My thoughts on “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid


“There comes a time when you have to choose between turning the page and closing the book.” – Josh Jameson

Hey you!

It’s a new year, which calls for a new resolution. This year I’m trying to go the toned down version of Mark Zuckerberg’s 2015 challenge (A wee bit late, I know! 😉  ). I’m hoping to read a book a month and as Math would have it, 12 books by the end of this year! 12 books that will positively influence my life and my views in any little way possible. Going back a couple of weeks, I was browsing Pinterest and I came across this very wonderful list of short reads (For all you bibliophiles, I’ll have the link to the list pasted at the end of this post! :)). That’s where I stumbled upon “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid and it immediately piqued my interest.


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A short trip to the library and the “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” became my January read. I couldn’t have hoped for a more enthralling “first” book (of 2016!). The book is a dramatic monologue of the life of a Pakistani in America prior and post the 9/11 attacks. It offers an insight to the cultural differences one experiences living in a country not their own, the deep love and affection one feels for someone, the pain of love unrequited and the turmoil one undergoes while having to choose between a life that will give him all the luxuries he wants or living a life working for a country that is allegedly “colluding to ensure that my own country faced the threat of war.” The narration brings about intense emotions associated with love for your homeland, profusely loving someone with all your heart and soul and changes that could alter the course of your life. The protagonist’s (Changez) story, tugged on my heart strings, brought a tear to my eye yet infuriated me all the same.

The book begins with Changez meeting an American in Lahore and over tea and food he recites his tryst with America. A graduate from Princeton, Changez lands a dream job with the reputed Underwood Samson & Company. It’s interesting to read about the conversations between Jim, the person who recruited him, and Changez as both come from similar financial backgrounds and have had to work their way through to get to where they were. He meets the “stunningly regal” Erica on a trip to Greece and he is completely smitten by her. The blossoming romance, his growing career and the exhilarating city of New York made his life almost perfect.

The 9/11 terror attack in New York had a profound effect on the lives of many, Changez being one of them. There were portions of this book that I could not come to terms with. He writes, “I stared as one—and then the other—of the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center collapsed. And then I smiled.” I felt nothing but contempt when I read this. It is difficult to fathom what Changez must have gone through to feel pleasure at the loss of innocent lives, but I couldn’t bring myself to empathize with Changez. India was victim to two terror strikes post 9/11 that year: the J&K Legislative Assembly attack (10/01) and the attack on the Indian parliament (12/13). India’s retaliation to the terror strikes was deemed as “belligerent” with a no show of support from America towards Pakistan. These were two bits of the book that I could not come to terms with.

The world saw America’s reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Pakistan had to incur the growing threat of war between India and herself post the attacks on the Indian Parliament. This book gave me a glimpse into what an average family living in Pakistan had to go through. It gave me a different perspective on what it was for people in Pakistan, who have no association with these terror strikes, have endured. There is always a flip side, and this is a side I’d never given too much thought about.

The story progresses showing Changez’s conflicting emotions about returning to his home country. A fundamental feeling of belonging transcends love, money and power causing him to leave America to his home country. The ending of the book leaves an unsettling feeling that is left open to interpretation by the reader. There’s an aura of suspense without having known about it until the very end!

All in all, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is a must read. The book brings out powerful feelings of love, patriotism, helplessness, disdain, a sense of belonging and then finishing it off with a gripping end leaving you pondering over what it is that really happened.

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P.S: I didn’t forget the link 🙂 :

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