Bapsi Sidhwa's 'The Pakistani Bride' ignites fresh interest

New York, April 03: Political turmoil and militancy in Pakistan have renewed interest in a novel about life in the tribal areas of the strife-torn nation, nearly three decades after it was first published.

Bapsi Sidhwa's "The Pakistani Bride" -- the story of a woman struggling to survive in a tribal society -- was originally published in 1982.

But publishers re-launched the book in the United States last month with the global spotlight falling on the harsh tribal terrain along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, considered a hotbed of Islamist militancy and a refuge for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The publishers of "The Pakistani Bride" said the new edition was selling "remarkably well".

"We've been selling 150-250 copies a week since the book was reissued and these numbers are exceptionally high for a book in these circumstances," Daniel Slager, Publisher and CEO of Milkweed Editions, said in an email.

Insurmountable snow-capped peaks lend the region a rare desolate beauty and make it one of the most inaccessible areas in the world.

Al Qaeda fighters can easily hide there because many of them are Pashtuns, who traditionally inhabit that area, author Sidhwa, 70, said last week in an interview in New York.

"It's a good place for people to hide. Even when they commit crimes in Pakistan, they disappear into the mountains if they can," she said.

"The Pakistani Bride" is the story of a teenage girl married off in a remote northern part of the country. Unable to adjust to life in the tribal society, she runs away from her husband's house.

Sidhwa said the novel was inspired by a honeymoon trip to the Karakoram Himalayas at the age of 26.

"I saw this girl, the tribals explained she was being taken across the river to be married in another village," she said. "I wanted to tell this girl's story because it reflected the lives of so many women in third world countries, especially in South Asia who have no control over their lives."

For Sidhwa, the people in the areas described in her book live in a world where things had remained unchanged since the Ice Age.

"They wear sheep skin, they have never seen cloth. All winter they are holed up in their huts, actually not even huts, just cubby holes, with twenty feet of snow around them. They don't leave their caves and they don't bathe, I think."

Bureau Report