Tag Archives: 2013

New Years’ Eve Special: Interview with Shazaf Fatima Haider

    Photo courtesy: Penguin India

To kick start my new year, I interviewed someone who came out with her first novel earlier this year. To say that it has been a huge success would be an understatement. Her book How it Happened perfectly captures the beauty of Pakistani marriages, the social (and apparently religious!) stigma regarding inter-sect marriages and most of all, has portrayed immaculately the innocence of adolescence.

Book cover of ‘How it Happened’

First of all, I would like to thank her for agreeing to do this interview, and for responding promptly to the interview questions I emailed to her. 

Me: So, tell me a little about yourself. Do you come from a background of writers?

SFH: You know, if you look hard enough, everyone comes from a background of writers. Everyone wries secretly and has masterpieces that go hidden or are lost because no one believed in them. I was rummaging through the bookshelves and saw that one of my mother’s cousins was a poet – and he wrote the wittiest Urdu poetry I’ve read. But he died a long time ago and possibly self published this anthology. I felt so sad because had he been born in the right place, connected to the right people, he could have been famous. Now all that’s left of him is a tattered book of faded yellow pages. But otherwise, no, I don’t think I’m related to any famous or great writers. 

Me: What inspired you to write ‘How it Happened’?

SFH: Frustration. Too many ‘suitors’ marching in, exhibiting bad manners in my drawing room and then marching off; the demeaning of women by other women. I suppose at one point when the anger fades away, you’re left with frustration and all you can do is laugh or cry. I chose to laugh.

Me: Did you worry about the kind of response you were going to get, especially by the elders of a ‘Shia-Syed’ family?

SFH:  I didn’t, because a lot of the Shia-Syed community agrees that this sort of sectarian division is ignorant. The kind of people who disagree don’t read.

Me: What was the biggest obstacle you faced while writing?

SFH:  I was working as a full time teacher up until this year. I just didn’t get the kind of time to really delve into my writing as I wished. That was highly problematic.

Me: Is there any particular song you like to listen to while writing?

SFH:  I listen to music mostly when I’m exercising – music distracts me. But I’m a huge fan of Alanis Morisette. 

Me: Any particular time of the day that suits you better while writing?

SFH: Morning is the best time. Now that I teach part time, I’m done with classes by eleven, so I go to a cafe and write for two hours until lunch. Sometimes, when the mood strikes, I work all day – but that doesn’t happen very often

Me: Are you working on any other project right now?

SFH: I’m actually done with my second novel – the story is on paper, now the long process of editing, proof reading is left.

Me: What is it about?

SFH: It’s about Jinns. Very unlike the first novel, I should warn you.

Me: Considering the low literacy rate of Pakistan, what can you say about the scope of writers in our country?

SFH:  People love stories. And there are more readers than you know. The  problem isn’t literacy ( a lot of people who can read just don’t) it’s the availability of cheap books and the lack of a local publishing industry. If books were cheaper then students would buy them, people who wanted to read them wouldn’t have to think twice about their price. That’s the real issue with reading in Pakistan.

Me: Were you turned down by other publishers before Penguin India decided to publish your novel?

SFH: No, actually. Penguin was one of the first publishers to get back to me. 

Me: Quick question time. Give me one word responses to these.

Caffeine – Headache
On your bookshelf –  Dust
In your DVD player – Thor 2
Revolutionary – Jaun Elia
Paradise – Family
Corruption – Big fat politician in waistcoat
Inspirational – Marquez
Politicians – Scum
Deadlines – Never a problem

Me: Lastly, what advice would you give to young and aspiring authors?

SFH: Keep writing and be patient. Believe in yourself. And listen to criticism as constructive feedback.




5 Awesome Books I Read in 2013

It is no surprise that every year some awe-inspiring author grants us a sneak peak into their brilliant imagination. Like other years, 2013 was no different. Although the list of books I read was quite short, here’s a list of the five best books I read in 2013.


#5: ‘Inferno’ by Dan Brown

                               Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’

Synopsis: In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon, is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces …Dante’s Inferno.

Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust …before the world is irrevocably altered.


#4 ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ by Robert Galbraith (J. K. Rowling)
After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, thelegendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.

#3 Tunnel Vision by Shandana Minhas
Ayesha Siddiqui, 31, meets an accident and slips into a coma. She floats outside her body and learns surprising truths about the family and friends. This story provides an insight into the lives of women and men, in 21st century Pakistan.
#2 ‘How It Happened’ by Shazaf Fatima Haider
Dadi, the imperious matriarch of the Bandian family in Karachi, swears by the virtues of arranged marriage. All her ancestors including a dentally and optically challenged aunt have been perfectly well-served by such arrangements. But her grandchildren are harder to please. Haroon, the apple of her eye, has to suffer half a dozen candidates until he finds the perfect Shia-Syed girl of his dreams. But it is Zeba, his sister, who has the tougher time, as she is accosted by a bevy of suitors, including a potbellied cousin and a banker who reeks of sesame oil. Told by the witty, hawk-eyed Saleha, the precocious youngest sibling, this is a romantic, amusing and utterly delightful story about how marriages are made and unmade—not in heaven, but in the drawing room and over the phone.
#1 ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ by Khaled Hosseini
And The Mountains Echoed is set in Afghanistan, in 1952, where Abdullah and his sister reside with their father and foster mother. They seem to have a raw deal in terms of finances, as their father is constantly on a job hunt to make ends meet. One day, their father decided to shift from the small village where they were staying, to Kabul. Abdullah s father tries to prevent Abdullah from coming along, but is unable to do so, due to his son s persistent temperament. Abdullah is extremely fond of his sister, and would do anything to keep her happy. The two siblings are inseparable, and sleep together on their cot with their heads touching. However, the two don t seem to have a clue about the events that are about to take place when they journey from Kabul to other cities and continents. This insignificant journey made by the family dares to alter the course of their lives and those of hundreds of others, through the next 60 years. And The Mountains Echoed revolves around the relationships among family members, which are accompanied with honour and sacrifice for one another. This book also delves into the fact that people are often left dumbstruck by the actions of those who matter the most to them. It is explained to the readers that the decisions made by them can resonate through several generations.