By Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb
‘I am Malala.’ The autobiographer uses the first person address in the title of her book. It gives a strong sense of presence, courageously telling the whole world that she is not afraid to tell her story to all who hears her. It is a bold statement that reveals her confident personality and a strong, fearless character.
Malala is a Pashtun Muslim who was born after the birth of Pakistan – a newly formed state in West Asia that was unfortunately not blessed with any new fate of luck. All Malala had were a few good years of peace in her beautiful native homeland, before the Taliban came to wreak havoc in everyone’s simple life. Things began to go downhill and she had to start facing the harsh reality in life. The peace and beauty that used to reside in Swat Valley – her birth town – suddenly came to an end. Her sweet memories of childhood outings at the rivers and waterfalls remained reminiscent of how things were like before the times of the Taliban occupation.
Young as she was, Malala had an exceptionally positive outlook in life, which is not commonly expected of girls at the naive age of twelve. When the Taliban enforced a new restriction to ban girls from going to school, she ridiculed the bigoted rule and insisted on continuing with her studies amidst the chaotic decree. When the Taliban began the bombing of schools, she spoke up for her peers and challenged the acts of the terrorists. When she was forced to vacate her house with her family and leave for Mingora as Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), Malala was devastated not by the fact that she had to leave everything familiar and comfortable behind, but more by the fact that she was unable to bring along her schoolbag and books with her to the temporary lodging. It is impressive how education remained a stronghold in her heart even in the worst of times. ‘For the right of all children to education’ is what she envisions as the goal of the future Pakistan – one that she believes must be achievable regardless of what the naysayers say and all the troubles brewing in the country.
This vision might have been easily taken for granted by many of us living in the developed and first world nations; when placed in the context of a country with a longstanding history of upheavals, this vision proves to be a tall order. Notwithstanding these obstacles, it seems to be the case that Malala has just attained her first step towards achieving her selfless goal. The recent announcement of her receiving the Nobel Peace Prize of the year – the youngest ever recipient of this prize – tells of the world’s support for her belief and noble ideals (read more about the news here). Although Malala has only a simple wish of growing up to become a doctor, her supporters are pinning their hopes on her to become the next Benazir Bhutto – somebody who could step into politics and change the way Pakistan is being governed; a mother figure who could chase the Taliban out of the country once and for all; a visionary and enlightened politician who could ensure that education is finally placed as the priority for all children.
‘I am Malala’ is a good read about a simple girl with a simple wish for the whole world. It narrates a tumultuous journey of how life is like in a troubled land filled with constant fears and watchful eyes. It teaches us about the value of education and how lucky we are to be living in this part of the world where girls have as much, if not more, rights than boys in many aspects of life. Most of all, it makes me reflect on how much we have taken education and peace for granted.
I hope Malala eventually achieves her goal of helping others obtain education in the pursuit of her ideals. I hope she fulfills her own goal of becoming a doctor too, so that the world can take similar stride in holding on to simple dreams in life as well.