Author Sadiqa Peerbhoy pays a tribute to Hyderabad through a slice-of-life tale

First came a colourful character that was hard to ignore and then the story that lent itself to a novella. Sadiqa Peerbhoy’s ‘Marry Go Round’ (Jufic Books; Leadstart Publishing; Rs. 145) is set in Hyderabad and offers a humorous take on arranged marriages. “Sartaj Jehan is concerned about seeing the lineage of her family continue. Her only son is yet to be married and she feels she hasn’t done enough to propagate the family line. This character stayed with me for a while and then came the story,” says author Sadiqa Peerbhoy, talking to us ahead of the book launch at ITC Kakatiya. Now based in Bangalore and known for her witty columns and short stories, ‘Marry Go Round’ is Sadiqa’s way of connecting with Hyderabad.

Sadiqa’s memories of Hyderabad are those of childhood. “My father was in government service. We lived in Hyderabad until I was in III Standard, after which we moved to Maharastra. We kept moving to new cities every two years,” she says.

Years later, when she joined an advertising firm after college and was asked to write about a city with which she has an emotional connect, Sadiqa realised she could relate only to Hyderabad. “I remember my grandmother telling me about the lavish lifestyles of the past and fascinating stories of chudails, treasure hunts and myths. Hyderabad has been a microcosm of cultures with Iran, Turkish and Mughal influences. I felt someone has to capture these lifestyles before they are forgotten,” says Sadiqa. The book, in a small way, represents the ethos of a city that’s in the threshold of change and striving to safeguard its old-world charm.

Sadiqa wrote the first draft in seven days. “I have worked in advertising for more years than I can remember. In advertising, you work towards a deadline. Even if one has two weeks time, there is a tendency to work at the last minute because pressure brings out the best in you. For this story, I set myself a deadline of a week,” she says.

The decision was also made considering that she has six unfinished books that beg for her attention. “Those are perfectly fine stories but somewhere down the line, either I got bored of the characters or the characters get bored of me and I left them mid-way,” she reasons. Not wanting a repeat of the past, she finished ‘Marry Go Round’ as quickly as she could.

The characters, she says, stayed with her much longer: “I lived with the characters and the family for a long time and when I finished writing, I felt a bit lost.”

Over the years, Sadiqa has become a recognisable name in Bangalore for her short stories and columns. What took her so long to write a novella? “I was lazy,” she quips, “Short stories come easier to me; I can write one in 30 minutes. For a book, you need to dwell longer on the characters.”

This humorous novella on arranged marriages is just the beginning of a new chapter in Sadiqa’s writing. Her next book, ‘Ghost of the Barrot House’, is a serious work of fiction inspired by real-life incidents. “We lived in Bombay in the early 90s and have witnessed the riots that took place as an aftermath of Babri Masjid demolition. The ethos of the city changed forever with people beginning to get branded and divided under religion; ‘Ghost of the Barrot House’ looks at these incidents through a family caught in the struggle,” sums up Sadiqa.