What is the book about?
Precocious, little Lenny Sethi is fascinated by the Ice Candy Man who flirts incessantly with Shanta, her ayah. When Lahore is declared part of Pakistan, a spate of migrations, conversions and violence erupt in the city. Lenny witnesses the Ice Candy Man's transformation, as he revels in the carnage unfolding on the streets. Lenny is then deceived by him into revealing Shanta's whereabouts and along with a group of marauders, he abducts Shanta. Lenny's godmother, Roda, becomes her bulwark and rights the wrong caused by Lenny's truthfulness.
Who is it by?
Bapsi Sidhwa's is one of the definitive voices of the Indian subcontinent. Her novels, written in English, have been translated into several languages. Sidhwa is, much like her polio-afflicted protagonist Lenny, a Zoroastrian of Pakistani origin and the city of Lahore is central to many of her novels.
Why should I read it?
Also called Cracking India, the book vividly captures the bestial violence that erupted during the Partition as witnessed by Lenny. Sidhwa wonderfully captures Lenny's voice, with all its petulance, raw frankness and stirring sensitivity. Ice Candy Man has also been made into a movie, Earth, by Deepa Mehta.
An edited version of the article was published in Culturama's August 2012 Issue.