Bapsy Sidhwa comes to Bombay

Afternoon Dispatch and Courier INDIRA RODERICKS | Thursday, October 13, 2005 11:37:37 IST

Internationally acclaimed author here to release fifth book..

Bapsi Sidhwa, the author of four internationally acclaimed novels, is back in Mumbai after seven years. “Yes, it has been a long time, though I visited Delhi last year. Most of the time I shuttle between Houston and Lahore, Houston because that’s where I now live, and Lahore, because that’s where I was born and brought up,” said Sidhwa.

Her visit to the city coincides with the launch of her fifth book, an anthology edited by her that brings together verse and prose, essays, stories, chronicles and profiles by people who have shared a relationship with Lahore. It’s called ‘City of Sin and Splendour – Writings on Lahore’ (Penguin, Rs. 395) and will formally be released at Crossword this evening. Sidhwa will also read an excerpt from her book at the release.

“Penguin who have always been my publishers commissioned me to write the book. The idea came from them, but of course for me it was a lot of backbreaking work. It took me three good years of researching and editing and although many of the pieces have already been published, some have been especially commissioned for this book,” she said. Working on the book meant making trips to her hometown, something that she was thrilledabout. “I realized that over the years I took Lahore for granted, but during research on the book I discovered many facets of Lahore which I had not even considered. The book dwells on both the old and new Lahore, the pre-Moghul Lahore and the British Lahore.”

The anthology is a collection of interesting prose and poetry. Ved Mehta and Krishen Khanna write about ‘going back’ as Khushwant Singh writes about her pre-partition years in Lahore. Pran Nevile paints a vivid sketch of Lahore’s Hira Mandi, Shahnaz Kureshy brings alive the legend of Anarkali and Khalid Hasan pays tribute to the late ‘melody queen’ Nur Jehan. Khaled Ahmed pays homage to Intezar Hussain and Urvashi Butalia’s Ranamama are tributes to memory as much as they are tributes to remarkable lives and unforgettable places.

Like all big cities, Sidhwa believes that Lahore too, has changed over the years. “I have lived through various regimes in Pakistan and I think during Benazir Bhutto’s time it was comfortable and relaxed. Actually I can say the same even now, but not quite so during General Zia’s ruling.”

While Sidhwa believes that Delhi would be able to relate better to the book, Mumbai will always be home to her. “As a Parsee I feel very much at home here. I can be among family and friends and share some really good times. When I was growing up in Lahore there were around 150 Parsees, now there are a mere 50. But Mumbai still has a strong population of Parsees, maybe that’s why it feels so good,” she continued. After Mumbai, it’s Delhi, then Pakistan for the launch before returning home to Lahore. “I have this huge collection of essays, papers and short stories that I have written over the years which I would like to have published in a book. Once all this excitement is over, I will get down to putting that in order,” she said.

When asked if she would like to edit another anthology she laughed and said, “Not really, this one really drained me out. I could have written a book in these three years. The experience was fantastic, but it is not something I would like to repeat.”