Book: Rafina

Author: Shandana Minhas

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Pan Macmilla


Rafina looks at the glamorous girl on the billboard outside her window in Karachi and thinks, It won’t be long before I’m up there. Too poor for college and dismissive of marriage, the clear-eyed young woman cajoles her mother’s friend and Radiance beauty parlour masseuse, Rosie khala, into taking her on as an apprentice.

Thus begin her brave misadventures – from clumsy parlour assistant, to mostly dependable tea girl, till in a stroke of serendipity, she is ‘discovered’.


Rafina is the coming of age story of a Pakistani teenager who has big dreams.

The protagonist Rafina lives in a tiny two room apartment in the Police Colony with her mother and younger brother.  Everyday Rafina looks out of her window and gazes at a billboard showing a model advertising SIM Cards. And every single day she tells herself that that is what she wants to be.  That one day she wants her face to be on such a billboard.

When her father passes away, Rafina’s mother realizes that there is no pension or compensation coming their way.  Since money is short, Rafina’s mother wants her to start working with her at a Denim factory.  Rafina has other plans though. The only path Rafina can think of to get closer to her dream is to become an apprentice to her Aunt Rosie who works in the best Beauty Salon in the city.  Rafina believes that she can climb up the ranks to a point where she will be noticed by one of the Ad Agencies that the Beauty Salon caters to.

But Rafina is in for a tough challenge.  Life as a beautician’s apprentice isn’t easy but Rafina is determined! The story shows Rafina navigating through the obstacles that keep popping up on her way towards the goal.

Does she make it? And will all the sacrifices be worth it?

This book was written in 2004 and yet even today it seems very true and relevant. There are thousands of Rafinas out there with big dreams and no way to make them come true! The author makes you want to root for Rafina!

But the story ends on a note that makes you cynical about life! Makes you wonder if this is how things will always be for women!

Definitely worth a pick! To make it precise, it’s a four-out-of-five star read.


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