The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
Name: Sobhagya Jose (16 years)
School: Delhi Public School, R K Puram, New Delhi
The history fiction novel has a uniquely compelling monologue narrative. It is the life story of a brown-skinned Pakistani told in first person to an uneasy American stranger in a Lahori restaurant in the streets of Old Anarkali.
Hamid makes up for the American’s reticence by bouncing questions off the reader, making the monologue an engaging conversation uniquely shaped by the reader’s own experience. The story talks of Changez Khan’s “love affair with and eventual abandonment of America.” The protagonist smiles after watching the attacks on the World Trade Centers on television in his hotel. With his family living each day in fear as militants ripped his own country apart, the attacks on ‘America the Invincible’ comforted him in a surreal way. After the attacks he rediscovers his identity in New York amidst traumatised people looking for a meaning to life. Walking on the streets of New Jersey or sitting in his cubicle at Samsung Underwood & Co. Khan seeks to reaffirm his beliefs and roots by growing his beard despite protests from worried relatives back home. The character has nothing against America or its loving people but is rooted in patriotic aggression for his own troubled country.