From the conservative matriarch, to the outgoing Zeba we come across a comical yet beautiful cultural tale of a Shia Syed family; beautifully narrated by the youngest sibling, Saleha. By writing the story of every home, Shazaf Fatima Haider seems to have won many hearts with her first novel, How It Happened.
Organised by the Lyterati Society at the Lyceum School, the book was launched this Sunday with nearly 300 people in attendance. The book, which was available at the entrance, was sold-out before all the guests had even arrived.
Pakistani author Musharraf Ali Farooqi moderated the launch and set a perfect tone to the event by adding humour to the dialogue, adding that it’s a ‘feel-good’ book, which the reader is bound to love.
Haider narrated how her own experiences with prospective in-laws gave shape to the opening pages of How It Happened. She shared some comical incidents when prospective in-laws would come to see her and on one such occasion she felt extremely angry and unforgiving after being inspected from head to toe by an offensive aunty and decided to write about it but ended up writing the first few pages of How It Happened.
Haider revealed that she never had a paternal grandmother but she had always heard about her through her relatives and hence the character of Dadi, which she adds is her favourite character, was born through that yearning of having a grandmother and how her relationship would have been with her.
Haider also read passages from her book, giving a flavour of Dadi’s character and how strongly she felt about arranged marriages, suppressing any thoughts that came to her grandchildren’s minds.
Renowned playwright Haseena Moin, who was also present at the launch, praised Haider’s novel in an affectionate tribute. She lauded how the novel spoke of Pakistani culture and people while beautifully picturing a family, which goes through all the obstacles that one faces in life.
Moin labelled the book a page-turner because the reader feels his own story is being told. She further added that the biggest step Haider had taken was to say that time changes and we have to change with it – we cannot lock ourselves within the four walls and must leave an opening to accept any change that comes knocking on our door.
In the end, Haider left an inspiring message for her students, who were mostly from the Lyceum School, where she teaches.
“You can do it. You can write if you persevere. Don’t focus on writing the most life-altering novel. Write what you know best. You will do well because who you are is pretty special.”
Mahjabeen Mankani is a New Media Design Manager at Dawn.com.