Pakistani author Fatima Bhutto says she does not think radicalism has very much to do with religion at all and one needs to understand violence in order to survive it and talk about the pain in order to overcome it.
Bhutto has come out with a new book "The Runaways" which deals with burning questions about modern Muslim identity in a world aflame with violence.
For her, it is a book that very much has her heart and is filled with secrets, about radicalism, identity, social media and how young people today survive in a world on fire.
She says she has offered a different perspective on what contemporary radicalism means and what its genesis is.
"I don't think radicalism has very much to do with religion at all. I think it comes from pain. Its roots are deep and complex and, in the media we are not offered a very layered analysis of what it means and that's where fiction and art is important. We need to understand violence in order to survive it, we need to talk about the pain in order to overcome it," Bhutto told PTI.
She started to write "The Runaways" in 2014 and "I wrote it in a fever, it completely consumed me".
The first draft was finished very quickly and then she spent the next four years rewriting it, going deeper into the lives of the characters, deeper into all the stories.
"I wanted to write about radicalism, about how much pain you have to be in to want to go to war against the world. But I always wanted to write about loneliness, about what it is not to belong, about the internet and how it's forcing young people into building lives devoted to cults of celebrity and fame."
"The Runaways" spans from Karachi to the nightlife of London, from the dockyards of Portsmouth to the deserts of Mosul.
Anita Rose lives in a concrete block in one of Karachi's biggest slums, languishing in poverty with her mother and older brother.
Determined to escape her stifling circumstances, she struggles to educate herself, scribbling down English words - gleaned from watching TV or taught by her elderly neighbour in her most prized possession: a glossy red notebook. All the while she is aware that a larger destiny awaits her.
On the other side of Karachi lives Monty, whose father owns half the city. But Monty wants more than fast cars and easy girls. When the rebellious Layla joins his school, he knows his life will never be the same again.
These three disparate lives will cross paths in the middle of a desert, a place where life and death walk hand-in-hand, and where their closely guarded secrets will force them to make a terrible choice.
According to Bhutto, each of the characters have such different lives and destinies - they come from England (having migrated from India) and from different parts of Karachi and the story takes them far, far away from home.
The chapters are titled by the name of the characters. Asked if there is any particular reason for it, she says, "I wanted readers to spend time with them closely, to know them intimately and to feel like they were with them on every step of the way. So when you're reading Anita Rose's chapter, it's just you and her. I suppose the chapters titles function in this way, to give you time alone with the characters."
Bhutto also chooses multiple complex characters for "The Runaways", published by Penguin Random House India.
"The characters present themselves, in a way. When I started writing I began with Sunny and Monty, they were with me from the very start and as I fell deeper into the world of 'The Runaways', the other characters started to appear. I just followed them," she says.
Bhutto is in constant awe of the vibrancy of Karachi, the beauty of its history and culture.
She says, "I am always inspired by the humour, strength and kindness of its people. It's not an easy city but it's a brave one. Karachi and Mumbai are twin cities - our histories are irrevocably connected and you feel a lot of the same openness, the same architecture, the same vitality in both places."
Asked if she sees any hope as far as the situation in Pakistan is concerned, "Of course I see hope. I think what is ailing Pakistan today is the same thing that is ailing many places in the world - what do young people want anywhere in the world, whether in India or Pakistan or Nigeria or Brazil? They want a vision of the future that is inclusive, that is tolerant, and that is free."
She believes South Asia is a very rich world - India or Pakistan or Bangladesh and beyond are so bountiful in terms of people's stories, histories, struggles and joys.
"They are all wonderful places to be observers. We live such interconnected lives and are woven so deeply into the fabric of so many diverse communities and beliefs."
Bhutto, who was born in Kabul, is the author of a book of poetry, two works of non-fiction, including her bestselling memoir "Songs of Blood and Sword", and the highly-acclaimed novel "The Shadow Of The Crescent Moon", which was longlisted in 2014 for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction.
Asked if she prefers fiction, she says, "Yes, I do. As a reader I read both fiction and non-fiction but as a writer I feel more free, more alive, when I'm writing fiction.
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