‘Lahore is more beautiful every time I visit’

* Bapsi Sidhwa says theocrats, Taliban defame Pakistan abroad
* Says Kinnaird College same as it was during her student days
* Laments that her books are not included in Pakistani syllabi

Staff Report

LAHORE: “Every time I come to Lahore, I find it more beautiful than my previous visit,” said novelist Bapsi Sidhwa during an interview with Daily Times.

Sidhwa, who spent her early years in Lahore, said that the city was beautiful and full of creativity. “You breathe here and feel the creativity in the air. It is the best city to live in and create art pieces and literature,” she said. Sidhwa said Indians got annoyed when she praised Lahore before them. “I believe there is no city like Lahore in India,” she said.

Theocrats: She said theocrats and Taliban, who try to suffocate free voices and obstruct women’s education and liberty, malign Pakistan’s image abroad.

Sidhwa, who has written eight books in English, said that few people were writing in the English language in Pakistan. However, many people were writing in English in India, which also has a lot of publishing houses, being a bigger country.

Sidhwa said that real literature was quite limited all over the world, including Pakistan and the US, where she currently lives. She said most ‘best sellers’ were not literature.

She said that good writers were born writers. She said, “I meet many people here who are highly educated and write beautiful English, yet they cannot write narrative. Literature is created by the unconscious and you have to be blessed with creativity to produce literature.” Sidhwa said financial conditions also affected writings. “A writer can write well if he/she does not have financial problems,” she said.

Books not in Pakistani syllabi: She regretted that though her books were being taught in colleges in many countries including the US, they were not included in syllabi in Pakistan for being ‘vulgar’. She said her novel An American Brat was quite popular with youngsters in Pakistan.

KC has not changed: She said she had visited Kinnaird College and had found it the same as it had been when she graduated from it in 1957. She appreciated that a lot of schools had been established in Pakistan that taught in English, and said it was good for Pakistanis.

Sidhwa said she was currently working on a collection of short stories and essays.

Bapsi Sidhwa was born in Karachi in 1938 to Parsi parents and moved to Lahore soon after that. She witnessed the bloody partition of India, which became the basis of her novel Cracking India. Indian director Deepa Mehta made a film, Earth-1947, based on Cracking India in 1998.

Sidhwa has won many awards for her writings, which include Sitara-e-Imtiaz, which she was awarded in 1991. The same year she became a Visiting Scholar at the Rockefeller Foundation Centre at Bellagio, Italy. She was awarded the Bunting Fellowship at Radcliffe, Harvard in 1986. Her third novel, Cracking India, was awarded the German Literaturepreis and a nomination for Notable Book of the Year from the American Library Association. It was also mentioned as a New York Times ‘Notable Book of the Year’ in 1991. Her works have now been translated into Russian, French and German. Her latest award was the Premio Mondello for Foreign Authors in 2007 for her novel Water: A Novel.

She has taught college-level English courses at St Thomas University, Rice University and The University of Texas. She also taught at the graduate level at Columbia University.

Daily Times, 26/7/2008

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