existed before. and that is woven through the books that i am constantly and trying to rebuild it in this is the
founder to that the woman that was left behind his that he had a for personal life. and the creation of pakistan so on february 20th, february 20th, 1929, she was buried in one of the muslim cemeteries. visiting her in august 1947 in the days before he left for karachi. the last day he would never spend in bombay. here the grave of the woman he had lost he was set. one year later he would be dying in faraway new board pakistan. september 1948 almost 20
years later he too would be gone. he had been the country but lost and was buried in the center of karachi over his green the unblemished dome could be seen far and wide he did not come to die so he belonged to pakistan. the children learned about him and his education and political affluence and strategic prowess but never learned but is nonexistent wife with a role he had left. >> that's beautiful. and i.m. carious you say the subtitle is an intimate history of pakistan" but we have many books about the political history but what did you mean to have this a
as a historical record? the idea they felt knowing the intimate history was key to understanding the country? >> yes. before an american audience when i write for the american audience i imagine most immigrants feel this way not everyone can feel the context of what you are talking about but to have those isolated nuggets. pakistan is so tight it is taliban. but to talk about what society is like. but to weave them together like what we did today how it becomes pakistan today.
but the other challenge is that him telling you a story of. >> in general the people from those that are computer programmers they did not become a lawyer but i am not doing that. we don't get to talk about what ordinary life is like. with the events with the assassination but other times they shed a fact of life but they don't. the story about polygamy and
how the laws on marriage affect women but lot of women have no idea what the laws are or how they affect them so shouldn't they have been more in the element? my family said they did not know what the laws were and that is how these people live their lives. so to those things that i feel the basis that i am consumed more by what happens to wives and children that is very similar in pakistan. so in that sense it is also question where women's rights are where they should be and why women do and
don't organize but to see those but a series between money and to and the other wife are important questions. she was raised to have children in the other woman met my vocal at work. those are choices that women face about the good or the bad woman and have it is constructed in society with more or less freedom based on those choices in how they affect you. finally it was crucial that in many ways well was hoping they went have something difficult of the nine dash any society but one of the most insidious ways that
women contribute is by not being mindful to buy into a male mindset with a woman is the enemy. so that is the question for the people who read to you decide. with the blame lies even with their different perspective can give a differential read on the situation. >> i'm sure many of you have questions for our offer and how it is written al is a great time for those who want to ask.
>> this is a question of my wife asks me many times. [laughter] she says what is this woman? it is his mother she takes care of him. she -- to looks at his mother and then to be the same way. and i'm sure they'll love that they love their mothers how can he then see his mother? and then when he mary's he
doesn't treat his wife as an equal to himself. it is beyond my comprehension. can you help? [laughter] >> i wish i had an answer to this question. my best guess would be that i guess i notice that children or people see it is powerful to see their mothers is not having power or the father who has power
because perhaps as much of a natural instinct with the person that is calling the shots to decide what happens in this book at least i am sure a lot of my perspective is the fact i am a twin and i have a twin brother. so what i saw i saw a double that i could see how it would be different if i was a boy. and that obviously influenced how wise some of the world around me. so to know that underscores how we determine the relationship. it makes no sense.
limiting the quota for girls in medical school there fighting against that. there are women at universities all the time. and then talking in terms of their grades so there is a lot of hope because we do have a young pakistan it is 60% under 20. half of that is women. so that pushes it ended a lot of ways you see the conflict because there is transformation and the women are out there. they have to learn. in the shops selling things stand in the offices and at the airport even now some of
there there and they are pushing. it is conflict ridden because the war in pakistan is over public space. but the ability is a huge political issue and in the book the reason why i emphasize the inside and outside dynamic because people lack coming outside that inspires the backlash to push them back in. but the fact that we are praying things about with his feet happening but did not relate to back down but politically there is conflict.
but that does not mean individually they give up the drive for education and visibility. >> faq very much for talking about women and their progress in pakistan. i want to share a little something in answer to the question that the gentleman proposed how the sun treated his mother and wife as inferior because pakistan is not the only country that has polygamy. and in ancient times china
also have that. and my own great-grandfather had 18 concubines. but his wife did not get treated with less respect than that is the difference. because he gave her the power of the purse strings. he had two houses just like your own paul and the house for the concubines and a houseful of the primary wife and in that house she had the money. she decides how to spend the money. but because he respected her the children in the sun respected her or other men respected her and i hope for the sake of pakistan with women working to become financially independent that somebody this will also have
been. >> yes. i would say if that is one of the issues that they tried to express in the book the difference between respect and love. i am not sure she lost respect but did not feel love but for me perhaps that is the most pernicious thing about polygamy or the fact she could not leave but he can have the life he married for love but she could only have him. that is a difficult question. does someone have the right to be loved? is at the same as gratitude toward to the?
>> first writing this book is incredibly brave find your par with the pakistan a background to knows what it is like even to talk about certain stories within the family that you are not allowed to say certain things so i am very impressed and i am amazed you had the ability to write to this. it is fantastic. but what challenges you continue to encounter as a result of breaking the book? >> i am richer family are watching this. i am not sure. but but i love all the women in my family very dearly.
and it has been difficult for me to see to believe that their lives did not mean anything so for me it was a way to pay gratitude to ascend to say your life meant something but i could not have written the book if they did not go through what they did. so that is what i believe. so in the family to present harmony to take this position so i don't know.
my question is twofold but as a pakistan the american we hear things about the firmly rooted in believing in but in what ways to use the women reclaiming that notion that you often hear that men mention? and the book deals with polygamy and how it isn't seen al is the notion taking more than one wife? >> it is very divisive and
it is an issue that has gained a lot of attention. i get more letters and generally thin and the other because we have a transforming society and there is a lot of confusion of what the new pakistan will look like it allows the air bin pakistan from 20 years ago used to be ruled country but now it is estimated to become an urban country the city that this book centers around has 19 million people. of course, living in this