On Food, Water And Identity in Habibi

I’m currently around half-through Habibi, and I’ve started to notice an odd bit of symbolism, that of food and water for female and male identity, respectively. I may be full of shit here, but I just wanted to get some observations related to that down.

  • Zam trading water for food in the village as foreshadowing of his eventual either flirting with becoming or just becoming a eunuch, as close to a change in gender as the setting would allow, as it seems to be relatively grounded(I waffle on the definiteness, as I only have seen said sequence in a preview I do not completely remember, and have not gotten to said point in my current reading of the book).
  • Dodola emasculating the sultan by tricking him with water by effectively “turning it into gold”.
  • The enforced division between Zam and Dodola’s gathering duties mirrored in the growing emotional rift between them as Zam starts puberty, as seen in the bathing scenes on the boat.

As I said, I might be full of shit here, but I’ll wait until I finish reading the book(major downer, by the way) to decide that.

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