Bangladeshi author, Shazia Omar, known for her novel, Like a Diamond in the Sky, has written a second novel, Dark Diamond, released by Bloomsbury India. Shazia is known in Dhaka for her active participation in the literary scene since 2006, when she started Writers Block, a creative writing group that gave rise to stars such as Saad Z. Hossain (Baghdad Immortals), Srabonti Narmeen Ali (Hope in Technicolor), Munize Manzur, Sadaf Saaz, Farah Ghuznabi, Samir “Shabash” Rahman, and many more. To collect Shazia Omar’s books online, visit Bookworm Bangladesh.
Here is some eye-catching part from the interview with Shazia Omar.
NEWS HOUR: Tell us about your new book. Is it a sequel to the last one?
Shazia Omar: No it’s not a sequel. It’s a very different story, a different genre even. Dark Diamond is an adventure novel about Shayista Khan, the Mughal Viceroy of Bengal in 1685. It is a historical fantasy set in Dhaka, or more specifically, Lal Bagh Fort where Subedar Shayista Khan is our swash-buckling hero. Facing unending rounds of enemies, Shayista tries to break free of a cursed diamond and save Bengal.
NEWS HOUR: Why did you choose to write about Shayista Khan?
Shazia Omar: There were a few reasons. I find the Mughal era a fascinating mix of art, culture, beauty and war. I didn’t study history in school so I saw this as an opportunity to read up on a period I was interested in. Also, my father is from Lal Bagh, so I visited the Lal Bagh Quilla many times. Shayista’s story was intriguing but not much is written about him. The more I dug in, the more excited I became, because what I found was an incredible character. I am glad to see children at school are studying Bangla history, and it would be wonderful to see more engaging material produced in Bengal to bring those periods to life. I find it sad that most of our accounts of history go only so far back as the 1971 war, but we have much deeper roots, rich ancestors, a legacy.
NEWS HOUR: What legacy did Shayista Khan leave?
Shazia Omar: he was a successful leader and took Bengal to its peak. Dhaka was epic; a centripetal force of commerce and culture. He believed in plurality, poetry and progressive thinking. However, many of the enemies he fought continue to plague us in present day Bengal. We are playing out many of the same battles, in slightly altered forms.
NEWS HOUR: Who are these enemies?
Shazia Omar: They are forces that oppose progress. For example, The Corporation is an institution that just began to bear its ferocious fangs in 1685 and Shayista khan tried to fight it. He tried to defend the local economy and the artisans of the land from the East India Company and parasitic zamindars. Today, we find international buyers bleeding our garments girls dry through rich garment company owners. In much the same way. The social model has not changed. Shayista Khan also fought the Ulema which had become radicalized and intolerant under the influence of Aurangzeb and was trying to suppress freedom of expression and thought. Today I am encouraged to see that the people of Bangladesh are trying to fight radical forces, but one must ponder over the geo-political forces that fuel this endemic battle so that it continues across eras and consider how better to truly lay the grounds for a loving and compassionate nation. Finally, Shayista Khan battles his own demons of desire, attachments and aversions.
NEWS HOUR: You also have a novel called Intentional Smile: A Girl’s Guide to Positive Living?
Shazia Omar: Yes, it is a mind-body-spirit book about happiness. It is illustrated by artist Lara Salam, who has worked with the likes of studios such as Disney. She is very talented and her feel-good art makes the book come to life. it is co-authored by Merrill Khan, a school counselor and a life coach. This book explores a handful of tools and techniques to feel optimistic, empowered and abundant. We delve lightly into eastern healing techniques such as Yoga, Pranayama, Emotional Freedom Tapping and Acupressure. The book is meant for girls and women of all ages and includes work pages that help readers explore within and a set of chakra meditation cards. Intentional Smile is available from bookworm.
NEWS HOUR: You are a yoga teacher, right? is there anything you would like to tell the readers about staying healthy and happy?
Shazia Omar: Good health is a result of nurturing a light and flexible mind, body and spirit. There are many methods and practices to help people stretch, relax and release toxins. perhaps as important is to be aware of what we put into our system – in terms of food, thoughts, experiences. according to all wisdom traditions, living in a consumerist reality pivoted on the premise that wealth measures success and luxury goods represent the apex of human experience, will lead to stress, not true happiness. thought training, an attitude of gratitude, love and compassion seem to be the real paths to happiness and health.
NEWS HOUR: Are you working on a new novel?
Shazia Omar: Sure! It’s about Enlightenment. Stay tuned.