Pride of Pakistan : Bapsi Sidhwa

In lieu of Independence Day on August 14, all of August, the Daily Times will highlight individuals who continue to make Pakistan proud. Our 29th feature is on the renowned award-winning novelist Bapsi Sidhwa

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A writer par excellence, with some of the most well-read and award-winning books to her credit, Bapsi Sidhwa has indeed done the country proud. Over her decades-long career, she has inspired myriads of women to make use of the pen and put their thoughts and stories to paper. She is a strong and a true representation of art meeting creativity. Bapsi Sidhwa is not just a writer, but a learned scholar as well as a leading lecturer. She is a regular panellist at university seminars and literary festivals and educates and motivates students to excel in life, read good literature and take inspiration from biopics. Bapsi’s enthusiasm and drive to write has not withered over time and is still marked as a beacon of talent and outstanding art. The brilliance of her writings has won her critical acclaim, not just in her home country but abroad as well. She has many prestigious laurels and eminent awards to her credit and has rubbed shoulders with some of the most outstanding writers during such ceremonies. Her contribution towards literature cannot go ignored. What a star!

Bapsi is a Pakistani novelist who writes in English and is a resident in the United States of America.

She is best known for her collaborative work with Indo-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta. Bapsi wrote both the 1991 novel Ice Candy Man which served as the basis for Deepa Mehta’s 1998 film ‘Earth’ as well as the 2006 novel Water – A Novel which is based upon Mehta’s 2005 film ‘Water’.

Bapsi was born to Parsi Zoroastrian parents Peshotan and Tehmina Bhandara in Karachi and later moved with her family to Lahore. She was two when she contracted polio (which has affected her throughout her life) and nine in 1947 at the time of Partition (facts which would shape the character Lenny in her novel Ice Candy Man as well as the background for her novel). She received her BA from Kinnaird College for Women in Lahore in 1957.

“I feel if there’s one little thing I could do, it’s to make people realise we are not worthless. Because we inhabit a country which is seen by Western eye as primitive and fundamentalist only. I mean, we are a rich mixture of all sorts of forces as well, and our lives are very much worth living”

She married at the age of 19 and moved to Mumbai for five years before she divorced and remarried in Lahore with her present husband Noshir who is also Zoroastrian. She had three children in Pakistan before beginning her career as an author. One of her children is Mohur Sidhwa, who is a candidate for state representative in Arizona.

She currently resides in Houston, US. She describes herself as a “Punjabi-Parsi-Pakistani”.

In an online interview to her Pakistani friend, Sadia Rahman, in August 2012 she said, “Feroza is closest to me and my views” about the identity issues of Pakistani Parsi immigrants to the US, their life-styles and their culture.

She has previously taught at the University of Houston, Rice University, Columbia University, Mount Holyoke College, and Brandeis University.

Achievements

Inspiration for the Big Screen

Novelist Bapsi Sidhwa is best known for her collaborative work with Deepa Mehta. Bapsi Sidhwa wrote both the 1991 novel Ice Candy Man which served as the basis for Deepa Mehta’s film ‘Earth’ as well as the 2006 novel Water – A Novel which is based upon Mehta’s 2005 film Water.

A Leading Scholar

Sidhwa is a proud recipient of the Bunting Fellowship at Radcliffe/Harvard, she is the Visiting Scholar at the Rockefeller Foundation Centre, Bellagio, Italy, and has also been inducted in the Zoroastrian Hall of Fame.

Raking In the Awards

Sidhwa has been awarded with the Sitara-i-Imtiaz, (1991, Pakistan’s highest national honour in the arts) the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award and also hold the Premio Mondello for Foreign Authors for Water.