But the impatient reader will have to wait a long time before getting to all the juicy Imran gossip. The book begins with Reham’s childhood, her brief stint as a child star on TV, followed by an early marriage to a first cousin whom she barely knew. Ijaz Rehman is a psychiatrist and the young couple fly off to England, where he starts practising while she plays the dutiful housewife.
In Reham’s version of events, the abuse begins almost immediately, and she recounts in excruciating detail her first husband’s controlling behaviour, his emotional torture and his physical attacks on her. This part of the book makes for troubling reading and is the more powerful for that. Reham skilfully paints a portrait of a young wife and mother trapped in an intolerable situation, looking desperately for a way out.
It is only 12 years and three children later that Reham manages to break free of this relationship. And then begin the single years, in which she works two to three jobs to bring up her kids, working in radio and television. It is hard not to root for the young mother as she drives herself from job to job to make sure that her kids have the best life she can make for them.
But these are not the bits for which people will buy the book. It will sell only because of whom Reham marries next — and the acrimonious divorce that follows. It will sell because of the scandalous, and mostly unsubstantiated, gossip that abound in the latter half: Imran’s alleged penchant for sending naked pictures of his genitalia to journalists in Pakistan (one woman who apparently asked for proof that this was, in fact, Imran’s junk was sent another picture with his watch in the frame); his promiscuous lifestyle that took in everything from drugs, drink and fornication; the women who sexted him all the time, even after he and Reham were married, with one of them promising to “ride him hard”; his inability to perform because of his drug habit; the size of his “package” (“naam baray aur darshan chhotey,” a famous 70s Bollywood star is quoted as saying); his bisexual tendencies; and so on and so salacious.
The book, though pacy and readable, is rather unevenly written. It starts with a high-minded tone as the plucky tale of a young woman who is stuck in a loveless, abusive marriage and how she summons up the courage to leave. By the time Reham has her first “encounter” with Imran, it has veered irredeemably into Mills & Boon territory. (“He started to say something, and as I looked up expectantly, he instead closed the distance between us and leant down to kiss me. It was a light brush initially. I froze in fright. As he proceeded to kiss me more ardently, I put both my hands on his chest and pushed him away… In a daze I fell to the ground beside the swimming pool…”). And after the marriage collapses, the narrative descends into straight-out revenge memoir territory.
Nobody knows the truth behind the allegations that Reham was paid by Imran’s political opponents to publish this tell-all book just before the elections were held in Pakistan to destroy his prospects. But equally, nobody can deny that this book has the potential to do much damage: if only to Imran’s reputation rather than his actual election tally.
Maybe it’s time for Imran Khan to break out the kaali dal again. This time, with a brand-new recipe to cope with the fury of a woman scorned.
S K Publications
548 pages; $22.50