Malala: On a Desert Island with Plato, Pakistani music and Bieber Malala Yousafzai (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images).
Radhakrishna N S
By Amit Roy
AS A special treat for BBC Radio 4 listeners on Valentine’s Day last Sunday (14), Malala Yousafzai appeared on Desert Island Discs when she revealed many of her thoughts, feelings and interests.
The presenter, Lauren Laverne, said her guest, who was very nearly killed by the Taliban nine years ago, needed no introduction or a surname and was now known the world over as “Malala”.
Her guest’s choice of eight pieces of music included mainly Pakistani compositions, such as Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Amjad Sabri in a rendering of Rang; Shinwari Lawangeena’s Zarsanga; Iqbal Bano’s tribute to poet Faiz, Hum Dekhenge; Quratulain Balouch’s Kaari Kaari; and Sardar Ali Takkar’s Bibi Sherina.
But Malala also picked Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never; All I Ask Of You from the musical The Phantom of the Opera; and Peter Asher’s Love Always Comes As A Surprise from Madagascar 3.
She admitted she had become a big fan of British TV comedy, such as Blackadder, Fools and Horses and Yes Minister.
Along with the Qu’ran and the complete works of Shakespeare, she was offered another book to take to her fictional desert island.
“I’ll take Plato’s complete works,” said Malala. “I studied Plato’s The Republic in university and since then I have become a big fan of Plato. So, I’ll take all of his books with me.”
She was also allowed a luxury item.
“I cannot survive without lip balm,” she disclosed. “So, I am going to take my lip balm which is slightly coloured, so it gives that beautiful colour to your lips. And I will be very happy with that forever.”
Laverne asked her: “When are you happiest?”
Malala, who had realised at Oxford that she was “not that old” when she was with friends her own age, said: “It’s so many moments. When I’m with my family, when we are sharing a joke or something, those are moments of joy and happiness, and you should always value them.
“When I’m watching a cricket match between India and Pakistan – and Pakistan wins – I am really, really happy.”
More seriously, Malala, who received her Nobel Peace Prize when she was only 17, remains determined to continue to fight for the right for all children, girls especially, to go to school.
She recalled her childhood days: “When I used to walk to school, I used to see many young girls who were not in school. They would be going to other people’s houses for the domestic labour that they had to do. Many of them would be there on the garbage dumps, collecting metal pieces. And I always had this question, why is it that I can go to school, but they can’t?
“I started to realise this is not the world we should be living in. If I can go to school, so should everybody else. I wanted to do this activism for all children to go to school.”
Maybe this is a blessing in disguise, but Malala said she could not remember anything about the “incident” – she was shot in the head by the Taliban on October 9, 2012, simply for daring to go to her local school in the Swat Valley in Pakistan.
The 23-year-old, who has graduated from Oxford in PPE (philosophy, politics and economics), answered a direct question from Laverne: “What do you remember about that afternoon?”
Malala replied: “I remember sitting in the school bus talking to my friend, just talking to the bus driver. And he was doing magic tricks with a pebble, just hiding it. It was appearing and disappearing. And I was really fascinated by that. I love magic tricks. And it (the bus) then started, and I just don’t remember anything else. And then I woke up in a hospital in Birmingham.”
Laverne prompted her: “What did your friends tell you?”
Malala said she had to ask her best friend Muniba. “A man, probably a young man, had stopped the school bus and he was talking to the driver. And then one guy came to the back of the bus. And he asked, ‘Who’s Malala?’ and everybody was just scared. Some of the girls were covering their faces. I was not covering my face. ‘Muniba, what was I doing? Did I say anything?’ And she said, ‘No, you were just staring at the person. And you squeezed my hand so tightly that I could feel the pain for days. Suddenly bullets were fired, and you fell in my lap.’”
Laverne recounted what happened next: “Your injuries were so severe that a few days after the shooting, you were airlifted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham that specialises in treating injured military personnel. You were in a medically induced coma for a week. What do you remember about coming round?”
Malala said: “I remember opening my eyes and I was trying to process whether I was alive or I was still sort of in that dream, when you are not really dead and you are trying to get out, but you can’t. And I was grateful when I realised I was alive. I just cannot explain the thankfulness that I had in my heart. And I was worried about my father.
“That was literally the first question in my mind – ‘where is my father?’ – because the images that had formed in my brain were telling me my father was attacked as well. Initially, I could not talk because I had a tube in my neck for breathing. So, whatever I wanted to say I had to write it on a piece of paper.
“Whichever doctor entered the room, I would write to them, ‘Where is my father?’ I remember I called one of the nurses, ‘I have to call my dad. There’s something important I have to tell him before he comes here.’ I asked him to bring my physics books because I was worried that I might be a bit behind in my physics revision for my exams in Pakistan.
“I didn’t know the journey and the time I would spend in the UK would be longer than that.”