Pakistani writer Umera Ahmed is a rarity among modern writers: she refuses to be photographed, and she rarely makes public appearances. Even her editors don’t know what she looks like. A little like Elena Ferrante, the notoriously reclusive superstar Italian novelist, but there’s more to Umera Ahmed than just being anonymous.
Umera Ahmed shone into the limelight after she started writing serialized novels for monthly Urdu digests when she was 22. Her popularity skyrocketed when her novels began to be adapted as TV series — of these, Meri Zaat Zarra-e-Benishan broke all TRP records, and is one of the most successful Pakistani TV soaps of all time (apart from selling over 1 lakh copies when first published as a novel, and now published as Nowhere Girl on Juggernaut). In fact, it displaced the Indian TV soaps that were extremely popular in Pakistan at the time. When asked what motivates her as a writer in a rare interview, she said, ‘Life. It’s the primary motivator as there is a story everywhere… I come from the small town of Sialkot in Pakistan. During pre-Partition, this town had the highest literacy rate among women. It was the city of poet Iqbal, and now people say it’s the city of Umera.’
Yet, she shuns the limelight, because she wants her books to speak for her.
Umera’s readers have long marvelled at her strong female characters — her characters live within the conservative milieu of Pakistani society, yet find love and have an innate desire to change their lives. She says, ‘The intricacies, the problems, the trials and tribulations in relationships inspire me to give words to people’s journeys. ‘ Umera’s understanding of the Pakistani middle class, and her vivid descriptions of the class consciousness are a window into the contradictions that plague Pakistani society. Although critics accuse her of portraying women in a regressive way, all her women fight back from their sufferings to redeem themselves. ‘The Pakistani woman’s image internationally is perceived to be regressive, which is not true.’
In India, she’s known because of the super-hit TV series Zindagi Gulzar Hai, which brought Pakistani TV soap romances to Indian screens; now, Indian readers will get to read her first-hand, both in English and in Hindi, only on Juggernaut. After Nowhere Girl, Man-o-Salwa, another of her books that became a TV show, is to published as the serialized novel Till Death Do Us Part this Friday.
Umera is also writing two more novels exclusively for her Indian readers on Juggernaut, which will be published both in English and in Hindi. So watch this space for more news from her!
Till Death Do Us Part will be published on the Juggernaut app on Friday.