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“Zuhair Murad” by Amaresh Ashra (Chitra Kala) is a charming novel about a young girl in contemporary India, whose parents are both doctors. Zuhair's mother decides to quit her job so she can take care of her daughter and run a boarding school for girls. But in doing so, she jeopardizes the future of Zuhair who becomes a minor household commodity in their home.

This is the story of a middle-class girl's quest to become a good little doctor in the big city. The novel opens with the lines: “The day I was born, my parents told me I wasn't going to be a doctor.” That line reminds us of how little a young India has progressed when it comes to gender roles. In addition to that, India has been fighting a particularly tough war against poverty and corruption. So it is no wonder that Zuhair's parents are trying to prepare her for a life of privilege.

Zuhair meets a boy named Ajit who's part of a street kid's gang. He's funny and intelligent and he soon gains the attention of the more dangerous kids in the gang. And he also begins to understand why Zuhair's parents are so stressed. She tries to run away from home but Ajit and the other boys have trouble agreeing on how to help her. It won't be long before we learn that they all want to be rich like Zuhair.

And that's the theme of the novel. Rich people get together to form “clubs.” These clubs are made up of smart young men and powerful women who force each other to grow, learn, make mistakes and face obstacles in life. These are the themes that run through “Zuhair Murad.” They're all about growing up and being a real person in a complex, complicated world.

Ashra provides an Indian perspective that makes the reader feel welcome. Indian women are often subjected to a gaze that makes them feel inferior. They are expected to behave like wives and mothers while their brothers are supposed to be tough and self-sufficient. Ashra's characters aren't perfect, but she doesn't write them as such. Instead, she shows us what an ordinary life might be like for them.

I enjoyed this book. It isn't the greatest novel ever written or even a good read. It wasn't written with great detail or intelligence. But it was an okay book. It held my interest. And I'll always remember the experience I had reading it.

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