Amritsar, April 2
Manreet Sodhi Someshwar, the award-winning author, who gave us The Long Walk Home and The Taj Conspiracy, spoke candidly about her latest book Lahore, the first in her Score trilogy. In a conversation with Mandira Nayar, Renowned Senior Journalist and Mazhar Abbas, Lecturer in History, Government College University, Faisalabad, Pakistan, during an online Majha House session, the conversation centered on his book Lahore . Sharing the idea behind planning to write the trilogy, she said, “I think it was my hometown, Ferozepur, that made me a writer. Since the Partition, it has always been a hotbed of militant activity because it is a porous border; people can simply swim across the river. My involvement with the score, the 84′ riots and Ferozepur made me write this book.
Speaking about Lahore, Mazhar Abbas said that Lahore has always been a rich seat of culture. He said that while before partition Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims lived harmoniously as neighbors, they continue to do so. “Lahore is the heart of all Punjabis, whether Indian or Pakistani, may they continue to live together in peace. All Hindu and Sikh temples continue to coexist with mosques. We cannot erase the ghosts from the score, but we can try to heal these wounds with love and peace,” Mazhar said. Continuing to talk about the strengths and motives behind the book, Manreet said a major strength is highlighting the role and plight of women during and after the score. “Women have suffered a lot during this period, but their tragedies do not make much noise. They were kidnapped, raped and murdered, but what do we know about their trauma? I personally know many women, some of whom are my neighbors, who have been kidnapped and raped and then rescued. I think it’s terrible that women are told to just suppress their feelings and their stories and move on. So I wanted to fill that gap,” Manreet said.
To this, Mazhar added that he was not happy with the word “freedom” and that “Partition” covers more ground. “It was a game played by men, but the tragedy was that women had to pay the price. In the book, too, there’s dialogue that echoes that exact sentiment. We all have to wonder why women are treated like mere bodies in this power play between men,” he said. Mandira pointed out that the book is not fiction but historical fiction as many incidents and people are taken from real life.
Manreet said, “Literature like ‘Train to Pakistan’ taught me that Queen’s English could be used effectively to convey the pain and trauma of Punjabis. To bring an authentic touch to the book, I sought out people who had suffered in some way; I talked to them, I heard their stories and I had to tell them. I learned that no one’s hands are clean. It shook me and that’s how this book was born. But whatever the story, we have to exorcise those ghosts, let people meet and try to come together as much as possible.