In the late summer of 2010, a math teacher at Malala’s school, Miss Shazia, tells Ziauddin that she’s had a nightmare. In the nightmare, she saw Malala walking around with one of her legs badly burned. Miss Shazia thinks that this is a sign for Ziauddin to give food to the poor (a common Pakistani remedy for a bad “premonition”). Ziauddin gives money to the poor, but Miss Shazia finds the gesture unsatisfactory. Although Malala’s considers Miss Shazia’s anxiety a little comical, she begins having bad dreams as well—she can sense that something bad is going to happen to her.
By this point, we’re well aware that Malala will be shot, but it’s also unclear whether or not she believes in prophecies or superstitions. She dismisses this particular prophecy, but in such a way that makes very clear that she thinks some prophecies are possible. Or perhaps Malala herself recognizes that she’s going to be attacked by the Taliban, even if she has repressed this realization.
Malala, convinced that danger is coming her way, begins praying more often. It’s absurd, she notes, that the Taliban think she’s not a Muslim, when she’s actually a very pious Muslim. Malala continues studying for her exams. In October 2012, she’s feeling nervous about her upcoming exams, as last year she came in second to Malka-e-Noor.
Again we’re reminded that Malala is still a teenager who must study for exams, and feels nervous about competing with classmates. She may have lofty goals, but she also has ordinary, day-to-day responsibilities.
Malala’s exam season begins. Her first exam is in physics, and she performs well on it. Her next exam is in Pakistan studies, and she struggles with her essay question. On the third day of exams, Malala wakes up as usual, bickers with her siblings, and gets on the bus to school. While she’s riding the bus, two men stop the bus and one of them climbs aboard. He demands to know “who is Malala,” but then he easily identifies her since she isn’t wearing a burqa. Strangely, the last thing Malala remembers before she’s shot in the head is the list of chores she’s supposed to complete by the end of the day.
Malala’s day is a disorienting blend of the ordinary and the extraordinary. She finishes her exams and does fairly well, and also endures a shot to the head from a Taliban assassin. In a fitting encapsulation of the contradictions of Malala’s life, her last thoughts before being shot are of her chores—a detail so strange it must be the truth. She’s a good, obedient daughter, as well as an advocate for women’s rights and a powerful political “threat.”