Landscapes of Writing

Collected Essays of Bapsi Sidhwa

by Bapsi Sidhwa (Author) Teresa Russo (Volume editor)
©2019 Monographs XXXVI, 160 Pages


This book is a collection of essays by international writer Bapsi Sidhwa gathered for the first time in one edition by Teresa Russo, with a foreword written by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Deepa Mehta. Landscapes of Writing: Collected Essays of Bapsi Sidhwa provides a writer’s perspective on issues of South Asian literature, linguistics, poetry, and views of political events and globalization. In the first part of the book, Bapsi Sidhwa discusses her childhood, family life, and how she became a writer. There is also a revised essay detailing how her book Cracking India became a film by Deepa Mehta. The second part of the book focuses on her thoughts concerning war, terrorism, and how to achieve peace. This collection includes two letters, demonstrating her local and nationalistic perspectives to a larger view of an interconnected world.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Landscapes of Writing
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword by Deepa Mehta
  • Author’s Preface
  • Editor’s Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction: Bapsi Sidhwa’s Contributions to South Asian Literature
  • Part I. Life, Memories, and Writings
  • Chapter 1. Why and How I Write
  • Chapter 2. Linguistics: New English Creative Writing (A Pakistani Writer’s Perspective)
  • Chapter 3. Lahore: Landscapes of My Writing
  • Chapter 4. Reading and Writing: A Private Addiction
  • Chapter 5. Truth and Fiction
  • Chapter 6. The Television Boycott
  • Chapter 7. Watching My Novel Become Deepa Mehta’s Film
  • Chapter 8. Two-Way Culture Shock
  • Chapter 9. A Puff of Air
  • Chapter 10. Manna of the Angels: Parsi Cuisine
  • Chapter 11. Journey to the Black Mountains
  • Part II. Political Thoughts: Essays on World Events
  • Chapter 12. Letter to My Grandson
  • Chapter 13. A Letter to The Hindustan Times: In Defense of Deepa Mehta’s Water
  • Chapter 14. A Selective Memory for History
  • Chapter 15. 2008 in Retrospect: The Most Momentous Year!
  • Chapter 16. Crusades for the Modern Era
  • Chapter 17. The Minorities and the Muse
  • Chapter 18. Who Are the Taliban?
  • Chapter 19. Threat of War Between India and Pakistan, Still a Reality
  • Chapter 20. Bury the Hatchet for Peace Sake!
  • Appendix A
  • Appendix B
  • Index
  • Series index

← vi | vii →


On a rainy day in Seattle, I walked into the Elliot Bay Bookstore, gravitated towards the South Asian Section and pulled out a copy of Bapsi Sidhwa’s novel Ice-Candy Man. What attracted me to the book was a quote on the enigmatic cover by the author, “All wars are fought on women’s bodies.” The truth of that devastating sentence has stayed with me until today. And the fact that it led me to devour the heart-breaking account of the Partition of India into Pakistan and India in one sitting, is stuff that films are made of. Told from the perspective of a ten-year-old girl, Ice-Candy Man made a huge impression and sent me on a journey that led me to its author; our collaboration and friendship resulted in the filming of Earth, the second part of our Element Trilogy.

I was introduced to Bapsi, a Pakistani living in Houston, Texas, by a common friend Nasreen Rehman, who subsequently translated the script of Ice-Candy Man aka Earth from English into Urdu.

Bapsi and I often ruminated about how a book based on sectarian war brought about a lasting friendship between a Pakistani/American and an Indian/Canadian. The irony did not escape us.

Full disclosure. I am a Bapsi Sidhwa fan. Not only because I admire her writing enormously, but also because under the guise of a gracious, sari- clad South Asian woman, Bapsi has the wickedest sense of humor I have ever come across. Her characters, from the hapless Freddy Junglewalla in The Crow ← vii | viii → Eaters to Feroza Ginwalla in An American Brat, have a remarkable quality in being particular and universal at the same time. The affectionate quirkiness of Bapsi’s Parsee community is illustrated with such warmth and hilarity in her characters that one immediately becomes invested in the arc of their stories, their lives. This is no mean feat.

The filming of Earth took place in Delhi, and Bapsi, as the novelist, was present during large parts of the shoot. The cast, the star Aamir Khan included, fell in love with her. Though the sound recordist had initial problems about Bapsi’s continuous chatter even after I had said ‘Action’! But Bapsi is a quick learner and soon she became familiar with the tedious set etiquette and often took the Government liaison officer attached to the film for tea—to distract him while we were filming a scene that would not meet the Indian Government censorship criteria. The opening of Earth was at the Lincoln Centre in NYC. Bapsi proudly brought her beloved brother Minoo to the Premiere. That he felt so moved by his sister’s work, related to the images that were unfolding before him, and was so proud of Bapsi was a high point for all of us.

When the film Water was shut down by religious fundamentalists in Varanasi and I was being accused of being an anti- nationalist, besmirching the great ‘Bhartiya (Indian) culture’, Bapsi wrote a scathing piece in the newspaper The Hindustan Times, defending my take on the widows of India. This was entirely unsolicited and came at a time when I felt completely isolated in the country of my birth. Years later when we re-launched Water, Bapsi wrote a book based on the screenplay which accompanied the release of the film. When it was nominated for an Academy Award, one of the first people I called was Bapsi. Her reaction? “Water always finds its own level.” One can’t have enough friends like her.

To this day, we share phone calls, read each other’s works. I send her links to my films and she keeps me apprised of her latest literary efforts.

I am so pleased that this compilation of her essays is being published. Each and every one of them is worth celebrating for its political insights, for its innate humanity, its accessibility and of course let’s not forget for its famous Sidhwa wit.

I can’t wait for you, dear reader, to immerse yourself in Bapsi’s world and have it subsequently change yours.

Deepa Mehta

Toronto, April 2018

← viii | ix →


I am excited to see this volume come to fruition. I want to thank family members that have been with me through my writing career. I am grateful to my wonderful husband, Noshir Sidhwa; my children and their spouses, Mohur Sidhwa, Khodadad Gustad and Bakhtavar Kermani, Parizad Sidhwa and Khurshed Sethna; my grandsons Behram K. Kermani, Zerses Kermani, Cambysis Kermani, and Nozar Sethna; my late brother, Minochair Bhandara and his wife Goshusp Bhandara, and my dear brother Feroze Bhandara and his wife, Shernaz Bhandara; my nieces, Munizeh Sidhwa and Zarin Bhandara; my nephew and his wife, Isphanyar and Jasmine Bhandara; my nephew Zubin and his wife Eloisa Bhandara; and my nephew Berzin Bhandara.

This collection is dedicated to my husband and brothers: for my husband Noshir whose love and strength have sustained me, for my late brother Minoo who continues to live in my heart, and for my brother Feroze whose presence in my life is a blessing.

Bapsi Sidhwa

Houston, June 2018

← ix | x →

← x | xi →


This edition is a labour of love for a dear friend whom I have known now for about twenty years. Bapsi Sidhwa and I first met in Washington, D.C. in 1999. I was working at The Shakespeare Theatre in the department of advancement. I had hired an associate to work on my team, Naureen Butt, who brought life to the department and became a dear friend to many of us at the theatre. Naureen, the daughter of Lieutenant General Ghulam Safdar Butt, known lovingly as Safdar Butt (and whom Bapsi discusses in her essays as Major or Colonel Safdar Butt), introduced Bapsi and I when Bapsi came to Washington, D.C. for the international film festival and special screening of Earth, Deepa Mehta’s film based on Cracking India. General Butt on a phone conversation that we had a few days before Bapsi’s arrival to the U.S. capitol insisted that Bapsi and I meet, after all her book was translated into Italian, Bapsi had traveled Italy on book tour and had been to Sicily (the island where I was born), and he and Noshir were great friends from the army. Indeed, she was a great figure to meet and is a wonderful human being. Naureen hosted a lovely lunch at her home for Bapsi and I, and Ruggiero, an actor at The Shakespeare Theatre and big fan of Bapsi’s novels, joined us. It was such a wonderful afternoon and great conversations about writing, Italy, traveling, the theatre, Ghandi, and Sonia Ghandi of the Nehru-Ghandi family and wife ← xi | xii → of Rajiv Ghandi. Having been a recent graduate of politics from The Catholic University of America and having worked in Senator Arlen Specter’s Office on Middle Eastern Affairs, I was thrilled to share this conversation with Bapsi. Later that same week Naureen and I attended the screening where we met Deepa Mehta and delegations from the embassies and ambassadors of India and Pakistan, who attended this wonderful event to honor the work of both women, Bapsi and Deepa, and the collaboration of a Pakistani-American and Indo-Canadian on a very difficult topic about the Indian subcontinent, the Partition of India.

Nine years before the film premiered, indeed, Cracking India was published in Italian as La spartizione del cuore by Neri Pozza Editore, translated by Luciana Pugliese. Bapsi toured Italy and attended many television interviews during her book tour; all her books have since been translated into Italian. Bapsi received letters from many Italian fans; a few weeks after we met, she contacted me to assist her with the letters written to her in Italian. We have stayed in contact through the years and around 2013, Naureen asked if I could help Bapsi organize her letters and documents; she had so many important letters, according to Naureen, and Naureen believed that these documents should be well-preserved. Recently, in working on this project of preserving Bapsi’s archive with her family and members of the local Zoroastrian community, I discovered that Bapsi also had a few essays, speeches, and writings that were not published or revised, and I began working on editing these writings for publication. Thus, this collection was born.

Naureen first introduced Bapsi to me as Auntie Bapsi, as many friends of my generation lovingly call her. Most recently she asked me to call her Bapsi, but in my heart and in Naureen’s she is still Auntie Bapsi because she was “dearer to the Parsee community of Lahore than a blood-relative might be” and her presence “commanded such an esteem afforded only to sages” as Tehmina Sahiar was to Bapsi and to many of Bapsi’s generation. How fortunate we are to have her novels (and now her essays) to learn from her wisdom.

Teresa Russo

Toronto, June 2018

← xii | xiii →


XXXVI, 160
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (January)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XXXVI, 160 pp., 1 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Bapsi Sidhwa (Author) Teresa Russo (Volume editor)

Bapsi Sidhwa is an international novelist, known for her perspective on the partition of the Indian subcontinent as a Parsi woman. The Crow Eaters (1980), Ice Candy Man (1982; published as Cracking India, 1988), The Pakistani Bride (1983), An American Brat (1993), and Water (2006) have been translated into several languages. Born in 1938 in Karachi, Sidhwa grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, and now lives in Houston, Texas. She received a degree from Kinnaird College in Lahore and taught at Mount Holyoke College, Brandeis University, Columbia University, Rice University, and the University of Texas at Houston. Sidhwa was also a Bunting Fellow at Radcliffe-Harvard and the recipient of numerous awards, such as the prestigious German prize LiBeraturepreis (1991); the Italian Premio Mondello for her novel Water (2007); and both the lifetime achievement award in Pakistan and the "Great Immigrants: The Pride of America" prize by the Carnegie Corporation in 2013. Teresa Russo is an educator, scholar, and poet. She is the editor of Recognition and Modes of Knowledge: Anagnorisis from Antiquity to Contemporary Theory (2013), examining how recognition theory has played a central role in the arts and humanities throughout history. She has a PhD from the University of Toronto in comparative literature and has taught courses in the arts and humanities at the Catholic University of America, American University, the University of Toronto, and Brock University. Her poetry has appeared in various publications, including The Silenus (Oxford, U.K.) and Verbi Gratia (Washington, D.C.).


Title: Landscapes of Writing
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197 pages