Prem Fatima, who launched her debut novel ‘In Haleema’s Words’, speaks to Sonia Kurup at Sakal Times about her book and her life experiences that inspired it.
Pune, Tuesday, 6 November 2012
She could blend into the role of an artist or a writer with ease. Yet, in a wispy form Fatima Ahmed evades every frame that tries to confine her. Born into a rich and influential Hyderabadi family – her uncle being a minister in the Nizam’s cabinet, Fatima severed all ties with her family when her parents passed away in 1967. “I was 28-29 years old then. I never liked Hyderabad. Being a sensitive child, no one had the time for me. My parents thought: ‘Of course she has everything, an aaya (maid servant) who would accompany her to school everyday, money and all that.’ But I wasn’t happy.”
The first few chapters in Fatima’s debut novel In Haleema’s Words narrate these events from her early life. “I have written about my childhood, about the money, mansion and joint family that I was a part of. I wanted the character in my book to be rooted. I thought it would be nice to have this character based on me, and my many journeys in life. So, this part of the book is completely autobiographical,” explains Fatima.
From Hyderabad, Fatima shifted to Mumbai, where she wrote a weekly column for Indian Post and, later, for Mid Day. She also grew as a painter while in Mumbai, participating in many art shows abroad including London. “Luckily for me, at that time, there was a boom in the art market. The galleries in Mumbai were able to sell my paintings at a fairly good price. I earned enough money to sustain myself; my needs are very few,” she recalls.
Before that, around 1981, Fatima happened to visit the Osho ashram in Pune. Her experience at the ashram changed her life forever. “When I went back to Mumbai, I was very restless; I wanted to return to the ashram. Earning in Mumbai wasn’t difficult; but I was worried about what I will do in Pune,” she quips. Fatima, who became a ‘sanyasin’ in 1981, shifted to Pune in 1990 after she was offered a job in a leading daily, which had recently set up its base in the city.
Fatima’s writings and paintings are inspired by Osho and his philosophy. “My book is very lyrical and mystical; it is influenced by Osho’s philosophy,” says the septuagenarian, who lives with her tomcat ‘Laddu’ in an apartment at Koregaon Park.
Having worked with Khushwant Singh during her early days as a writer, Fatima reveals, “Khushwant Singh kept inspiring me to write. When I was writing this book, I kept showing him passages from time to time.”
To book lovers Fatima says, “I would ask people to read my book for its novelty,” adding “My language is flowery, which is deliberate. I use embroidered prose, an inspired style from the Urdu language.”