Central Asia Institute Honors Bapsi Sidhwa
By Anahita Feroze Sidhwa

Bapsi Sidhwa and Greg Mortenson (left) at the award ceremony. Bapsi received the 2010 Spirit Lifetime Achievement Award from the Central Asia Institute founded by Mortenson. Compeered by TV and film actor Michael
Rady, the program was kicked off by a special address from award-winning actress Geena Davis, followed by a talk by Danny Pudi

Bapsi Sidhwa was honored by the Central Asia Institute at a gala fundraiser in Dallas on November 13, 2010.  Bapsi was awarded the 2010 Spirit Lifetime Achievement Award by the CAI founded by Greg Mortenson, whose best-selling book “ Three Cups of Tea” has chronicled his work to build schools, especially for girls, in the remote areas of northern Pakistan and Afghanistan.  It was during Mortenson’s unsuccessful attempt to scale the peak named K-2 that he was rescued by some villagers and he became determined to repay his hosts by building schools for the children living in these inaccessible areas. 

 The gala took place at the Dallas Hilton Anatole .

Bapsi Sidhwa and Greg Mortenson share a bond with the Karakoram Mountains.  Bapsi’s book, The Pakistani Bride is set in this remote region on the roof of the world.  It was during Bapsi’s honeymoon in the Karakorams, while the Silk Road was being constructed, that she first became aware of the stories woven into the lives of the people living in this remote area.  After returning home to Lahore, she felt a compulsion to write – to tell the story of the run-away bride, which she had heard.  Bapsi’s sensitive story-telling gives the readers an inside look into the desperate poverty and hard lives of the Kohistani tribesmen, but their resilient strength and wisdom are also captured by Bapsi’s writing.

The guests were welcomed by Sadia Ashraf, Outreach Coordinator for CAI, who also gave a moving account of the devastation caused by the recent floods in Pakistan.  She introduced Bapsi Sidhwa as Pakistan’s leading International writer before inviting her to speak. 

Bapsi held the audience spell-bound with a reading from Cracking India.  She recounted how she had been struck by the incredible beauty of the Karakoram Mountains and the Indus River up there.  “There is something mystical in those mountains, which energizes me,” she said.  Shifting to the subject of life’s lessons, she said, “Life has taught me that circumstances that appear to adversely affect us can work to our advantage. I had polio as a child. Since this illness affects the nerves, my parents were advised not to send me to school. This made for a childhood of extreme loneliness. I filled the silences in my life by an inordinate amount of reading and daydreaming. I realize now that this time I had to myself made me a writer. Who would have thought what my parents considered an affliction would turn into a source of pride for them?  And a source of immense satisfaction in my life. ”  She said Greg Mortensen had been her hero ever since she read his personal story in Three Cups of Tea.

Compeered by TV and film actor Michael Rady, the rest of the program was kicked off by a special address from award-winning  actress Geena Davis, followed by a talk by Danny Pudi (starring in  NBC’s show Community). Greg Mortenson spoke at the very end.

 Each guest received Greg Mortenson’s new book “Stones into Schools” and Bapsi Sidhwa’s “Cracking India” in celebration of their work.  The evening ended with many in the audience asking Bapsi Sidhwa to  sign their copies of Cracking India. Graciously acquiescing to the requests of her admirers, Bapsi had a word of encouragement and advice for each of her fans.




Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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