Growing up in a ‘Haveli’

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.

bi-amma-zmThe 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.

By Zeenat Mahal

Zeenat Mahal (@zeenat4indireads) is an avid reader and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She has an MPhil in English literature from Government College Lahore and is currently doing an MFA in creative writing from Kingston University, London. She won a BBC short story competition in 2001 and has been a regular contributor to newspapers.

10 replies on “Growing up in a ‘Haveli’”

The story itself, the writing style and most of all Chandnis character all are brilliant. Chandni has the kind of quick wit all girls wish they could have . you have a true gift as a writer.

Haveli, was a fascinating read from the word go. Its characters, its setting and its plot kept me glued till the very end. After a very long time, I have finally come across an author who has thoroughly satisfied me. Really looking forward to more exciting stuff from you “zeenat Mahal”

Zeenat, I am so glad that C took over and that mature heroine didn’t come about. C cannot be anything but sassy and bratty 🙂

Hey, that sounds so fascinating. I read your novella ‘The Contract’ and just loved it. ‘Haveli’ sounds fascinating. I really look forward to reading it soon 🙂

Zeenat Mahal, this blog post is really fascinating. It certainly does capture the magic of Haveli..I also peeked into your blog and found out that one of the Nawab’s wives was a cousin of Queen Elizabeth of England- such an interesting bit of information…

And having read and loved your book am I glad that you let Haveli be as it is and not succumb to the temptation of editing and revising .:)

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