Why did Sushmita Banerjee go back to Afghanistan?

Sushmita Banerjee was shot dead by suspected Taliban gunmen in Sharan city of Afghanistan`s Paktika province.

Zee Media Bureau

Kolkata: Sushmita Banerjee, who was shot dead by suspected Taliban gunmen in Sharan city of Afghanistan`s Paktika province on Wednesday night, had gone back to Afghanistan to write her next novel.

According to her publisher, she wanted to get her new novel released at the time of Durga Puja.

"She had come to my office in January (2013) shortly before she left for Afghanistan. That time she said that she will hand over the manuscript of her next book before the Durga Puja (in October)," Swapan Biswas of publishing house Bhasa O Sahitya told a news agency in Kolkata.

"She told me she would write about the current scenario of Afghan women...she was extremely optimistic about it and had planned everything out. That was the last I saw of didi (older sister in Bengali)," said Biswas.

The 49-year-old Banerjee was dragged out of her home after other members of her family were tied up, and shot dead by suspected Taliban gunmen.

Banerjee had defied her family to marry Afghan businessman Jaanbaz Khan, and stayed for years with him in Afghanistan. She had managed to escape Afghanistan in 1995 and came back to India.

In 1998, she wrote the bestselling memoir "Kabuliwalar Bangali Bou" (A Kabuliwala`s Bengali Wife), offering a vivid description of the suffering of women under the Taliban.

She also described her daring escape from the clutches of militants.

The book published by Bhasa O Sahitya made her a household name in Bengal and was a best-seller right away after its release in January 1998.

"It did not need any publicity. More than 120 copies were sold off in its first hour of release. It still continues to be a popular book as it is very well written," said Biswas, adding that her next book would have been well-researched.

Biswas said Banerjee had initially named the book "Aami Kabuliwalar Bangali Bou" (I, A Kabuliwala`s Bengali Wife).

"I told her to drop the I and christen it `A Kabuliwala`s Bengali Wife`," added Biswas.

Banerjee loved to visit the Kolkata Book Fair every year. However, due to a knee problem, she had to miss it this year.

"She was extremely fond of visiting the book fair but her knee issues kept her away this year. She regretted that," said Biswas.

Biswas was familiar with Banerjee`s husband Jaanbaz Khan.

"Her husband drove up to our shop on March 30 and asked for the books that Sushmita didi had pre-ordered. Khan addressed Banerjee as Sayeda Kamala..that`s the name she had taken there," said Biswas.

(With IANS inputs)