Farida Manekshah’s emotional maelstrom sucks the reader into her gritty memoirs, co-written with friend and solicitor Vivian C Ward. Born in India, Farida’s first brush with the law occurred when her father faced a race against time in the courtroom after the Pakistan government requisitioned the ground floor of their palace in Karachi. Her father, Jehangir, in seeking to reclaim their property, was told by an advocate of the High Court of Pakistan that only senior English judges will ‘give you a fair trial’ as Pakistan judges ‘won’t go up against the Pakistan government’. And an English judge delayed his flight home to come to the rescue.
While Farida describes 1950s Pakistan ‘as a young country which was at peace with itself’, the courtroom drama capped a troubled time for Farida’s family after the death of her elder brother Beheram. Here Farida movingly recounts Beheram’s funeral at the Tower of Silence in Karachi, where the body was laid out in the open for vultures to pick clean. Farida’s parents then decided to make a fresh start in England.
Author: Farida J Manekshah
£10.99, Bruce & Holly
But Farida faced a difficult childhood as ‘Papa was an old Victorian-minded man. He wanted discipline and respect’. When Farida visited the children’s officer at Chiswick Town Hall, she was told ‘he can’t keep you a prisoner. You are entitled to go out and have friends’. Having received a magistrates’ court summons and being charged with child cruelty, Farida’s father took on the council, which ‘had no evidence to prove that papa had ever hit me or ill-treated me’.
Farida is no less uncompromising in her descriptions of her abusive marriage to Jock. ‘I had learned to accept it and hide it,’ Farida writes, ‘except when the injuries were so severe they were obvious to everyone.’
Inevitably, the marriage ends up in the hands of solicitors but not before Farida writes courageously of life with Jock. ‘I was destroyed by this horrible monster,’ Farida reflects. This book is not for the faint-hearted.
Nicholas Goodman is a sub-editor at the Law Society Gazette