The title of Haveli comes from my ancestral home, my grandfather’s haveli, which still stands in Mian Mir, near Upper Mall, in Lahore and though it’s no longer the way it used to be when we lived there, it’s still a poignant reminder of those halcyon childhood days. Bi Amma is inspired by my fabulous autocratic grandmother.
The story of Bi Amma and her granddaughter, the last reminders of a by-gone age, germinated in part when I visited Bahawalpur two years ago. Bahawalpur is also a Nawab State which ceded to Pakistan in 1957. The last Nawab of Bahawlpur, Sir Sadiq, is still revered in the area. People are loyal to his memory though he’s been dead for nearly two decades. I visited the palaces and was fascinated by the craftsmanship in architecture, masonry and design. There is so much beauty that is still evident in the landmarks of the city. I patterned the fictional Jalalabad on Bahawalpur, which rests at the lip of Cholistan. The grandeur of the desert, the music and poetry of the place and its people was just so enchanting that I felt compelled to write a story around this little-known bit of history and culture of Pakistan.
Initially, I did not conceive Chandni the way she appears now in Haveli. At first, she was more mature, more introverted and intellectual. There were also several other sub-plots that I haven’t inscribed in this novella because when I started writing Haveli, from the first words, C. took over. I’d always envisaged her with green eyes and extraordinarily beautiful and that stayed—it’s a magical, romantic world after all and everyone is beautiful—and that’s the only resemblance she has to the first conception of Chandni. But as my fingers flew over the keyboard and C. emerged, the old and new versions of this story, parts of which I’d lived with for years, combined. I finished Haveli in a week. The finished version is very much like the first draft. I cannot say that about any of my other novellas yet. I’ve done several revisions with the others—even the ones that are not yet published—but I find it hard to give up editing.
But there was very little I could, or wanted to, change in Haveli. It’s a world that wrote itself. I hope that as you read it, you feel the magic that helped me bring it to life and I’ve given my readers a glimpse into another side of Pakistan.