I have been closely following the work of Farah Ahamed since April 15, 2015. "Anarkali
Or Six Deaths in Lahore" is set in contemporary Lagore, the capital of Pakistan, This marvellous story focuses on how six connected people die as a result of the corruption and deeply embedded cultural and religious prejudices in Pakistan.
The story is narrated by a twenty year old woman, a street sweeper and a Punjabi Christian. She is approached in the street by a professor from London teaching at a university in Lagore. He is researching violence against Christians and he knows most sweepers are Christians. She initially thinks he takes her for a prostitute but when he tells her he just wants to pay very her well just to answer some questions she accompanied him to a tea shop. He speaks Urdu. They form a relationship which last a year, living together before disaster strikes. He teaches her to read and introduces her to famous Urdu poets. He calls her "Anarkali", after a figure in medieval Urdu poetry.
The first person to die is one of Professor Rob's students, Jamel. A policeman come to Rob's flat, demands to know why they live together then takes them in for interrogation. With each subsequent death we are taken further into Lagore. We learn about Anarkali's family.
I really liked the structuring of the story into six segments. Reading this story I felt I was walking in the back alleys of Lagore.
From the author's website -farahahamed.com
" I am a writer and editor. My stories explore people’s lives and how they are affected by culture, religion and politics.
My novel, Days Without Sun, is about friendship and survival. It follows the challenges faced by Amanullah, a traditional sweet-maker in a run-down shop in Lahore. It was shortlisted for the 2020 Screen Craft Cinematic Book Award and a finalist for the Primadonna Award 2019.
I have also written two collections of stories, one based in East Africa, the other in Pakistan.
My work has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize (2022), the Primadonna Festival Writing Award (2019), and the Canadian CBC Books Short Story Award (2018). In addition, I was joint winner of the inaugural Gerald Kraak Award and highly commended in the London Short Story Prize.
My essays and stories have been shortlisted for The White Review Prize, The Creative Future Award, The Thresholds Essay Prize, Screen Craft Prize, SI Leeds Literary Prize, DNA/Out of Print Award, and The Asian Writer Short Story Prize. I have also been nominated for The Pushcart and Caine prizes.
My short fiction and essays have been published in The White Review, Ploughshares, The Massachusetts Review, The Mechanics’ Institute Review, and other literary journals.
I have a Diploma in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and an MA in Education. I was born in Kenya and have lived in Nairobi, Vancouver, Kampala and Bilbao. I currently live between London and Lahore."
Next month I hope to post on her short story, "Hot Mango Chutney", short listed for the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.