Durdana Soomro and Ghazala Hameed
ISBN 984 32 2930 4 2006 158pp 220x140mm HB Tk.350.00 US$23.00
Bengal Raag is a wonderful book about twin sisters and their childhood in Bangladesh, formerly known as East Pakistan. A blend of fiction and real life, it chronicles an important moment in the history of that region. Although seen through the eyes of children, it deals with adult and complex issues of family dynamics, belonging and separation amidst a gradual building up of social, cultural and political tensions.
Taught at home by their mother, Diya and Gaity accompany their father, a Punjabi civil servant, formerly of the ICS, on his tours to the jungles of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Rajahs and elephant trapping, punting down the river on houseboats, fending off snakes and marauding monkeys, and a boisterous family life make for an entertaining and colourful backdrop against which more sombre events are being played out-the Martial Law of 1958, the 1965 war with India, and, more significantly, the simmering discontent among the Bengalis leading to the independence of Bangladesh.
The time comes when the family must face up to their identity. Who are they and where is their real home? What will happen to Aynee, the oldest sister who has married a Bengali? Infused with a lively sense of humour, the book is nevertheless about the tragedy of civil war where few remain unscathed.
Durdana Soomro has written for the Dawn, The News, and The Friday Times on art, travel, gardening and women’s issues. She has an MBA from Punjab University and an MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University. Soomro was the first female executive hired by Citibank in Pakistan but left it to raise three children and follow her banker husband around the world. She is multilingual. In addition to English, she knows Urdu, French, Bengali, Turkish and Arabic. She lives in Karachi with her husband and youngest daughter and is a keen golfer.
Ghazala Hameed, a committed social worker and an aspiring writer, graduated from Kinnaird College, Lahore where she was editor of The Last Word. She is multilingual and has worked in London, Riyadh and Lahore. While living in Riyadh, she collaborated on International Cooking, a collection of recipes from the expatriate community. She has been actively involved for many years with the Pakistan Society for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled in Lahore and has served on their Executive Committee and as Treasurer. She currently lives in London with her husband who is in the petrochemical business. They have three children.