Book review: Breaking Barriers by Nafees Fazal with Sandhya Mendonca
Breaking Barriers by Nafees Fazal with Sandhya Mendonca, Konark Books.
Breaking Barriers is the memoir of Nafees Fazal, the first Muslim woman minister in south India, and one feisty, irrepressible politician. Kudos to co-author Sandhya Mendonca for letting that frank and no- holds- barred voice comes through loud and clear, all through the book.
For those who may not know, Nafees Fazal was the first Muslim woman to become a minister in south India, back in 1999. She handled Medical Education, then Science & Technology in S M Krishna`s Cabinet.
Recollecting her less-than-easy climb to power, dwelling on the good works she did while on the seat, (as an MLC for seven years, minister for five) and sniping at all those who tried to keep her down (several old warhorses are mentioned), Fazal`s account is an honest one. She does not flinch when talking about being a person of privilege, saying she chooses to use that privilege in the course of her work, even as she tells of how difficult it was (is?) for women to move unimpeded in the male-dominated political arena, and then, touches on the topic of a casting couch in politics!
Readers with a penchant for political accounts will find the tidbits about the Veerappan abduction of Dr Rajkumar, the long-standing tinderbox that is the Cauvery issue between TN and Karnataka, Fazal`s meetings with the doughty Indira Gandhi, her unpleasant run-in with Indira`s grandson Rahul, and more, quite interesting.
Fazal says hers was a chequered career but what the reader takes away from this book is the impression of an undaunted woman who knew just what she wanted and and did not rest till she had achieved some part of it at least.
In her Afterword, Fazal ruminatively asks of herself: has it been a satisfactory life? Her subsequent answer is typically honest, as you would expect from a woman who looks back at her past and sees it in entirety, warts and all.