Zoroastrian Association Launches Bapsi Sidhwa Literary Prize

Indo-American News had serialized Bapsi Sidhwa’s first novel, “The Bride”.

HOUSTON: On Friday, January 14, 2022, the Zoroastrian Association of Houston launched the Bapsi Sidhwa Literary Prize for Zoroastrian authors. Organized jointly by FIRES and the ZAH Library, Zoroastrian authors presented an opportunity to pay tribute to a writer and humanitarian who has been acclaimed and admired all over the world.  The Prize of $ 2,000 and a trophy will be awarded once every two years to a writer who best captures the mood, spirit, and settings that were the essence of Bapsi’s novels.

Aban Rustomji, Chair of FIRES and the ZAH Library Committee, welcomed the guests and recounted Bapsi’s accomplishments and the honors and awards she has received.

Several speakers talked about different aspects of Bapsi’s life and her connection with them.

Arzan Wadia, President of FEZANA, flew to Houston to address the gathering and commend FIRES and ZAH for creating this Award.  He lauded Bapsi’s body of work and urged that this award be expanded eventually to include nonfiction, poems, and other literature.  He hoped that the first award of this prize will be presented at the World Zoroastrian Congress in July this year.

Nozer Dungor, President of ZAH, spoke of the unique nature of Bapsi’s works, and was thankful that Bapsi chose Houston to make her home.  He also thanked the ZAH Library Committee for taking this initiative.

Rich Levy, Executive Director of the publication IMPRINT, gave a video message, recounting his friendship with Bapsi over the last 25 years.  He admired Bapsi’s strong commitment to issues facing the women of the Indian subcontinent.  Bapsi’s dedication began with her very first novel that was based on the true story of a young Pakistani girl who ran away to escape from a brutal marriage, but she was hounded and killed.  Rich related several comments and praises from reputed authors of Bapsi’s books – authors like Salman Rushdie who so admired her work “Cracking India,” based on the partition of India and Pakistan.  He also listed many of Bapsi’s accomplishments, her teaching at several Universities, her service on IMPRINT’s Board of Directors, and all the awards and recognitions she picked up along the way.

Amanda Focke, Head of the Woodson Archives at Rice University, has started a Bapsi Sidhwa Collection that includes her manuscripts, drafts, lecture notes, and her written word “behind the books she wrote”.  This treasured collection spans Bapsi’s entire adult life from 1943 to 2018 and is available online at the Woodson Archives website.

Sadia Uqaili, appearing by video, talked about the documentary she is filming on Bapsi’s life.  Titled, “Bapsi: The Silences of My Life”, the film  recounts the highlights of Bapsi’s life and candid interviews with Bapsi. Sadia believes that the documentary will educate and inspire a whole host of young writers who would aspire to follow in Bapsi’s footsteps.  A brief 3-minute snippet of the documentary was shown that made the audience want for more.  Quoting Bapsi, “We all have so many stories inside of us waiting to be told.”

Teresa Russo, Professor at the University of Toronto, actively participated in the formulation and details of the Prize with ZAH.  She pointed out that Bapsi was the first author to introduce Parsees as the main characters in her novels.  She particularly singled out Bapsi’s “Cracking India.”

Feroze Bhandara, Bapsi’s brother, gave a loving account of Bapsi’s childhood and her life as a young adult and her personal challenges, culminating in her success and worldwide recognition.

Abrar Hashmi, Consul General of Pakistan, praised Bapsi for her pluralism and for bringing the marginalized, the poor, and the challenged to the center of her novels.  He cited the high Pakistani Government Award, “Sitar-e- Imtiaz” which recognizes excellence.

During the wrap-up, Feroze Bhandara generously donated $5,000 to be used towards the prize.

The memorable event, recognizing an illustrious woman, that was much deserved and long overdue, ended with a dinner for all the attendees.