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The Henna Start-up by Andaleeb Wajid

My take on the book:

Abir Maqsood a young college going girl, has her future plans sorted out- for the next five-years, ten-years, fifteen years, and this involved higher studies and financial independence. However, she came from a lower-middle class orthodox family and that meant a lot of restrictions and constraints for her — both personally and financially. When one of her mother’s clients refuse to pay the agreed amount for their Mehendi services, Abir confronts them to extract the pending amount.

This situation gives her an idea that her mother’s Mehendi services need a more streamlined and professional approach and when a contest to pitch their idea comes up in her college, Abir decides this is the perfect opportunity to help her mother as well as take her life and career to next level. But converting her idea to a startup means — dodging marriage proposals from relatives, convince her parents to let her work on the idea after-college hours with classmates that included young boys and understand and accept her own feelings (and attraction to the opposite gender!).

Will Abir succeed in this journey from ideating to turning it to a reality, forms the rest of the story.

Abir’s character is the highlight of the story, with her feisty and go-getter attitude. Her clarity of thought, focus on goals are indeed inspiring for young girls. There are few characters and all of them leave their mark on the story, providing ample support to Abir in her journey. Her bond with sister Amal and with close friend Keerthi is endearing. I also liked how she handled the awkward situations with the two boys Arslaan and Sahil in sensible way.

Abir’s story is what majority of the young girls go through in our society, with most of them accepting these situations as their destiny, while you will also find one Abir in a hundred who wants to break the societal and family barriers. Pressure for girls to marry by a certain age, higher education qualifications termed as hurdles for a girl’s marriage prospects, girl’s marriage considered as synonymous to a family’s pride — all the cliches that we hear in Indian society are touched well by the author through Abir’s story.

Even Abir’s mother’s story signifies how we see Indian women downplaying their success and financial contribution to the family to satisfy male ego. Or how elder siblings are often emotionally blackmailed to agree to the marriage of their parent’s choice so that the younger one does not suffer!! The ending is a bit hurried, and I wish the second half elaborated on Abir’s efforts around the app more than other drama.

Overall, The Henna Startup is an inspiring story with a message for young girls to follow their passion and make dreams come true, irrespective of their circumstances or the hurdles.

My rating: