Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Rat-boys of Karalabad by Zulfiqar Rashid


Has someone ever told you about something that was so disturbing or upsetting that you start to feel unwell? It took me a little longer than usual to read this book because that’s the problem I was having.

I really enjoyed the book in the beginning. That was before the details of an unscrupulous covert system of hierarchy, abuse, and exploitation is revealed. It’s not a knock on the book. This was just a topic that got to me.   

The Rat-boys of Karalabad is a detailed fictional account of how religion can be used to take advantage of the poor. It also sheds light on the intentional creation of mentally and physically challenged individuals, some being children as young as two years old. After being deformed, these individuals are sent out into the community as beggars with the expectation that their handicaps will cause people to give them more money.

The story revolves around Omar who is chosen to be successor to the shrine. The inner workings of the shrine are revealed as Omar is prepped for his role. He is brought up by being taught “when to be holy and when to be worldly”  because the shrine is a “business.”

Omar’s mentor, Abdul Ji, is a man of sound principle whose own presence in the shrine is a result of threats of violence to his family. In addition to unwillingly teaching Omar how to be the next successor, he teaches him to never lose track of his moral compass. These teachings ultimately have deadly consequences for all involved.

I was saddened by the way the shrine works. The poor and uneducated are pawns in the elaborate scheme to control wealth. They come to the shrine willing to give all of their possessions and even their children to have their prayers answered. With the government being complicit in the scheme, it is easy to see how the target population are unable to liberate themselves or even recognize what is happening to them. I guess it’s all so disconcerting to me because you really have to wonder how far it may have been from the truth after removing religion from the centerpiece.

At the end of the novel, the author provides brief insight on the organized beggary that is discussed in the novel stating that it is “a deep-rooted part of society in South East Asia.” He goes on to describe the “practice of turning children into ‘Rat-boys’ involves binding small children’s heads and limbs so they develop in an abnormal way, making their faces look like that of a rat and leaving their brains under-developed.“ Disgusting behavior, to say the least.

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The Rat-Boys of Karalabad on Amazon


I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher. As with all reviews posted, views expressed are genuine and are in no way influenced by external sources

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