no better way to understand the remote tribal areas of Pakistan
than to spend an evening with one of the best novels we have read
recently - Bapsi Sidhwa's The Pakistani Bride - a dramatic and powerful
work by one of
Pakistan's finest writers. The book transcends culture in the way the best stories do - it looks through
the lens of a particular place and time into the wild impassable
reaches of the human heart. The Pakistani Bride, recently reissued in the
United States, had a difficult publishing history and is
Sidhwa's first novel.
first half of the book sets the stage for a spectacular and
thrilling second half in the mountainous region of
Koshistan. Qasim, a tribal man, leaves his mountain home
after the loss of his family, adopts a baby girl along the way,
and ends up in Lahore: "the ancient whore, the handmaiden of
dimly remembered Hindu kings, the courtesan of Mughal emperors -
bedecked and bejewelled, savaged by marauding hordes - healed by
the caressing hands of her British lovers." His daughter,
Zaitoon, raised on stories of the tall handsome men that live a
mountain life has romanticized her father's homeland. Qasim
arranges a marriage for her with a Kohistani man she has never
met. He takes her back and leaves her there to make a new
home with her husband and his tribe - but the girl, with a mind of
her own, is unaccustomed to the harsh life and tribal customs.
longs to escape… it is the old story - the conflict between
tradition and the wild heart, the one that cannot be tamed.
Escape would be unthinkable . . . .
is a beautiful fragment from an Urdu poem in the novel; khudi
here is the untranslatable 'force within one.'
your khudi to such majesty
That before every turn of fate
God himself asks man--
"Tell me, what do you wish?"
Pakistani Bride, Bapsi Sidhwa