Friday, September 6, 2013

Work on book sequel led Sushmita to Afghanistan

KOLKATA: Why did Sushmita Banerjee — the author who was gunned down by the Taliban in Afghanistan on Wednesday — go back to the trouble-torn country from where she had managed to escape in 1995?

Her publisher claimed of Friday she went back to write a sequel to her first novel, \'Kabuliwalar Bangali Bou\'. Sushmita had written two more novels — \'Mullah Omar, Taliban O Ami\' and \'Ek Barna Mithye Noi\' — but the manuscript she was working on would have been a continuation of \'Kabuliwallar Bangali Bou\', according to her publisher.

Sushmita had approached Bhasha-O-Sahitya proprietor Swapan Biswas with a proposal to go back to Afghanistan and write about the social changes that the exit of Taliban might have brought in the country.

\"She said she had renewed her ties with her in-laws in Sarana village and would like to pick up the threads from where she had left it when she fled the country. I naturally got excited because her first book had become a bestseller. However, I kept asking her if it was safe to go back to that country. She assured me that things had changed for the better,\" said Biswas.

During her first stay in Afghanistan in the 1990s, Sushmita got involved in public health programmes and attracted the ire of the Taliban. She also got involved in some family intrigues and escaped, promising never to return again. \"This resolve had finally petered away and she had even convinced her husband Jaanbaz Khan, a money lender who lived here, to take her back to Afghanistan. The sequel was supposed to revolve around her family and how she found them after she returned. There was a little girl — Gulguti — whom she loved like her own child. She told me that a sizeable part of her story would be on the life of the girl,\" Biswas said.

Though the name of the book had not been finalised yet, it was loosely decided that it would be called \'Kabuliwalar Bangali Bou - Abar Afghanisthan-e\'. The publisher had asked Sushmita to focus on how the Afghans were finding their feet in the post-Taliban era.

\"She was supposed to come back soon and submit the manuscript so that we could work on it. The book was slated to come out during the Kolkata book fair in January,\" Biswas said.

Sushmita had remained the bestselling writer for her publisher and had earned lakhs of rupees in royalty. Her publisher was sure that the sequel would have created another sensation. \"What started with a shock has turned into a heartbreak for me. After all, she had gone back to finish a project of which I was a part,\" Biswas lamented.
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