"Another famous writer I met and was enchanted by was none other than the author of the sensational book My Feudal Lord."
Shobhaa De - Writer's Autobiography
'She arrived like a queen in exile--- luminous, beautiful and completely unadorned. She didn't require jewelry or fine clothes. Her presence and beauty was sufficient. When we entered the main party zone together, a hush fell over the gathering as guests stopped talking or drinking to stare.
I'm sure she was accustomed to this reaction. She pretended not to notice as she took my hand and we started to walk through the crowd.
The interesting thing was that nobody made eye contact with Tehmina…The silence was another thing.
Tehmina obviously knew her way around this monstrous house. She summoned a waiter, ordered a bottle of red wine and asked for it to be sent to one of the numbered suites. ‘We can talk in peace there,' she smiled. I was bewitched. Her voice was smoky and musical—a little like Meena Kumari's. Her large lustrous eyes were
carelessly kohl-lined. She wore a crumpled white kurta pajama with a white dupatta thrown over her shoulder like an afterthought. Silver...I remember flashes of dull, antique silver; could have been bracelets, or earrings. I took to her instantly. And she to me (I think, I hope). We settled down in an impersonal room which resembled a business centre, I'd been told she had a band of devotees who hang around her every evening and generally protect her from the real world. Tehmina saloon. How appropriate.
The Collette of Lahore. The Anais Nin of the subcontinent.
Others had sneered 'She can't write, she's no intellectual'. Her book was written by someone else.
What did it matter? The voice was unmistakable her's. That was easy enough to tell after the first few minutes.
The story was her. The experience was her. The nightmares too. And that was all that counted—at least for me.
She knew the host. The wife was her friend and admirer. But she avoided parties like this one. I could see why. We talked all too briefly. It was nearly 3 am. Dilip and I had a flight to catch the next day and yet, even that abbreviated encounter was enough. I felt enormous warmth for this fragile figure curled up on a settee sipping wine and talking in a soft melodious tone. Here was a woman who could so easily have projected herself as a tragedy queen, a martyr. Instead, she was putting her life together rather bravely, perhaps defiantly. Even the most refined educated and the wealthy families continue to function in a manner so feudalistic, it makes one squirm; on the surface everything appears sophisticated and smooth—the gorgeous trophy wives, the urbane husbands in Armani suits, the luxurious living. But beneath the surface, everything is as sour as the special achchar (pickle) served with biryani (rice). It was all rather too decadent and depressing. Yet, Tehmina had managed to bloom in that murky, incestuous environment. And raise a family. I don't really care who writes her books. I read My Feudal Lord, practically in one go.
An autographed copy had been delivered to our host's home minutes before we were to leave for the airport. I read the affectionate message inscribed in it and knew it was meant.'