Latest posts by Awais Samdani (see all)
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- A Profound Talk On Movies And Constantly Evolving Cinema - February 23, 2017
Your novel is a tribute to Lahore. You said in an interview that it is a love affair with a city. One of your works poignant theme is the changing of a city, the changing of a landscape and the people. How conscious were you about this theme when you were writing?
I wanted to capture the true essence and beauty of the city I grew up in and where my family is from. Lahore is home. It will always be home. I always keep coming back to it in my stories. This city was a safe haven for my parents. They moved here to pursue their dreams and start a family. With time and the birth of political and religious extremism, things have changed. The city is still beautiful but scarred in many ways. The more I speak to people about it, the more the damage frightens me. People, like me, who have spent their childhood here have dual feelings towards the city. Like I say in the book, Lahore becomes a friend and also, a bitter enemy. I would not feel so much pain if I had not felt a sense of belonging here.
In the first section of “Ashes, Wine and Dust” you paint the picture of a village, did you do research?
I have always belonged to two places. My parents moved to the city to find themselves and did well. My grandparents stayed behind in a village and refused to give up the ancestral house for the temptations of the city. My brothers and I spent a significant portion of our childhood traveling back and forth between the places. Eid was always, always to be celebrated in the village with the grandparents. I had always been an observant child. I spent most of my time talking to the maids, tailors, farmers, and the children. Every evening, my grandfather would take us to our tube well and I would interact more with the locals. After I lost my grandparents, I realized how inspiring those brief visits to the village were. I had lost a very crucial part of my childhood. So it was easy for me to capture the pastoral landscape and the lives of people in a village.
You began writing this book when you were seventeen (that is immensely impressive). By twenty-one, the manuscript was shortlisted for a prize. When did you begin writing, and did you know you would become a writer?
I was a very odd child. I was studying most of my time, and still did not perform well in school. My parents invested a lot of time and money in hiring Math and Science tutors. The creative writing in school was like therapy for me. It was the only class where I was appreciated for my work and participation. I existed in a way. I mattered to the teacher.
I read a lot too. My parents introduced me to books at a very tender age, and that helped me understand how important reading is for writing. I have spent my teenage years working on a book, stressing about things that did not make sense to my friends in college but I had a certain restless inside of me. A longing. I felt that the character of Mariam deserved my attention. I told myself that I can shop later. I can talk to boys later. I must write first.
You have been a panelist in many literary conferences and festivals. Writing is a solitary art, how does it feel like to talk about your work in public platforms?
It is an interesting feeling. Like you mentioned, writing is a solitary craft and talking about the writing process is still something very daunting for me. I don’t sleep the night before the events. If the panel has a distinct theme, I research before going.
For a very young author like you, the themes you explore in the book are tragic and serious. Tell us more about this.
I don’t think comprehending pain and writing about it has anything to do with age. I wrote what came naturally to me. Nothing about the book perturbed me.
Are you working on something right now?
I am working on something. That is all I can say right now. I am still struggling as any writer does I am sure during the writing process, and can’t really say much about the work at this moment.
Who are you reading nowadays?
Zadie Smith’s new book.
Any word of advice for young writers?
Read a lot. Don’t think and fret about publishing before you have something significant written. Write so you can change someone’s life.