Wednesday Books — Fiza Pathan, The Reclusive Writer and Reader of Bandra #RRBC #Bookreview

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Crystal with Fiza's book
Crystal with Fiza’s book. Now she wants to go to India…

Welcome to the second installment of Wednesday Books! These are the reviews I agreed to do as part of my membership in the Rave Reviews Book Club (RRBC).

As I’ve said previously, I don’t think of myself as a book reviewer.  However, I’ll do my version of a “review.”  This time I really stepped outside my preferred fantasy genre and read a collection of personal essays.  The book is by Fiza Pathan, and it is called “The Reclusive Writer and Reader of Bandra.”  When Fiza described how libraries and bookshops became her sanctuary, how could I resist? She also includes those places and more throughout the book.

I read a lot of non-fiction with blogs and with the research I do for various things, but not usually for pleasure.  So understand that it is a very high compliment to the author’s ability — for me to sit down and enjoy this kind of book.  Fiza has many books available, but this is the first time I had read her work.  You can find them at her Amazon author page.

This fun photo of the author with a stack of books is from her Facebook page.  I wanted to give her this fantasy background of all the bookshelves towering into the sky. 

Fiza Pathan with books.
Fiza Pathan. Background by Pixabay, image altered by Teagan Geneviene

I thought it would be fun to ask Fiza a couple of questions about specific things related to the book.

Questions for Fiza

1)  Choose one library, bookstore, etc. mentioned in your book, and tell my readers a particular detail (about the building, setting, atmosphere, or other) that you liked and why. 

I have always loved my school library. I studied at Bombay Scottish School (BSS), an I.C.S.E school which is in Mahim, in the beautiful city of Mumbai, India. I was introduced to my first classic Dracula by Bram Stoker in this place by the BSS librarian Mrs. Ratnaswami. One detail about the place which many people in the school as well as many students don’t know about is – that it has secret passages.

There are many secret passages, hidden doors behind bookcases, trap doors and hidden rooms in the BSS library. I have used these secret passages to enter the library without being caught by the teachers of the school.

I hated school, but I loved and worshipped my school library. I used these secret passages not only to enter but even escape from the library. I have been saved many a time from being caught reading during school hours in the library but always managed to escape through these passages, especially the secret doors. I used to hide away from the teachers & students in the school in this library. There are quite a few trap doors that I used to navigate to & from the library.

Teagan:  I’ve always been infatuated with secret passages. How wonderful!  Do tell us more, Fiza.

Sorry, no more details than that. I don’t want to let out these secret locations. This is to ensure that if there is any other little book worm in the BSS library who has stumbled onto these secret passages, their secret is safe with me.

However, I can tell you the history of these secret passages. It’s simple; the school has undergone a lot of changes over the past 167 years since its inception. The library was once the boarding house of the boys in the school, which was once an orphanage for British and Scottish children. It has since changed in several ways leading to hidden passages which were once real doors to different parts of the school.

Once Mrs. Ratnaswami, Aruna — the BSS library staff helper, and I stumbled upon a secret stone hiding place. Inside it was a stash of old novels, short story collections, school notebooks, et al., of a young British orphan boy who lived in the orphanage. All the books were printed in the late 19th century and smelled deliciously old. I don’t know what became of them, but I got to read the books – they were fun reads.

So, secret passages are the one feature of my school library at BSS which I love the most.  Perfect hiding and escape routes for a reclusive and highly introverted book phoenix like me! 

bookcase Scred Passage Door bricks Pixabay
Pixabay
2) Who was an interesting, intriguing person, or just an odd stranger you met at one of the places in this book?

Once at the Victoria library-cum-second-hand bookstore run by the younger of the Merchant brothers, Mr. Arif Merchant, I ran into a very odd old man. He smelt of stale cigarette smoke and Earl Grey tea. He had come to sell off his used books to Arif sir. He had a whole cloth bag full of them. He was a left-handed man, a Muslim gentleman with a henna dyed dark brownish red beard. He had the usual run of thrillers in his dirty moth smelling cloth bag – books by James Patterson, Jefferey Archer, David Baldacci, Lee Child, Arthur Hailey, Mary Higgins Clark, Jo Nesbo, the usual.

He had a face that seemed to be etched to the bone with wrinkles. His hands were mere bones and his grey veins were prominent. Sadly, I saw that he was a drug addict – his puncture holes were visible for all to see. Some of the holes were so used up that they seemed to take some bizarre coal black shapes.

I was the one who bought some of the books from him. He spoke fluent Queen’s English. He sold them to me through Arif sir at dirt cheap prices – Indian Rupees twenty for a novel. We didn’t speak but I was mesmerized by the puncture marks in both his inner elbows.

He saw me looking at him but didn’t comment. He was frail as the wing of a dove. He was tanned and in many places on his right hand, the injection had left ugly scars where it had remained after he had shot himself.

But he had really great books. And more than that, he had eyes like Bambi.

I remember him well because he left many memorabilia in the books he sold to me – hand painted bookmarks, newspaper cuttings from the 1980s, a plane ticket of Indigo Airlines, many spatters of blood on the pages of the book, a bill of fare from a foreign book shop, an old library card from the University of Mumbai, a piece of a crow’s feather, and so much else.

The library card had his photograph and name, but I can’t divulge that information. It was the library card of a handsome, robust and younger Muslim man – a shadow of the person he had now become.

I liked him because of his injection puncture wounds.

They were like body art, the body art of a silent scream of pain.

Teagan:  What a vivid portrait you just painted, Fiza.  Beautifully told.

The Reclusive Reader and Writer of Bandra cover
The Reclusive Reader and Writer of Bandra, by Fiza Pathan

Now, I’ll get to this review.

Here’s an excerpt from the blurb at Amazon

Click here for more details.

This book of personal essays documents the relationship Fiza Pathan has had with the many libraries, secondhand bookshops, boutique bookstores, and writing haunts that have made her into the writer, publisher, and teacher she is today. Fiza believes that she is an amalgamation of the books she has read over nearly twenty-seven years and the places that have provided her with excellent reading material.

Places have a way of making us into the people we become, and we take them along with us wherever we go. But what if all of those places are libraries, bookshops, and writing huts? What if you have used these places as launching pads to get to destinations beyond what you can see–places in your mind. And what if these places within you have defined the recluse you are–the recluse who has actually lived a thousand lives.

My Review

Fiza Pathan The Reclusive Writer and Reader of Bandra 2020
The Reclusive Writer & Reader of Bandra by Fiza Pathan

Many of us know how it is to have a moment of feeling unwanted. A few of us know what it’s like to experience that at a profound, core level. Some of us keep those feelings stomped down, denied, ignored, carrying the weight of it for decades. This author has transformed her pain into a passion for reading, a love of books, libraries, and bookstores. The mark life has emblazoned on her heart became a light that shines in this collection of essays.

When I saw the word “reclusive” in the title, I knew I had to read this book.  It was not about me expecting to like it or not, it was an intuitive reaction. Besides, calling me a recluse would be an understatement!

Even so, I always enjoyed meeting people who were different from me, hearing their stories, learning about their day-to-day life. Reading this book felt like visiting all the bookstores and other places the author mentions, not just with a friend, but with a friend whose true thoughts you got to see.

Ms. Pathan paints the scenes simply yet vividly. Here’s one example.

“The women who sit at the temple’s entrance with their cows now know me well, and look at each other when I carry off a jute bag full of books to the waiting taxi.”

I could see, hear, and smell that scene. This book is very well written. I don’t say that lightly. Remember I had a long career as an editor, working for senior-level executives. It’s also personable. Despite the pain it conveys, it is also imbued with the warmth of this author’s personality.

I freely recommend this book.

Fiza, I appreciate the time you’ve spent here today.  Wishing you huge success with The Reclusive Writer & Reader of Bandra, and all your books.  I look forward to reading more of them.

Thanks to everyone for visiting. I love your comments, so be sure to stop and say hello. I hope you will also visit Fiza.  Hugs on the wing!

 

Copyright © 2020 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved. 

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or provided by free sources, unless stated otherwise.

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or provided by free sources, unless stated otherwise.

 


47 thoughts on “Wednesday Books — Fiza Pathan, The Reclusive Writer and Reader of Bandra #RRBC #Bookreview

  1. Hi Teagan, I am only beginning to learn about book reviews and how they play a huge role in bringing attention to great books. I don’t really know anything about the subject of reviewing, yet I do think, if you are a book reader, you are a book reviewer. My amateur take on this subject.

    I can relate to how libraries and book shops are sanctuaries. This is an amazing review, Teagan! You are speaking to the ‘average’ reader. Me.

    Wonderful questions for Fiza. I loved Fiza’s answers and learning more about her.

    Fiza, you could turn your fascinating answers into a book.

    Teagan, you have written a very thorough and thoughtful review. I have put Fiza’s book on my reading list. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! Crystal’s treat is a bite of butter. So I will give her an extra bite and make sure she knows it is from you, Michael. I’m very glad you enjoyed this post.
      I went around my little town with a friend this morning, just doing errands. My back was very painful while walking around, but doing so also helps it afterward. It was a good morning. Now I will try for the calming down part. Thanks for visiting, my friend. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can see why Fiza books appealed to you. Her real life stories of secret passage ways and a man with junkie artwork sound like a magical world. What a great writer. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you on both counts, Dan! 😀
      Other times when I’ve tried to stage Crystal with a book, she’s been a little annoyed. She actually seemed interested in this one.
      To me this was better than just reading about a faraway place. I enjoyed seeing it through Fiza’s eyes and in the context that she gave it. Hugs on the wing!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Olga. Months ago, Lavinia pointed out something about all the WordPress issues. For unknown reasons, WordPress is using up huge percentages of a computer’s “resources” — much more than it did a year ago. It’s no wonder we all have so many *different* problems with it.
      I’m delighted you enjoyed this post. Hugs on the wing!

      Like

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