Book review | Rafina by Shandana Minhas
Author: Shandana Minhas
No. of pages: 163
Published by: Pan Macmillan India
Published on: 23rd May 2018
My rating: ★★★★☆
Rafina looks at the glamorous girl on the billboard outside her window in Karachi and thinks, It won’t be long before I'm up there. Too poor for college and dismissive of marriage, the clear-eyed young woman cajoles her mother's friend and Radiance beauty parlour masseuse, Rosie Khala, into taking her on as an apprentice. Thus begin her brave misadventures – from clumsy parlour assistant, to mostly dependable tea girl, till in a stroke of serendipity, she is ‘discovered’.
Poised to have everything she thought she wanted, the only thing standing between Rafina and that billboard are the people who think she should still be using the service entrance.
The story is about a free-spirited and ambitious girl, Rafina, who wants to conquer the glamour world with her looks. Whenever she had been told that her skin is too dark to be featured on the glossy pages of a magazine, it only increased her adamancy. She had always thought highly about herself (sometimes more than other important people) even though she knew how lowly her lifestyle and the people around her were. And this hasn't stopped her from dreaming how she would be 'discovered' on the streets by a modelling agency.
The book is about Rafina's journey. From the clutches of poverty to being 'discovered'. The plot is pretty straight forward. It's how Rafina gains the trust of her Rosie Khala and joins her on her beauty salon expeditions and later, gains the trust of the world class beauty salon's boss and joins the rank of being a service assistant to her and still later, gains the trust of an agency and gets a chance to walk on the ramp.
Through this book, the author Shandana Minhas gives the readers a glimpse into the dirty works of this industry. How hard it is to reach the top and how people will exploit the ones who are struggling. It gives a clear insight to the double standards of the hierarchy.
The book also tells about the relationship that these women have between themselves while working in the industry. They have no one but each other to hold on to. I loved how Rafina's previously held cynical view of Rosie Khala changes into admiration once she sees how Rosie Khala is helping her throughout her journey.
The little mentions of Rafina's family's skepticism about her work, her neighbours' constant teasing and jealousy, her colleagues' indifferences when she worked as a tea girl and her own naivete thoughts about her being the best amongst all, adds flavour to this novella.
Shandana Minhas's writing style is what I can describe as 'lyrical'. The way she describes Rafina will surely make you feel like smacking her head and talk some sense into her about not to think so narcissistically about herself. But then her character forges into this beautiful and determined human being will make you admire her. I also liked how Shandana Minhas wrote the entire novella from Rafina's point of view. It helped me see the alluring desire of becoming a top class model from a low and poor class girl's perspective.
I recommend this light read to everyone who likes daydreaming about the unachievable things. But other than that, this is a pretty likable book for every reader.
Shandana Minhas is the award-winning Pakistani author of the novels Tunnel Vision, Survival Tips for Lunatics and Daddy’s Boy.
I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange of an honest and unbiased review.