My Name Is ... by Sudha Bhuchar

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My Name Is … by Sudha Bhuchar. Dir. Philip Osment. Perf. Karen Bartke, Umar Ahmed, Kiran Sonia Sawar. BBC Radio 4, 2 Mar. 2015. BBCiPlayer to 2 Apr. 2015.

Cross-cultural marriages make good copy, especially if they involve the abduction of a child by one member of the family, who takes them to live in their country of origin to embrace alternative values. This is what lies at the heart of Sudha Bhuchar's piece, as Ghazala/ Gaby (Kiran Sonia Sawar) travels to Pakistan to live with her father (Umar Ahmed), leaving the Scottish-born mother Suzy (Karen Bartke) back in Glasgow. The media inevitably couches this piece according to a familiar framework of the "innocent" girl forced to live in a repressive regime in Pakistan against her will, and the desperate mother trying to rescue her.

The one snag with this scenario is that this is precisely what doesn't happen. Based on real-life testimonies from three protagonists who went through this experience in 2006, "My Name Is ..." focuses more on the processes by which Suzy decides to marry her husband Farhan, after having been turfed out of her familial home, and subsequently decides to embrace the Islamic faith (doing Namaz five times a day, and choosing to cover herself up). Despite her attempts to fit in to her husband's way of life, he seems perpetually dissatisfied with her; a white woman will always be an outsider, a subject for criticism from other family members. As his demands from her become more extreme, so Suzy's state of mind degenerates; in the end she experiences a nervous breakdown and subsequently seeks a divorce. The love-tussle involving Ghazala is a direct consequence of this decision.

A powerful piece that vividly dramatizes the difficulties experienced by anyone entering a cross-cultural marriage, "My Name Is ..." nonetheless perpetuates many of the familiar stereotypes associated with Islam, especially involving the repression of women. As with all other religions, Christianity included, there are different constructions of the faith in different parts of the globe, and people have quite different experiences to tell of how they have coped with marriages across religions. It would be nice if BBC Radio 4 could commission dramas offering a more positive interpretation.

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