Let me warn you right at the onset: ‘Slum Child’will not be an easy read. You will cringe, cry,feel bad for the characters, brood, think and may be smile at some point in the book. Having said that, please read this book purely so you can be aware about what goes on in slums and the circumstances surrounding a nine-year old.
I remember when I was nine and without a care in the world. I never thought about the struggles that life had to bounce at some point. There was no need to. Everything was taken care of. The reason I am mentioning this is: Every nine year old should feel this way, no matter what.
The protagonist of the book is nine-year old Laila who lives in Karachi’s poorest quarters: Issa Colony. She stays there with her mother, her elder sister Jumana and her step-father (oh yes there has to be a step-father to make life miserable). Her mother works as a maid for rich families and her step-father does nothing. Amidst Laila’s happy go-lucky self-existence her sister contracts Tuberculosis and passes away. This builds a void and a huge gap in their lives, which further leads to her mother’s emotional collapse.
Step-fathers being who they are (well at least what it seems to be), he tries to sell her into prostitution to pay his debts and from then on Laila runs away. She seeks shelter in one of the families her mother works for and is taken in as a servant, and unfortunately she has to make her exit from there as well – by running again.
The entire context of the book is deep-rooted in escaping. Laila’s mother wants to escape her dreary existence, her step-father his debts and her sister – this life. You will get involved while reading the book. You will curse as well at some point only to ensure Laila is safe and sound. Laila’s story will make you want more and at the same time the circumstances surrounding it will make you want to put the book down.
At the heart of it, Slum Child is a book you must read. For its simplicity in writing and the deep emotions it conveys.