>The Character-Sketch of Manek in American Brat


Manek Ginwala is an important character of the novel. He is brother of Zareen Ginwala and uncle of Feroza. He has been in America for the last three years. He is doing chemical engineering there. Manek is a Youngman of about 23 and possesses attractive looks. He can be called a transformed American Sadu because in the last three years, he acquires all the qualities of an American young man. Now he is self-contented, confident, rational, calculated, professional and educated. He has the ability to take decisions instantly and deal with different people differently.

Before coming to America, Manek was a naughty and emotional kind of a person. He used to be very arrogant and often quarreled with Feroza as she was just years younger than himself. It was that when Zareen and Kuttabai that Feroza was going to live with Manek in America as she said:
“Manek?” Kliudibai sounded astounded. “You’re going to leave her care to Manek? God help die child!” And Khudibai brought her considerable histrionic abilities to bear as well on what she said next. “Don’t you remember how he chased her all over die neighborhood widi a shotgun? Luckily she wasn’t seriously injured. Arid how he made her run round and round die compound, cracking that hunter’s whip of his? Ask me how many times I’ve had to save her from being maimed. I didn’t tell you diis, but one time he helped her up a tree and began sawing off die branch she was sitting on! I’ll tell you how he will look after her. He’ll push her into die nearest well!”
But amazingly changes in their years he lives in America alone. There are a lot of examples in the novel which show his completely changed attitude. When Feroza reached American airport, she was caught by immigration officers just because of her emotional and confused nature as she transformed a small problem into a great one. Here Manek came to her help and he handled the whole situation in a good way. Officers were really irritating but Manek answered them calmly. Even when they said that Manek was not Feroza’s uncle but her fiancé and when Zareen’s night gown was displayed he remained cool and assured the officers that she’ll return to her country at the end of her visa and also signed a paper for assurance. Feroza was really amazed on the contented behavior of her uncle because the Manek she knew was not like that:
Feroza was amazed. She could never have expected die Manek she knew to project the sterling qualities. And, at die same time, she was unutterably glad to have this confidence-inspiring new manifestation of her uncle at her side. “No, you’re not. You’re too young to be her uncle. You’re her fiancé. How old are you?”
On their way, the young niece that she should not have to behave in such a silly manner. She should have to remain composed and calm because it is the only way to live in a country like America. He also advised her:
. “And you’d better forget this honor-honor business. Nobody bothers about that here.”
Feroza was not only amazed but also happy to see such wonderful changes in Manek.
“Manek did something else he had never done before — he put his arm, stiff and awkward, round her shoulders.
After that Manek taught Feroza how to live in America. He taught her everything according to Americans because he himself became a pseudo-American. He taught her to use deodorants otherwise she would smell very bad:
“”That’s the trouble with you desis. You don’t even know what a deodorant is, and you want to make an atom bomb!”
He taught her how to behave when she was totally alone. One day he after her alone in the museum and stand at a distance to observe her actions, he advised his decisions immediately and accurately. He told her not to interrupt people when they are talking or giving their views.
“There you go, interrupting again. You won’t even let me finish a sentence. I don’t know when you desiswill learn good manners. If there’s — “
He was also a desi but he behaved like a pure and true American. All this show his calculated and decent approach towards. Then he prepared her to take admission in America instead of going back.
Manek completed his education and got a wonderful job in NASA, but then he decided to marry not an American but an Asian Parsee girl. Apparently, it looks that marrying a Parsee girl did not suit the changed American Manek but basically it was very calculated and rational decision because marrying an American girl was like to spoil his wonderful life because the mind of an Asian man can never match with an American woman, moreover, an Asian woman would be more caring and loving and this he would also make his family happy:
It is to Manek’s credit as a raconteur and as a compelling pur­veyor of dreams that no one yawned. With rapt and serious faces, the family listened to his plans for his future in America. And when Manek solemnly announced that he had come to Pakistan to marry a Parsee girl and take her with him to America, the familiar faces brightened and their smiles and nods conveyed the measure of their gratification and approval.
When he was narrating the whole situation to Feroza on phone, out of frankness he named her father as ‘cy’ and ‘pop’ as a result he had to listen:
“You don’t have to be so damned American.”
“When in America, be American. Haven’t you — “
“Oh God! I’m going to hang up or throw up!”
“Okay, okay As 1 was saying, Cyrus-jcc was full of his usual foolishness. But I was surprised by Rohinton’s behavior.”
After marrying Aban he returned to American alone with his wife and started living an happy life. During his job in NASA, he changed his name from ‘Manek’ to ‘Mike’. Feroza was amazed to hear that but Manek remained calm:
She couldn’t help it. “Mike?” she asked, her appalled voice con­juring up Jo’s unpleasant boyfriend. “You’ve become a Mike?”Manek remained calm. “The people I have to deal widi at work find it hard to remember Manek. It’s too foreign, it makes diem uneasy. But I’m one of the guys if I’m Mike.”
“In America, be — ” and Aban added her voice to Feroza’s as dicy bodi chorused, “American!” The tension was at once dispelled. “I’m sorry,” Feroza declared. “I know I can’t call you Mike even if I try.”
It also shows his calculated attitude towards people and his ability to deal with different people differently. Feroza was also impressed by such attitude:
“But it’s taken me a while to get used to it,” Aban said. Manek impressed Fcroza by his calm and reasonable manner and the air of consequence he had acquired; that of a homeowner, a breadwinner, and a man on his way up the American ladder of success in the pursuit of happiness.
Then his handling or treatment of Feroza and David’s problem was also very nice. Although it was a matter of life and death for Zareen yet Manek remained composed and helped Zareen. So, all these things clearly show that Manek is a transformed pseudo-American. 

>The Character-Sketch of Feroza in American Brat by Sidhwa



Feroza is the heroine of the novel. She is the female protagonist of the novel. The title of the novel is also related to her character. She is called, “An American Brat” in the closing chapters. The whole story revolves around this single character. All other characters whether they are the major or minor incidents are related to her character.
She is the daughter of Zareen and Cyrus. She is the student of 10th class. She has an attractive and charming personality.

Feroza fiddled with the shawl covering her chest and shoulders. Twisting on the balls of her feet, she finally looked up at die hand­some youth. Her eyes unnaturally bright, her face abnormally red, she said, “I’m sorry, I don’t think I’ll be able to act in die play. You know how it is — my father won’t like it. Please don’t come again. Don’t phone, please.”

Family Background and Physical Appearance

She belongs to a Parsee family. Her parents are of modern time and they are broad-minded. Feroza is a religious girl when we have a first look at her character. She is very conservative. Her mother comments about her:

“She won’t even answer the phone anymore! ‘What if it’s some­one I don’t know?’ ” Zareen mimicked her daughter in English. “I told her — don’t be silly. No one’s going to jump out of the phone to bite you!”

She is five feet and four inches with a fair complexion. She is a beautiful girl. She is 16 years old. She has daring and dashing personality.


She was a girl of sky-nature in her childhood. She had a very serious and mature nature. She was an anti-social child as:

“By this time Feroza was being invited to an increasing number of birthday parties, and Zareen discovered that she was also antisocial. Invariably the anxious hostess called die next day to inquire if she or someone else had offended die child? Feroza had stayed in her cor­ner with her ayah and couldn’t be coaxed to play games. She had not come to the table, even when the candles were blown out and the cake cut. No matter how hard they all tried, Feroza did not smile or say a single word all evening. At the end of this litany, the caller invariably sounded more aggrieved than anxious.”

Feroza was a very stubborn nature. Feroza had been a stubborn child — with a streak of pride bor­dering on arrogance that compelled consideration not always due a child. Awed, Zareen often wondered where she got her pride.

Sensitive Girl

She is a sensible girl. She is not attracted towards the Youngman. She is not slap of emotions. She has self-controlled contours and she knows what is right and what is wrong. The following lines amply show this:

She said, “I’m sorry, I don’t think I’ll be able to act in die play. You know how it is — my father won’t like it. Please don’t come again. Don’t phone, please.”

Backward and Narrow-minded

She is backward and narrow-minded. Her mother is worried about her attitude and behavior. She tells Cyrus that she is really worried about Feroza and says that:
“What’s wrong?” Cyrus inquired cautiously, his voice conveying just the right tinge of mild concern. “She’s becoming more and more backward every day.” Set in tight-lipped censure, Zareen’s face betrayed the hours spent in solitary brooding and the dark anxieties her brooding had spawned. Cyrus, who thought his daughter was if anything too for­ward, maintained his guard. .

And these lines show her narrow-mindedness when Zareen goes to her school to bring her back. In the car, she said:

“In the car she said: ‘Mummy, please don’t come to school dressed like that.’ She objected to my sleeveless sari-blouse! Really, this narrow-minded attitude touted by General Zia is infecting her, too. I told her: ‘Look, we’re Parsee, everybody knows we dress differently.’

Under the above lines, we can say that she is also religious-minded. She is a brilliant student and with this she takes apart in the games and sports.

Relation with her Mother

Zareen Ginwala is her mother. She is a modern lady who wears blouses. But Feroza has contrast with her mother’s character. She wears scarves and is religious-minded.  She has rejected the offer of acting in a play she criticizes her mother’s dress. In the car, she said that mummy should not wear that dress. There are also a clear difference between these two characters and their thinking. Zareen is broad-minded enough to wear sleeveless dresses and she is social woman and attends many parties. But on the other hand, Feroza is of a conservative nature. She is not even ready to attend a phone call. Zareen wanted her daughter to be modern, that’s why she is sending Feroza to America. Zareen says:

“I think Feroza must get away,” Zareen continued. “Just for three or four months. Manek can look after her. Travel will broaden her outlook; get this puritanical rubbish out of her head.”
Relation with her Father

Cyrus is the name of her father. He is a broad-minded and a person of balanced personality. He is normally a correct person. We come to know about his habit of drinking when Zareen says:

“It’s okay for you to run around getting drunk every evening, but I must stop wearing sleeveless blouses.”

At another place, Zareen says that it all might do him all good to drinkless. Cyrus is happy when he sees that. As we have already discussed that Feroza is a stubborn child. She was beaten by her father, when she was four but she spoke not a single word till her lips started bleeding.

Relation with her Uncle

Manek is Feroza’s uncle who is only six years older than Feroza. Their relation is shown by these lines:

With only six years between them, Manek and Feroza grew up more as siblings than as uncle and niece. Their hos­tilities often assumed epic proportions.

They are jealous of each other but later on we see that when Feroza goes to America, they become very good friends of each other. They called each other ‘boochinai’ and his nick-name is guardian in the USA.

Her relation with Friends

David has a dancing and dashing personally. He is a beautiful Youngman. Feroza is much impressed by his personality. She falls in love with him. So, with the passage of time, she becomes morally corrupt. She has illicit relationship with David. These lines show her illegal relations with David:

And after this, it was natural for them to be physically close, to tenderly touch each other, to abandon themselves to the ardent intoxication of their youthful hormones. Feroza was as “swept off her feet” as she could wish, as David wished her to be. And the instinct that had guarded her before, now let her go as David released her from the baffling sexual limbo in which Shashi’s cooler rhythm and the restraints of their common culture had set her adrift.


So, Feroza is a round as well as dynamic character. We can conclude it in such a way that it is not the fault of Feroza but the fault of her family who gave her so much independence. She was innocent and did not agree to go to America, but she was sent by her family. Just a sixteen years old girl and such a corrupt and destructive world of America proved horrible. So, the result had to be necessarily as that of Feroza.

>A short critical summary of American Brat – a novel by Bapsi Sidhwa


Coming of age is never easy. Coming of age as a woman is even harder. But coming of age as a female immigrant in a foreign country may be the most difficult of all. For many women born into societies with restrictive social and political codes, however, immigration may be the only real way to come of age. In An American Brat, Pakistani-born novelist Bapsi Sidhwa reveals with a humorous yet incisive eye the exhilarating freedom and profound sense of loss that make up the immigrant experience in America.

Sidhwa begins her novel in Lahore, Pakistan. Feroza Gunwalla, a 16-year-old Parsee, is mortified by the sight of her mother appearing at her school with her arms uncovered. For Zareen Gunwalla, Feroza’s outspoken 40-something mother, it is a chilling moment. The Parsees, a small sect in Pakistan, take great pride in their liberal values, business acumen, and—most importantly—the education of their children.
It’s 1978 in Pakistan and 16-year-old Feroza Ginwalla, the heroine of the novel, An American Brat, is beginning to worry her relatively liberal, upper-middle-class Parsee parents. She won’t answer the phone; she tells her mother to dress more conservatively; she sulks, she slams doors, she prefers the company of her old-fashioned grandmother; she seems to sympathize with fundamentalist religious thinking. What to do? “I think Feroza must get away,” says Zareen, the girl’s mother, to her husband, Cyrus. Feroza is packed off to visit her Uncle Manek, a student at MIT. But as Zareen waves goodbye to her daughter, she cannot know that in America Feroza will become more independent than Zareen ever dreamt, or hoped, was possible. “Travel will broaden her outlook, get this puritanical rubbish out of her head.”
And indeed it does—although to a disastrous degree, from Zareen and Cyrus’ point of view, for Feroza’s three-month sabbatical with her uncle in Massachusetts turns into a three-year sojourn in many parts of the United States.
By the time Zareen decides, toward the end of the book, to reassert parental control by flying from Lahore to Denver—where Feroza has become a hotel-management student—it’s too late. Her daughter is already an “American brat,” a woman with a mind and opinions of her own, able to relish the ability to choose.
An American Brat is an exceptional novel, one of such interest that the reader’s reservations, while significant, are ultimately of little consequence. Bapsi Sidhwa, author of three previous works of fiction and frequently referred to as Pakistan‘s most prominent English-language novelist, has produced a remarkable sketch of American society as seen and experienced by modern immigrants.
America, to Feroza and her Uncle Manek, is in many ways a paradise—as indeed it appears to be for Sidhwa, a Parsee who has lived in the United States for many years—but An American Brat is nonetheless a measured portrait, often reassuring and discomfiting at the same time.
It’s both wonderful and startling, for example, to hear the fully Americanized Manek say to the newly arrived Feroza, as she grapples with some well-wrapped container, “Remember this: If you have to struggle to open something in America, you’re doing it wrong. They’ve made everything easy. That’s how a free economy works.”
In style, An American Brat is nothing like Henry James’ The Ambassadors, being straightforward, humorous, easygoing and unpoetic. In plot, though, it bears some similarities, with travelers finding themselves unexpectedly transformed by their encounters in a new land. Feroza soon realizes that Manek’s years in the United States have changed him: He is now “humbler and, paradoxically, more assured and quietly conceited, more considerate, yet … tougher, even ruthless.”
One of the first things Zareen notices about Feroza at the Denver airport is her gaudy tan: “You’d better bleach your face or something,” she tells her daughter, “before you come home.”
But even Zareen proves vulnerable to America‘s charms:
Although she has come to break up Feroza’s engagement to a “non”—a non-Parsee—she glories in the shopping and amenities of Denver life, “as happy as a captive seal suddenly released into the ocean.” Zareen, her American mission at least partially accomplished, returns to Pakistan but wonders momentarily whether she has done the right thing. And that’s the issue lying at the heart of this novel—the competing loyalties immigrants feel toward family, culture, heritage, self. The problem only flashes through Zareen’s mind because she is too old to be fully taken with American ways; Manek can almost ignore the contradiction because, being male, he will be celebrated for living in the United States so long as he takes a Parsee wife.
Feroza, by contrast, feels the brunt of the conflict, newly aware of the severe sexism in Parsee culture—men can marry outside the faith, for instance, while women cannot—and thrilled at the idea of having her own money, her own career, her own identity. Feroza has come to America, she discovers moments after first landing in New York, to be “unself-conscious”—to be free, once and for all, of “the thousand constraints that governed her life.”
An American Brat suffers from a meandering, literal plot and a tone that doesn’t distinguish major insights from minor ones. Page by page, though, Sidhwa keeps the reader engaged, for one can never predict which mundane American event she will display in an entirely new light.
At the hospital: A Parsee couple is presented with a ?15,000 bill for their daughter’s delivery, where-upon the shocked father replies, walking out, “You can keep the baby.” At home: Feroza, gushing over Manek’s vast supply of canned frankfurters and sardines, saying, “I could eat this all my life!”
At an expensive restaurant where Manek has sent back half his meal, to Feroza’s horror, because he can’t possibly pay for it: “If you weren’t so proud,” Manek tells his niece, “you wouldn’t feel so humiliated, and you’d have enjoyed a wonderful dinner.”
He has a point, however twisted, and it’s moments like that which make An American Brat a funny and memorable novel.

>American Brat – a short summary


Feroza Ginwalla, a pampered, protected 16-year-old Pakistani girl, is sent to America by her parents, who are alarmed by the fundamentalism overtaking Pakistan — and their daughter. Hoping that a few months with her uncle, an MIT grad student, will soften the girl’s rigid thinking, they get more than they bargained for: Feroza, enthralled by American culture and her new freedom, insists on staying. A bargain is struck, allowing Feroza to attend college with the understanding that she will return home and marry well.

As a student in a small western town, Feroza’s perceptions of America, her homeland, and herself begin to alter. When she falls in love with and wants to marry a Jewish American, her family is aghast. Feroza
realizes just how far she has come — and wonders how much further she can go. This delightful coming-of-age novel is both remarkably funny and a remarkably acute portrayal of
America as seen through the eyes of a perceptive young immigrant.

We first meet the parents, Zareen and Cyrus, a Pakistani couple who have sent their daughter to the United States because Mom worried that daughter Feroza was being too influenced by fundamentalist Muslims in Pakistan. In an effort to help her child find some western girl power, Zareen has sent Feroza to Houston. But once here, Feroza does more than find her voice; she learns how to roar. While living the American dream, Feroza decides to marry a nice American boy — a nice American Jewish boy. This information comes to Zareen and Cyrus in the form of an innocent little letter that sends the entire family into a tizzy of fainting spells and prayer. The trouble is, the family is Zoroastrian, an ancient religion that does not allow girls to marry outsiders. If Feroza marries this non-Parsi boy, she will shame the entire family.
As shaky as the news makes Zareen, she’s a statue of calm compared to Mumma, Feroza’s well-intentioned but very manipulative granny. Mumma insists that Zareen fly to American immediately to talk some sense into Feroza. So, with Cyrus’s blessing, Zareen embarks on a journey that will change both her and her daughter’s lives forever.
This is a long setup, filled with some predictable jokes about mothers-in-law and the shocking things that kids do these days, but all of it is handled with such joy by director Brad Dalton and his wonderful cast that even the stuff that feels fairly old hat comes off as entertaining.
Once Zareen gets to Houston, the story deepens quite a bit and the real power of Sidhwa’s play opens up. Zareen discovers that her daughter has grown in ways the Pakistani mother could never have imagined. The first difficulty for Zareen is Feroza’s living situation. She rooms with her fiancé David (Luke Eddy) and a girl named Jo. Zareen adores Jo (though she doesn’t realize this lovely girl is a lesbian), but she barely speaks to David…at first.
Ironically enough, after Zareen spends some time in Houston, she gets used to American freedoms. And despite her mission — which is to break off her daughter’s engagement — the young man starts to grow on Mom. He even takes her shopping at the Galleria, where she buys pale pink hot pants, of all things. In fact, Zareen enjoys America and its freedoms so much that she starts to understand why her daughter has changed. It almost seems as if she will accept her daughter’s choice. But then Cyrus and Mumma call from Pakistan to remind Zareen of what she’s doing in America.
And Feroza isn’t the only one whose family is worried about her choices. Turns out David’s bubbe isn’t too happy with the fact that her grandson is planning to marry outside the faith, and she manages to stick her two cents into the equation. At the end of one particularly difficult evening, the young couple’s future starts to look very dark indeed. 

>American Brat – Introduction to the Novel


Feroza Ginwalla, a pampered, protected 16-year-old Pakistani girl, is sent to America by her parents, who are alarmed by the fundamentalism overtaking Pakistan — and their daughter. Hoping that a few months with her uncle, an MIT grad student, will soften the girl’s rigid thinking, they get more than they bargained for: Feroza, enthralled by American culture and her new freedom, insists on staying.

A bargain is struck, allowing Feroza to attend college with the understanding that she will return home and marry well. As a student in a small western town, Feroza’s perceptions of America, her homeland, and herself begin to alter. When she falls in love with and wants to marry a Jewish American, her family is aghast. Feroza realizes just how far she has come — and wonders how much further she can go. This delightful coming-of-age novel is both remarkably funny and a remarkably acute portrayal of America as seen through the eyes of a perceptive young immigrant.

Bapsi Sidhwa’s fourth novel, An American Brat is about Feroza Ginwalla, a descendant of the Junglewalla clan portrayed in her previous novel The Crow Eaters. But whereas the latter is a comic romp chronicling the rags-to-riches life of Faredoon Junglewalla and his family in pre-partition Pakistan, An American Brat is a coming-of-age story, a sensitive portrait of how modern America appears to a new arrival — and an exploration of the impact it has on her. Feroza, a 16-year-old Parsi from Lahore, is shipped off to the United States to counteract the effects of an increasingly intolerant Islam in late 1970’s Pakistan. She stays with her uncle Manek, a graduate student at M.I.T. who, although only six years her senior, is a crafty veteran in the ways of America. It is mainly because of him that her planned three-month visit turns into a four-year stay. While attending college in Denver, Feroza falls in love with a Jewish student. After hearing that they intend to marry, her mother sets out for America hellbent on changing her mind. The battles fought by mother, daughter and boyfriend are handled deftly, illuminating the difficulties that arise when culture takes a back seat to the search for self-definition. Ms. Sidhwa’s writing is brisk and funny, her characters painted so vividly you can almost hear them bickering.
What happens when an impetuous sixteen year-old Pakistani girl leaves her homeland and wealthy family to encounter America? In An American Brat, novelist Bapsi Sidhwa lets lively teenager Feroza Ginwalla tell her own story and along the way explores the vagaries of two vastly different cultures.
In an effort to reverse Feroza’s conservative views, which have been nurtured by Pakistan‘s rising tide of fundamentalism, her parents send her to visit her uncle Manek in America. Manek is a graduate student at MIT, recently arrived from Pakistan himself. Her parents’ ploy works only too well, as Feroza embraces American culture. She enrolls in a university and plans to marry until family influence and differences in tradition erode that relationship. In this issue, we feature an excerpt showing Feroza on her arrival, with flashbacks to her life in Pakistan.
Sidhwa examines two ways of life in Feroza’s story, particularly contrasting freedom with responsibility. Underlying themes are the workings of family and the role of women in society. Two commentators, Pakistani scholar Fawzia Afzal-Khan and author Edward Hower, explore by analysis and interview Sidhwa’s values and influence.
Sidhwa grew up and was educated in
Lahore, Pakistan. She has taught at Columbia, Rice, and the University of Texas. Her previous novels include The Crow Eaters, The Bride, and Cracking India.. A social activist among Asian women, she represented Pakistan at the Asian Women’s Congress in 1975.

>Bapsi Sidhwa and the National Spirit of Pakistan


In Bapsi Sidhwa’s Ice-Candy-Man, the narrator, Lenny, muses about the absurdity of the Partition of the sub­continent: “I am Pakistani. In a snap. Just like that.” Never­theless, despite her narrator’s musing over the absurdity of Parti­tion, Sidhwa’s Pakistani perspective is evident in her writings. Sidhwa is perhaps the first Pakistani writer to receive interna­tional recognition—apart from Zulfikar Ghose. As a Pakistani writer, Sidhwa feels it incumbent upon her to explain her Pakistani background to those unfamiliar with her milieu. Because she is a Parsi, she attempts to explain this heritage as well.

Sidhwa is not alone in her need to explain her heritage, but shares with other Third-World writers, particularly those writing in a non-native language, the compulsion to explain her culture to an audience unfamiliar with that culture. Thus The Crow Eat­ers” as well as The Bride’ and Ice-Candy-Man are firmly rooted in a historical-political consciousness and concern directly or in-directly, the Partition of the subcontinent and the creation of the newly-independent states of India and Pakistan. The Bride, her first written novel, though published after the success of The Crow Eaters, begins some years before Partition and, for the earlier part of the novel, describes the communal tension during Partition, a train massacre, and the displacement consequent upon Partition. It is only after describing the turmoil of Partition and its aftermath, that the story of Zaitoon and her adopted fa­ther, the hill-man Qasim, is developed. The Crow Eaters ends just before Partition, with Faredoon Junglewalla, the protagonist of the novel, pronouncing, in his inimitable fashion, upon the bickering politicians who are going to cut up the country. Ice-Candy-Man, tighter in focus than the other two novels, concerns wholly the turbulent events of Partition as they affect the lives of a Parsi family and the people who come into their lives. When Ice-Candy-Man was published in the United States in 1991 the title was changed to Cracking India, focussing on the Partition rather than on the eponymous character.
Unlike the Indian writer of today who has a long literary heritage and does not have to make new beginnings, Sidhwa was writing in what was essentially a vacuum. Hence it was neces­sary for her to establish her political credentials, proclaim her cultural allegiance.
Sidhwa establishes her political identity in two significant ways: first, by focusing on the worst Indian atrocities committed in the Punjab, and secondly, by reappraising the character of Jinnah and attempting to improve this image by suggesting that the British were less than fair to both Pakistan and Jinnah. Sidhwa’s political stance is clearly depicted through her treatment of Par­tition—which it may be noted, is a focal point in each of her books. Even The Crow Eaters which ends before Partition, refers to it. Ice-Candy-Man narrates what takes place in Lahore during the traumatic events that accompanied the division of the sub-continent. And Sidhwa’s first book, though inspired by the murder of a tribal woman, begins with the gruesome account of a train massacre during Partition. In The Bride, Sidhwa combines her feminist concerns with a compulsion to explain the culture of Pakistan to audiences unfamiliar with that culture. It is this com­bination that gives the novel its structural weakness but also its perceptive insights.
Though The, Bride fails to come up to the level of either ‘The Crow Eaters or Ice-Candy-Man, its failure stems from the same motives that make Ice-Candy-Man a success: to familiarize her audience with the writer’s cultural, political milieu. In Ice-Candy-Man to which she came via The Crow Eaters, she is both Parsi and Pakistani at the same time. She returns to the Parsi world she had described so well in The Crow Eaters and focuses as she had in the second half of The Bride, on the fate of a young woman. By narrowing her canvas, she succeeded in writing a book which, even if not as successful as The Crow Eaters—this was, remem­ber, the first of its kind—shows an exceptional literary talent. Furthermore, by blending the humour of The Crow Eaters with the theme of Partition and a feminist perspective, Sidhwa reveals herself as a writer of the first rank.
In Ice-Candy-Man Sidhwa describes Partition through the eyes of the young Lenny. The story of the growth of Lenny and her awakening into sexual awareness merges with her awakening into history. Sidhwa’s humour blends with horror and pity as she tells the story of Partition through the perspective of a child. Lenny’s comprehension of the events of Partition is told through the story of what happens to her beloved Hindu Ayah. When the story begins, Ayah is sur­rounded by many admirers, Hindu and Muslim. Among these many admirers is the Ice-Candy-Man after whom the novel is named. As Partition nears, Muslims and Hindus become ene­mies. Some Hindus in an attempt to save themselves become Christians. Some Hindus leave Lahore. Ayah is Hindu, but, pro­tected by her Parsi employers, she assumes that she is in no dan­ger. Unfortunately her charms lead to her abduction by a group led by the Ice-Candy-Man. Ice-Candy-Man keeps Ayah, re­named Mumtaz. Ayah begs to be rescued and she finally is by godmother—in a departure from The Bride where the rescue of Zaitoon was effected by a man.
Sidhwa makes her Pakistani identity unmistakably clear in Ice-Candy-Man where she sug­gests how Partition favoured India over Pakistan. The Hindus are being favored over the Muslims by the remnants of the Raj. Now that its objective to divide India is achieved, the British favour Nehru over Jinnah. Nehru is Kashmiri, they grant him Kashmir.
They grant Nehru Gurdaspur and Pathankot without which Muslim Kashmir cannot be secured.
True, Lenny is not Sidhwa, but as Laurel Graeber points out, “Bapsi Sidhwa has attempted to give a Pakistani perspective to the Partition of India.” As a Pakistani, Sidhwa feels it incumbent upon herself to de­fend Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The reference to Jinnah is made aptly in the context of the Parsi fam­ily that is the focus of the novel. Lenny comes across the picture of an “astonishingly beautiful woman” and is told that it is the picture of Jinnah’s wife.
Sidhwa, however, rises above petty nationalism. Ice-Cancly-Man does not stress the Two-Nation theory behind the creation of Pakistan. In other words, she does not stress the belief of Pakistani Muslims of the necessity of Partition and the creation of Pakistan. In fact, Ice-Candy-Man suggests that religious and cultural differences are artificially created and deliberately fos­tered. Through Lenny’s perspective, Sidhwa shows how relig­ious differences were deliberately exploited on the eve of Parti­tion. Sidhwa describes the destruction of the Muslim village of Pir Pindo Lenny visited earlier during happier times. The villagers had been warned to leave, but they do not, and Ranna describes the mass murder that takes place. Sidhwa does not narrate this incident through Lenny but through Raana:
Ranna saw his uncle beheaded. His older brothers, his cousins. The Sikhs were among them like hairy vengeful demons, wielding bloodied swords, dragging them out as a handful of Hindus, dart­ing about the fringes, their faces vaguely familiar, pointed out and identified the Mussulmans by name. He felt a blow cleave the back of his head and the warm flow of blood. Ranna fell just inside the door on a tangled pole of unrecognizable bodies. Someone fell on him drenching him in blood.
Sidhwa took up the story of Ranna and retold it in a short story “‘Defend Yourself against Me.” In this story Sidhwa also sug­gests that though the past cannot be forgotten, it can be forgiven. Let not the crimes of the fathers be visited on their sons—but then the sons must be conscious of their fathers’ sins and ask for forgiveness.

>Sense of the City – Lahore in Bapsi Sidhwa


Bapsi Sidhwa is the author of four novels, including Ice Candy Man (Cracking India in US edition), which was named a New York Times Notable Book in 1991. In the same year, she received the Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Pakistan‘s highest national honour in the arts. Born in Karachi and raised in Lahore, she now lives in Houston, Texas.

I’ve spent most of my time in the city of Lahore, a city of about eight million people.  It forms the geographical location of most of my work, most of my writing. For her, Lahore is an intensely romantic city.  Its ambience lends itself to romance and it arouses an intensity of feeling which craves expression.  Lahore also forms the location of many of the writers’ works – they are known as the “pavement pounders” who wandered the streets of Lahore, including Kipling.  And these writers would frequent the tea houses and coffee houses and huddle in each different place with a different set of admirers.

They would write of their relationships which were formed in the tea houses and of their adventures within the city of Lahore.
Landscape of Lahore
Perhaps the most famous in the West is Rudyard Kipling who was an insomniac, and he walked through the old city, which forms the heart of Lahore, and which really took place during the Moghul times.And he narrates his adventures there – most famously in Kim. And the Zam-Zammah, which he talks about – the little British urchin boy sort of climbs onto the gun, the Zam-Zammah. And the gorgeous Badshahi Mosque, the fort, the Shalimar Gardens, all made by the Moghul emperors, are themes that inspire writers and they are locations that writers use.  Of course one of the themes which comes out most frequently and which was started off by the famous short story writer, Manto, involved the tragedies that happened during the partition of India into India and Pakistan when huge migrations took place. Naturally the writer is automatically drawn to the dramatic, and these provided very dramatic moments.
Diversity of Lahore
Lahore, as a very gracious, ancient city, has an ambience which just lends itself to writers.  More than just describe the city with great affection and love, they also talk about the people that a city like that and an atmosphere like that creates. Lahore as a city inspires the arts in all their forms.  Some of the most famous singers have come from Lahore and just the general population seems to be bursting with artistic energy, so that the little motor-scooter rickshaws, the lorries, the trucks, all of them are splashed with decorations and colour. It is a city that inspires painting, song, writing, and of course the literature incorporates all these aspects of the city.  There are so many musharas which go on in Lahore, which are sort of poetic evenings dedicated to various poets, reciting their poetry. These are a very popular form of evening entertainment. Poetry is not distanced from the writer as it is perhaps in the West where poetry is confined to colleges, almost, and schools.  In Lahore it is woven within the fabric of each person’s life. In the course of an ordinary conversation people will suddenly recite a couplet from a ghazal or a couplet from a Punjabi poem about legendary romantic characters. But they all lend themselves to a mysticism, an undercurrent of mysticism, and conversations with God.  Allama Iqbal, the most famous poet of the Indian subcontinent, in fact, was inspired to write “shikwa”, which is the complaint to God, because of the ambience of Lahore. Just to exist in Lahore is a sort of inspiration. I think each city has its own spirit, and Lahore‘s spirit is, I think, a creative energy. So it will continue to inspire writers, and people born in Lahore will be writers, just naturally.