Courtesty Pakistan Paindabad blog
Bapsi Sidhwa’s Lahore is a lovingly embroidered family heirloom.
[By Gaurav Sood; the author is a US based political and media analyst. He occasionally writes at Spincycle; picture by Asif Jafri]
A city hasn’t been showered with such love since Dalrymple wrote about Delhi. Bapsi Sidhwa’s edited volume on Lahore in fact far exceeds it. After all, Dalrymple was nothing but a foreigner who had only spent a few years in Delhi when he wrote the book, while Sidhwa in her endeavor is accompanied by a range of distinguished authors and intellects, only tied together in their love for Lahore.
The love for the city, its landmarks, its famed cuisine, its gourmets, its brutalizing summers, its people, its stories, and its relationships shines through on every page.
Every great city deserves an admirer and chronicler of the calibre of Bapsi Sidhwa – someone who will perspicaciously and assiduously collect stories that celebrate her beauty and look unflinchingly, yet lovingly, at her bruised soul and her warts.
The book strikes an immediate rapport that is akin to being invited to an intimate familial Punjabi gathering. I felt alternately like a kid sitting on the lap of my maternal uncle being told stories about the city, a young adult guiltily listening to the adult conversation about the brutal tales about city’s history, and an objective adult reflecting on history, and politics.
There is a warm intimacy that suffuses each of the stories in City of Sin and Splendor: Writings on Lahore. The additional element of emotional immediacy comes from stories that talk about things we South Asians have grown up with. All of it is made available ‘naturalistically’ by the craft of authors who rarely go beyond what is known. It is an important talent. For authors are always tempted by superfluous cleverness. It is the Jane Austen method of writing in some ways – writing honestly, perspicaciously, and often with great wit about what is known without flirting with the unnecessary or the arcane. It is grounded writing. The authors use words that are well worn and apt and not ones with peripatetic grandiloquent pretensions. The resulting atmosphere in the book is not stifling because of the self restraint, but educated and homely. Continue reading