Book reading is not in vogue any more. Facebook is. Books don’t get stolen now; I don’t remember any of my friends complaining about that. But I do remember them talking about their Facebook accounts getting hacked quite often.  Even if somebody’s book is stolen, chances of which are very slim, nobody says anything about it. But, if you unfriend someone on Facebook. Oh boy! You have just made an enemy. The “unfriended” friend would take it as an open attack on his ego and might kill you God knows how many times in his mind. He would bash you with a volley of abuses. But, thank God, abuses don’t break bones, as they say.   

Do you how social media has replaced book reading: an affair of days gone by? To find and read a good book now a days is almost as impossible as finding hygienic food in Lahore. Anyway, last week I had a chance to read one of Khalil Gibran’s masterpiece, “The Broken Wings”. Trust me, I read that book in a single sitting. I dare you. I double dare you guys, the book lovers. If you have not read this biographical novel of Gibran, you have missed one of the greatest works ever written in Arabic Literature. Here is a short review of the novel:   

 He (Gibran) was only a youth of eighteen when love opened his eyes with its magical rays and touched his soul with its fiery fingers. Selma Karamy, the Lebanese beauty, was the lady who had awakened his soul with her ultimate beauty. With smiles on their faces, drinking from each other’s eyes the wine of high affection, holding each other’s hands, they walked through the garden of love where every day passed like a dream and every night like a wedding night.

They had decided never to part but destiny had other plans for them. The guy belonged to a lower middle class family and the girl was the only daughter of a wealthy old man. In this story, unlike many Bollywood movies, the father of the girl, Mr. Farris Karamy, did not become an obstruction between the boy and the girl directly, but his wealth and weak conviction to stand against the existing religio-social pressure did. The story is set in the early 20th century when the influence of the church was still quite strong in Christian communities.

Farris Karamy was one of those people who come in this world and leave it without hurting anybody. But such people are the most miserable people in this world. For, they are likely to be exploited by crooks. Sometimes, the wealth of the parents proves fatal for their children, as in the case of Selma Karamy. It became the sole reason of her lifelong misery – the misery of losing her beloved. The one who was a part of her spirit. The one who had loved her like a school boy.

The wealth and high social status of Farris Karamy made the Bishop of the church to send the marriage proposal of his nephew. The Bishop had an eye on the riches and property of Farris Karamy. He knew well that the old man would expire soon, the marriage between his nephew and Karamy’s daughter was hence a short cut to grab all the possessions of the old man. Thus, old Farris was called for at the Bishop’s mansion but only to fix the marriage date of Selma and Bishop’s nephew.

In spite of the naked fact that the Bishop and his nephew were filthy, degenerated, greedy and shameless drinkers, they had hidden themselves in the shadow of religion. In spite of the cruel reality that Mansur Bay the Bishop’s nephew, was a serial rapist and never a good match for Selma – the pure virgin and manifestation of divine beauty. Farris Karamy could do nothing but only to marry her daughter off with Mansur Bay. Though Farris Karamy knew all well that his daughter loves someone else yet he could not do anything to make her happy.

The old man was too weak to carry the burden of pains and sufferings of her daughter. He died soon after the marriage. The Bishop took control of all the possessions of Farris Karamy and thus got what he wanted.

 We are told in this very personal and intimate work of Arabic literature that Selma got married to a man not of her choice yet she kept on meeting with her first and last love – Khalil Gibran . But she died five years after her marriage.

To answer the questions like, “Did the actual lover of the girl take a stand against this injustice inflicted by the Bishop?” and “Why did Farris Karamy not refuse to give the hand of his daughter to the Bishop’s nephew when he was a man of wealth and repute?” – he could have easily done it. To find out made these love birds (Gibran & Selma) not fly to some other country to escape the cage of Bishop, you would have to read this classic on your own.

In the end, I would say that the story is real and very simple; read it for Gibran’s beautiful description. It’s indeed a feast for readers and is very short, about 45 pages, so, one can read it in one sitting. The more you read, the more you love it. And yes, it has no substitute if you are looking for a gift for your girlfriend. I have tried it. It works. Seriously. Have a great read!