What a story young Malala’s life has been. From being harassed and shot in the head to becoming the youngest Nobel laureate in history. And how sharing the prize with Kailash Satyarthi increased, not diminished, its glow. He is a hero too; a giant in the small world of child rights, who has dedicated his life to saving children from abuse, starvation and slavery. But there’s more to Malala’s struggle than education for girls. She now embodies the wider struggle against a mindset that continues to find hosts far beyond the Taliban. And how inspiring that this 17-year old has already achieved more in that fight than powerful militaries and well-funded campaigns.
The prize has not come without a price though. Her charming disposition does not betray the slightest bitterness or regret, but her facial strains sometimes struggle to hide the scars that lie beneath. Yet strangely, though the world does not seem to tire of acknowledging her, the response back home is largely different. There is a progressive bloc that adores and appreciates her, but it is very small. The majority talks of conspiracies and hidden hands, etc. Though different in outlook, these are an extension of the same prejudices that hounded our only other Nobel laureate, Dr Abdus Salam. It is interesting, to say the least, that Narendra Modi tweeted about the award but Nawaz Sharif had nothing to say.
Regardless of the reaction at home, though, she continues with her story. There was much sense in her speech, even though there was the odd nationalistic streak about being the first Pashtun to win the award – in addition to being the youngest recipient and first Pakistani (to get the peace prize). The irony of a Pakistani and Indian sharing it was not lost on either, and both advocated peace, which continues to elude both governments. Hopefully she will one day return to Pakistan, where her life is still not safe, and be allowed to serve the people as she wishes, and her life will come full circle. There is much for Pakistan to learn from Malala’s story.