Special Correspondent

“It is an honour to be granted honorary Paris citizenship”

KOLKATA: “It is indeed a great honour to be granted honorary citizenship of Paris, but my biggest award will be when all women in Bengal attain the self-esteem and self-dignity my writings aim at…,” says Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen.

“Bengal to me means both sides of the border that separates Bangladesh and West Bengal and where my soul is,” she told The Hindu over telephone from Nice in France on Wednesday.

Standing ovation

“I was granted honorary citizenship of Paris at a function in the city on July 7 where the city council unanimously approved a proposal by the Mayor. I was overwhelmed by the standing ovation given to me. But as I stood there listening to the applause one part of my mind travelled to my empty home in Kolkata and my cat which must be very lonely without me ever since I left the city on November 22, 2007,” Ms. Nasreen said.

The author has been staying in Europe since her departure from India on March 19 after months at an undisclosed location arranged for her by the government.

She had to leave Kolkata in the face of violent demonstrations demanding that her visa in India be revoked.

Ms. Nasreen’s visa expires on August 17.

“I was told by the city Mayor that I can be at home in Paris. But I still dream of returning to India and my home in Kolkata where my heart is. I write wherever I am. But I cannot write the way I would like to staying away from Bengal.”

“The honorary citizenship of Paris was given to me in recognition of my fight against the inhumanity of fanaticism. I have been accorded similar honours in Venice and Barcelona; what is special about Paris is that it is a city with rich cultural heritage and where the freedom of expression is respected,” the author said.

“But no matter how many awards I get and honorary citizenships of cities are granted to me, I will never let go of my hope to return to my home — whether in Bangladesh or Kolkata — that provide me, the writer, the right milieu to write.”