Bapsi Brings Life to Tollinton
By Emanuel Sarfraz

The Oxford University Press and the Crow Eaters Gallery jointly launched ‘Beloved City, Writings on Lahore’ on last Sunday evening at the newly renovated historical landmark of the city of Lahore, Tollinton Market.
The well-organized book launch was the first function to be held at the venue that brought good old memories to most of the participants, who gasped at the beauty of the new shiny structure, which would soon be converted into a city museum. Lahore’s noted daughter leading English language novelist Bapsi Sidhwa, who has now settled in the USA, has edited the anthology ‘Beloved City’ and graced the event. Her love for the city, quite visible in all her writings, had attracted a number of literature lovers, writers, poets and the elite. She spent the first hour of the scheduled time signing hundreds of books they had bought from a stall set up nearby.
The book brings together a selection of poetry and prose by some of the greatest writers of the land including Intezar Hussain, Aamer Hussain, Kishwar Naheed, Bapsi Sidhwa, Sara Suleri, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Ashraf Ahmed. These writings explore their personal experiences, perceptions and the ways in which the city molded their personalities. Mystical poems of Madho Lal Hussain and Bulleh Shah, Iqbal’s ode, Faiz’s lament from Mclagan, Aijazuddin’s historical treatises, Kipling’s ‘chronicles’ and Irfan Hussain’s account of Lahori cuisine, all feature in the book.
Dr Javed Iqbal formally completed the launch ceremony by opening up the wrapped book presented to him by Managing Director, Oxford University Press Ameena Saiyid. Earlier he shared views about the editor and commented on her writings. “One day Bapsi made a reluctant disclosure that she was a good story teller. I read her manuscript and suggested that it was worth publishing.
“‘Kaan ghada hoia hai’ (he has eaten crow) is used for a talkative person in Punjabi. Parsis are very talkative and since the novel was about Parsi community, I suggested it should be called ‘Crow eaters’. The novel was published and the comment of Faiz Ahmed Faiz was printed on the back cover. The Parsi community in Karachi, however, was not happy about it,” he said.
Sidhwa read a few passages from her writings included in the book. She said the anthology was completed in two years. “I wanted to present old and the modern Lahore in it as well as the vibrant face of the city just before partition. I miss Ashfaq Ahmed and Ijaz Batalvi who are no longer with us,” she said.
Sidhwa’s brother MNA MP Bhandara said Lahore in 1930s and 1940s was the intellectual capital of India. “The summer of 1947 this city was the epicenter of an earthquake that measured 50 on the Richter scale. Death toll exceeded all disasters prior to that. Works of writers, many of whom are forgotten here, like Krishen Khanna, Ved Mehta and Pran Nevile have been included in this book. They had their roots in this city and this book is a rediscovery of those roots,” he said. Bhandara read a passage from his contribution in the book. It was about his meeting with Hollywood legend Ava Gardener at the Regal Cinema.
Writer Bano Qudsia spoke about Ashfaq Ahmed’s friendly association with Bapsi Sidhwa. “Ashfaq Sahib always believed that her work would create storm in the literary world and that has happened,” she maintained.
Legendary poet Munir Niazi read two of his Urdu poems on the city of Lahore.
In her welcome address, Ameena Saiyid introduced Bapsi Sidhwa and pointed out that her anthology was a step in the right direction. “The book provides an excellent overview of the range of writing that either focuses on Lahore or is inspired by it,” she said. She revealed that the first edition of the book has already been sold out.
Khalid Ahmed and Fakir Syed Aijazuddin also shared their views. Intezar Hussain was expected to attend but could not come. PCB Chairman Shehryar Khan, Sartaj Aziz and a number of other prominent personalities were also present.

 


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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