She’s Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s granddaughter and Benazir’s niece — part of one of the most watched political dynasties in the world. But Fatima Bhutto doesn’t let that get to her. Instead, she writes. The author of Songs of Blood and Sword was in the city on Sunday to launch her fiction debut, The Shadow of The Crescent Moon. In this interview to City Express, Fatima talks about her father’s influence on her career choice and why she will be buying idly batter by the kilos.
You have said you’ve always wanted to be a writer. But what triggered it?
My father, Murtaza Bhutto. He loved books. I must have been three or four when he first took me the library and I remember this awe at all the books. So for me, this feeling of wanting to write has always been in the family. I always asked questions and I loved speaking to people. As I got older, that didn’t go away. It was my idea of what I wanted to do always.
So he was big influence…
Yeah. He was feminist. He never said things like, ‘Don’t do this, you’re a girl’, or ‘Girls should just get married..” He always asked me what I wanted to do and then supported me. When I started writing poetry for a school project, he came home with addresses of publishers and said, now send them. I said that would be crazy, how can I? So he sat down and typed it out with me. And he never made me feel like it was crazy.
After writing poetry and non-fiction, was it a conscious decision to write fiction?
When I sat down to write, I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about. And I found that it was all coming out in fiction. The idea of women was very important to me. I wanted to talk about how we live as women in South Asia and I found the best way to do that was actually fiction. You can bring in many different voices as opposed to only your own.
So what is your favourite, after having written all three?
Fiction. Because it is more compassionate. In a non-fiction setting, you have to give the facts. With fiction, you can’t take sides. There are so many different dimensions to portray. It really changed the way I think.
Where are you off to next?
Mumbai, for the next leg of the tour. And then home. I’ll doing some shopping for idly batter in between.
Idly batter? Really?
Yes, I love idlys! So do people back home. South Indian food is quite popular in Pakistan, because of all the spices. People ask me to bring them idly batter if I tell them I’m going to South India. This time, it was a family friend in Peshawar. So I’m not leaving Chennai without it.