- By writing a book on HIRA MANDI, your name is bound to become a prominent one in Pakistan, hence a need to know more about you, and peep into your past accomplishments. Please share this with our viewers.
- What triggered your interest into this aspect of Lahore; any major obstacles that you encountered.
- To what extent does this trade rely on affluent men? And do they realize the misery they create,because of their desires,surely their approach to life is distorted and devoid of feelings of respect for the feminine ones.
- When did you start writing this book, and along the way in what language did you communicate with the dancing girls and how did you encourage then to lay bare their feelings so that you could portray them, the way you have done?
- The pimps of Hira Mandi have a major role to play in luring pleasure seekers/ and driving the activity to a pitch. How was your interaction with them and did you indulge in counseling them?
- You refer to Iqbal Mustafa as your dearest friend in Pakistan. Coming from you that appears to be a wonderful compliment that needs to be highlighted. So please let us know more about him.
- Do you have plans to translate this book in Urdu? A lot of publishers in Pakistan will be willing to do that. A lot of the characters in your book would love to go through your sensitive portrayal of life in this notorious centre of prostitution.
- What are your future plans about writing on Lahore or Pakistan itself?
End of school, I settle in Paris, where for me is the True Life. I study egyptology at the School of the Louvre, French Litterature at Sorbonne University and history of art at the Art Institute. Since a teenager, my two passions are: writing and travelling. I find a job as a student to finance my first travels around the world. If I do not know what I will do later, I know exactly what kind of life I do not want. I quickly learn how destiny is linked to the people you meet. In Bombay, I cross the road of a couple journalist/photographer who works for the US version of Geo magazine.
They are on assignment to feature the Red Line District. They invite me to follow then. That experience changed my life. I decide to become a journalist. Back to Paris, I force Geo's doors and publish my first articles. Then begin my long journey through the world. As a journalist, I have always been a freelance, writing for press magazines in France and abroad. Then during 10 years, I worked for television channel 3, producing documentaries on topics all around the world. I published my first book, a biography of an egyptologist, in 1996. It happened to be a bestseller. Since I have been published 12 others books. Two novels included "Hira Mandi".
My first journey to Pakistan was in 1988 where I spent five months travelling all over the country with my husband Cyril who is a photographer. When we arrived to Lahore, we settled in the Old City, in Youssef Salahuddin haveli. During 3 weeks, we discovered Hira Mandi and met many dancing girls. I was very touched by the difficult life of those women, their courage and their kindness. In the misd of them we also met Iqbal Hussein, son of a dancing girl who has become a famous painter.
I had a lot of admiration for this man who has been intelligent, courageous and talented enough to transend his miserable back ground. From that time, I was dreaming to come back and write a book about Hira Mandi. In 2003, I settled ther for 2 months and I wrote the book that has been published in France in 2006. I always received deep warmth and hospitality from the people of this era.
Today Hira Mandi does not exist any more. It has becoming a « food street » ! In 1988, the four streets of Hira Mandi were full of men from 11pm to 1am in the night. I don’t think they really think about the misery of the dancing girls. They use them and have no real respect for them as women and human being.
I began writing the book when I was In Lahore in 2003. As they all spoke punjabi, Iqbal Hussein has been my perfect translator. And because of Iqbal, they trusted me and opened easely. Usely they refused to open to medias. In my case, they had confidence in me.
Non, pimps have meanly no role in Hira Mandi. The prostitution is ruled by women belonging to Kanjar Caste for generation. The women gave bith to as many girls as possible to perpetuate the dancing leaneage. Boys are not welcome in this community.
Iqbal Hussein is the key of the book. Without his help, the book woudn’t have existing. The main caracter of the book is inspired by Iqbal but of course it is not his biography. I always had a great admiration for him as a generous, couragous human being. He was strong enough to pusch himself out of his poor background to become a great artist.
Of course I wish the book should be translated into Urdu. I am working on the project.
I will come back soon to Pakistan as I am now working on an other book on the country to which I am very much attached.