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Meena's Story
Flight to Freedom
By (author): Swapna Gupta
9781988440507 Hardcover English General Trade FICTION / Women India Oct 15, 2020
$19.95 CAD
Active 5.25 x 8 x 0.6 in | 0.48 lb 112 pages Bayeux Arts Inc. Bayeux Arts, Inc.
Meena's Story: Flight to Freedom" is set around true events. Covering a span of nearly 80 years. It begins when her mother, Elizabeth stumbles into the arms of a handsome Indian man, Ali, in London. It is love at first sight. Ali has to leave England and return home to Hyderabad. Elizabeth finds it impossible to stay on in England without her love and she boards a P&O liner and surprises Ali in Hyderabad.

Enduring cultural challenges laced with comic and ironic instances, the couple are accepted by Ali's widowed mother, uncle and aunt and other family members and are married through Muslim rites, starting life in Hyderabad. Ali's mother gives her new daughter-in-law the Muslim name of Zarina.

Political and religious events following the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan in 1947 present Ali with an option to move to the newly created nation of Pakistan. Ali decides to leave Hyderabad with Zarina and their two daughters, Sayeeda and Meena, and two sons Danny and Tayeb. Zarina is pregnant with another child at this time.

Events don't turn out well. In Pakistan, Ali is looked upon as an immigrant -- a Mujahar -- and faces hostility all around. Even though he finds a good position in a transport company, others are not pleased. On his way to drop the children to school, Ali's car is involved in a head on collision on a deserted street. The driver and a neighbor's traveling with them are killed. Ali and Meena are seriously injured. Three days later, Ali succumbs to his injuries. Circumstances surrounding the accident are suspicious, but investigations are deferred.

The grieving family is helped back to Hyderabad. But Zarina, distraught,decides to return to England to her mother with the children. But Ali's Uncle Mirza and Aunty Zainab beg her to leave Saeeda behind with them. Reluctantly, Zarina agrees. Bu,t at the airport, the two sisters Meena and Saeeda cling to each other weeping. They are inseparable! Overwhelmed, Zarina decides to leave the two girls behind and fly to London with her two boys.

Several years pass by. The girls grow up in comfort in Aunty Zainab and Uncle Mirza's home.. But the sisters cannot banish from their minds the horror of the accident that killed their father. They share and relive the terrifying accident. Uncle and Aunt notice their pain and do their best to comfort the girls. The girls grow up, finish their schooling and have marriages arranged for them. Saeeda moves to England with her husband, an eye specialist. Meena marries a journalist, moves to his home and together they have two sons. During all this time, Zarina returns only once briefly to Hyderabad.

Fresh social and political upheavals trigger another dislocation in Meena and her husband's lives. The deteriorating political situation in Hyderabad renders life difficult. A sister-in-law living in Canada helps them immigrate to Canada. The family stops in London, en route for a joyous re-union with their mother and brothers, and spend a wonderful week in the Isle of Whyte where her mother now lives.

Once in Canada, Meena's husband is able to find a good job in Calgary which is a flourishing new city. The family adjust to their new life and beautiful surroundings quite easily. But, for Meena, the past will not let her be. The trauma she experienced in her childhood has left a permanent mark in her mind and she explains it best when she says, "We all have something quiet and sad in our hearts."

Swapna Gupta is co-author of "The Irrelevance of Space and Othe stories. This is her debot novel.

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