[Book Review] – A Fort of Nine Towers (2013) By Qais Akbar Omar

By The Gorgeous Palah Chingu

“I have long carried this load of griefs in the cage of my heart. Now I have given them to you. I hope you are strong enough to hold them.”- Qais Akbar Omar

My Rating: 5/5 (Thats because I have not been so moved by a book in a long while).
My Rating: 5/5 (Thats because I have not been so moved by a book in a long while).

If you ask me is it that GOOD to give 5 stars for this book, i would say 5 is not good enough. I cried, I laughed, I cheered and I felt all sort of emotions that the author told me via his story. This book consisted of 3 parts of author and his family story in it. The first part, you felt warmhearted imagining at the back of your head how he told his childhood story. The way he presented his point of view about his culture is just an honest expression of how he felt due to the way he was raised. He was born in the Pashtun Family and he lived together in a big house with his uncles, aunties and his grandfather is in their culture. He talked about it and enlightened those who find it such a strange culture. He described his childhood to be bright and colorful as he was surrounded by playful cousins and loving relatives. He pointed out that though his family are from Pashtun ethnic but he never spoke Pashto in the house. All of his family members are comfortable using Dari (another language that are widely used in Afghanistan aside Pashto). It is not a big deal for him because he learned Pashto and knew how to use it but he stated that he preferred Dari More. The Kite competition during his past childhood is one of the fiercest battle he ever encountered when he was a kid. He bragged about how his cousin Wakeel can easily defeated other opponent and has been named as ‘The Cruel Kite Cutter’ in their neighborhood. He cherished the moment of one of his family’s servants, Bahar helped him to win the competition by cutting Wakeel’s kite. For the author, The childhood in the big house with all of his cousins is one of the best memories he had.

The second part, you started feeling sad and wanted to help them to get through that awful war ( from Russian, Mujahideen, Taliban and American army). When the war (The Mujahideen Army) is approaching Afghanistan, The Author’s family felt that they are the savior. They had came to chase the Russian and Communism. They felt optimistic about this Army and wished that they will build back their destroyed nation. They are indeed wrong. Not long after Mujahideen’s arrival, The power struggle between factions occurred. Many died because of that. The author’s family felt they are no longer safe staying at their big house. The battle between factions of Mujahideen had turned most of them from being a ‘God’s Man’ to ‘Low-class criminal’. They robbed other’s properties and killed those who defied them. Fearing that their life will not be saved, the author’s family decided to take a refuge in his father’s friend house. They stayed there until American Army came to hunt every single Taliban army that resides in the country. The whole feeling when i read the second part is helplessness. I cant bloody do anything, I just keep moving on to the next pages, hoping the author’s family survived the calamity fell upon them. There was one scene that i deeply remembered because i truly feared that the author and his grandfather will not survived. First scene is when his grandfather stubbornly wanted to take a look at his house that he left a long time ago since Mujahideen Army came. He wanted to bring Author’s uncle originally but his uncle pleaded to wait until a few days for ceasefire between factions to happen. However, His grandfather could not wait any longer and ordered the author to go with him. When his father did not object his grandfather’s decision, he knew he had to accompany him no matter what. When they are on their way, They has been captured by Hazara’s faction of Mujahideen. It was truly a terrifying moment. They had been locked in a room where the walls are full of writing of those who ever lived in it. His grandfather knew that they are going to be killed. He told the author to be strong and in case if he’s got a chance to live, try his hardest to escape. He also told the author that those men might ‘used’ him but he insisted him to endure as surviving is more important. The author cried and asked his grandfather to stop talking nonsense. When the leader of the faction asked what they are both doing in the area, His grandfather told that they are visiting his house in the area. It turned out before the war, the leader is one of the students of the author’s father. He decided to let them go and send them both back. The author picturized the whole scene as his first death escape experience.

The third part is where the age of ignorance came and how the Taliban rules did alter the whole nation. He told what he deeply felt about them in this book. He stated that they brough strange peace into the country. How peace can be such strange thing? He revealed decrees of Taliban that insisted on Hudud Punishment and Fundamentalism of Islamic Law. No Music, No Entertainment, No Pictures, No Free Relationship between Boys and Girls, No Open Courtship and up to the extend of NO to everything. How did they governed Afghanistan? They said Yes to everything which considered good in Holy Quran. When he said strange peace, he does not mean it a good way. He felt the Afghan community and culture suddenly died and they can no longer do what they usually did. He said girls in Taliban’s time faced it much worse because they cant attend school , they have to wore Burqa all the time , they cannot work and they have to be accompanied by their male relatives if they wanted to go to other places. He portrayed vividly the moment of how Taliban used the stadium to carry out the punishment of those they claimed to be a sinner. To witness the scene of girls being stoned to death, the thieves whose hand is being cut and the murderers being shot at the head right away is one of the horrifying moments author ever had. He also reflected back the time he went to jail just for not cutting his hair according to Taliban Standard. In the jail, he was beaten by the religious officers and only to be released when he could answers all of their questions about Islam and Taliban.

According to this book, The author’s cousin named Wakeel and his grandfather played a big role in his life. He cherished both of them in temple of his heart. The wording that he put in this book to portray them both is simple yet poetic. You can sense his sincerity and tenderness in the book. The author even managed to share some of the stories of good people he met despite of war in his journey back and forth with his family.Whether it is from Hazara, Turkmenistan or Pashtun, They are indeed kind people who helped him when he needed it.

Can you see how huge this book is?
Can you see how huge this book is? The book size that i preferred is on my left (The Kite Runner Book) and in the middle one (which i tolerated because it is not that heavy).

To be honest, I hated books that had a huge size (compared to the normal size) which is for me difficult to hold it during reading. This book turned me off right away when i first saw it sitting among bookshelves in a local bookstore. I wanted to ignore the book and move on to another section but my instinct kept asking me to flip a few pages of this particular book. I turned a few pages of this book and i sighed. There is no foreword or rave review by other famous authors. I am skeptical at first but i bought it. I bought it in the sense that i loved non fiction books and above all, it is middle-eastern literature especially from Afghanistan and Iran. After reading a few chapters, I was completely blown away. I wondered how Afghani authors (Khaled Hosseini and others) can easily grasp my attention and i am completely hooked on the way he told his tale. If you like Khaled Hosseini, You should buy this book. What differentiate Qais Akbar Omar from Khaled Hosseini is he did tell the TRUE story and what really happpened to him while he was growing up in Afghanistan in a time of War. I can assure you guys that this book is indeed one of the best books i’ve ever read in 2014.

Rush (2013) : Movie Review

Bt The Gorgeous Palah Chingu

My Rating: 4/5

Surprisingly, I find myself liking this film. Why is it so surprising? That’s because I don’t like F1, Racing and all those expensive cars. It is similar to some people who don’t get Football or (In US, it is called Soccer), I just don’t get the hype about spinning in one track all over again. Don’t hate me for saying so; people said the same thing about football. What is the point of chasing one ball in a given time? When my one of my closest friends told me that she enjoyed rush, I was surprised. Let me be a brutally honest in this review, when I saw the film poster, I don’t even have a slight urge to watch this film. It’s just not there. I am practically live for a good, mediocre and bad movie. I love spending my money at cinema. Maybe, the promotion of the film using Chris Hemsworth’s face as the official film poster kind of killing the mood to watch it. I assure you I am not Chris Hemsworth’s hater. That man is insanely gorgeous and has a body that you wish you could go all the way with him. Talent wise, he’s pretty much a good actor. The thing that kills my mood to go watch this film is my assumption on this film could be about the driver, the car, the race and the driver again. I have one habit for not reading the synopsis of the movie before I watch any film. I hate spoiler. I really hate it. I love it when there is an element of surprise in the movie. Of course, my assumption is right, it is about the F1 driver, the race, the car and again the driver. However, telling the story of a person from a perspective of someone who’s known as your enemy or competition, that is quite new and fresh actually.

Daniel Bruhl as 'Niki Lauda'
Daniel Bruhl as ‘Niki Lauda’
Officially fan of James Bruhl after watching this film ;)
Officially fan of Daniel Bruhl after watching this film 😉

This film belongs to Niki Lauda all the way from the beginning. Yes, it is about James Hunt but the guy who acted as Niki Lauda owns the film. This film revolved around the rivalry of Niki Lauda and James Hunt during the 1976 Formula One racing season. I knew Daniel Bruhl (the one who acted as Niki Lauda) in the fifth estate. I know that film failed to garner the attention of audiences and critics seem to hate it. Strange as it may sound, I love the fifth estate. I thought Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Bruhl are both fantastic actors and the way they carried the role as Julian Assange and the former spokesperson of Julian Assange, Daniel Domscheit-Berg is flawless and brilliant. You may hear the phrase of even with mediocre script but if the director and actors managed to steer the script in the right direction, it will turn to be a good movie. That could sum it up on what I love about the fifth estate. When I saw Daniel Bruhl in this film, I was like ‘wait a minute, I recognized this guy!’ I did recognize him. I watch the fifth estate first before I watch this film.  I was not disappointed. He did a good job as Niki Lauda and truth be told; he did overshadow hemsworth in some scene.

Chris Hemsworth as 'James Hunt'
Chris Hemsworth as ‘James Hunt’

The intensified F1 competition, the boast of ego between 2 drivers and the chase of being champion in the race track in the themes of the film. There are some additional fiction to exaggerate the enmity between Lauda and Hunt but it’s not much. Until Now, the real Lauda (who is still alive) admitted that Hunt remains the one person that he envied. They might not be friend but they push each other to the limit in order to win. Hunt and Lauda is 2 souls that totally different but found the same love on the race track. James Hunt is the epitome of Alpha Male. He is arrogant (because he knows he’s good), He loves racing too much until it did jeopardize his marriage and he lives his life to the fullest (he knows how to have fun).  Niki Lauda is opposite of James Hunt. He came from the background of overachiever’s family. His relatives all involved in the politics and business field making him an outcast in his family. He lost to Hunt when they met on Formula 3 Track. He then bought his way in into the Formula 1 while Hunt still struggled to enter it at that time. I think he is brilliant. He played the game to his advantage. He took a loan and paid the company to enter the competition. He may bought his way to enter the competition but boy, when he won the 1975 championship, he dismissed all the gibberish talk. Compare to Hunt, Lauda is not so likeable among other racers. Maybe he is too blunt and everytime he talk, he sounds like an asshole. I like his character but dude, if I was other racer, I may like Hunt too. I guess nobody like being confronted with the truth.

Niki Lauda: [voice over] “Of course he didn’t listen to me. For James, one world title was enough. He had proved what he needed to prove. To himself and anyone who doubted him. And two years later, he retired. When I saw him next in London, seven years later, me as a champion again, him as broadcaster, he was barefoot on a bicycle with a flat tire, still living each day like his last. When I heard he died age 45 of a heart attack, I wasn’t surprised. I was just sad. People always think of us as rivals but he was among the very few I liked and even fewer that I respected. He remains the only person I envied”.

Overall, this film earned various nominations from many awards. On acting category, of course Daniel Bruhl is in the spotlight for his portrayal as Niki Lauda. I told you guys already that this guy is brilliant. If you wanted to watch something exhilarating, exciting and full of intense emotion, this is the right film for you.

The real picture of James Hunt and Niki Lauda:

Formula One World Championship James-Hunt-and-Niki-Lauda_2998429

Niki Lauda's face was reconstructed after the  accident.
Niki Lauda’s face was reconstructed after the accident.