10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World- By Elif Shafak

The book will leave you thinking

Who are these outcasts? Are they normal people like us? What is normal? Can there be another normal too? This book revolves around outcasts. It gives us a window to have a view into life of people that we as society mostly refrain from even coming in contact to. An attempt to show that these are the people who are just like any of us, they posses the same dignity and love and are hardly different.

Characters and Plot

The story revolves around Leila who is a prostitute in the city of Istanbul. She has been brutally killed and dumped into a dustbin, she who did not even get chance to be buried by her loved ones, she who has been boxed underground among people just like her “Unloved and left alone”. The cemetery of companionless, that houses the people who lived the life and died the death as unloved and unaccepted by their knowns. Companionless right, that’s what they are. But Leila is slightly different as she had bunch of friends who loved her and after her death and want to get her a funeral of dignity. Elif has written this story beautifully as she captures Leila’s life thorough the flashes of her own mind while she’s lying dead in that dustbin as her mind is slightly shutting down when her body has given up already. Leila was a beautiful soul and science says that a person’s mind shuts down slowly as compared to our bodies to a maximum duration of 10 min 38 sec. and Leila our vibrant soul takes the whole time to sink into death. She lied there capturing her life’s highlights mostly by her senses. The memories of the senses striking by her. She had lived an innocent childhood just like any of us. Yet how did she end up into a brothel. This book imbibes a sense of gratitude in me as a reader that we are fortunate to have avoided unfortunate situations which lot of good & honest people become prey of as a matter of chance.

Beyond the text

After the read I was left thinking that why are we so indifferent to some groups around us even when we share the most personal side of ourselves with them. Like a man when visits a brothel, he is so ready to sleep with a prostitute. But as he is done it takes him no time to insult and even assault is some cases women, they have just had sex with. Why murders, rapes and tortures of eunuchs, sex workers, and deprived groups not taken seriously. This is disheartening yet the truth. It makes us visualize such horrible living conditions that we don’t even want to think of. But its reality, its where people often left as outcasts are forced to live in because we as society won’t take it if a sex worker would be living just right next to us. We would call her names, and say what not.

Its unjust but reality that how some people end up in miserable lives just being the victim of circumstances, by being there in wrong place at wrong time. Victims of war crimes, abandoned individuals, migrants, exploited groups are few of them.

Why to read

This book will sure shot stir up your emotional sides and will leave you more empathetic. It’s a must read because we all need to know what is it like to be different. Maybe we can think from someone else’s shoes. May we can be more kind and considerate.

Issues captured

At various points, some of the major issues discussed in the book are:-

  1. Ground zero situation of the sex workers, their life challenges. It’s so heart wrenching that even reading of it will make most of us feel sick. Imagine that they people live this life.
  2. Religious bigotry and how it affects the state of women in societies.
  3. Conditions of women in orthodox families :- marriage, pregnancy, physical traumas in women when they are treated like baby making machine.
  4. Childlike innocence, curiosity and imagination:- how they vanish at times with miseries of life.
  5. Identity crisis of outcasts like sex workers, trafficked people, migrants, war victims, labourers working in hazardous environments, etc.
  6. Child sexual abuse, importance of family support for trauma recovery and maturity in handling such situations.

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Shristi Hooda

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