In this crucial time, when relations between Pakistan and India are at a sensitive stage, it has become all the more important to promote peace, positivity and love among the two nations. While the drawing of our borders years ago declared us two separate nations, at heart, a Pakistani and an Indian are the same. They are born of the same homeland and in their hearts, they carry the same love. To explore and promote that love and to reminisce the past, we decided to do something. In collaboration with White Falcon Publishing, India , Daastan launched a #WriteForPeace letter-writing campaign.
Chitti Sarhad Parr Say– a letter-writing campaign which began in January 2020. It aimed at reconciling peace across borders through letter writing which is a long-forgotten art. Writers from both countries were requested to send in their letters for the campaign as part of a contest. This activity was mainly aimed at mending the relation between Pakistan and India. Letter writing is a very personal and emotional task that requires both the reader and writer to invest in a piece of paper. By doing so today, thousands of readers and writers got a chance to feel and connect with their counterparts.
The Love We Received
We received an enormous amount of love from both countries in shape of letters that touched us deeply. Daastan processed the entries from Pakistan while the submissions from our Indian writers were handled by the good folk at White Falcon. Letters from Pakistan were submitted in English and Urdu. From a huge number of submissions, 19 were short-listed. Selecting the letters from a pool of immensely talented Pakistani writers was one of the hardest tasks we had to do. Every submission was heart-felt, and struck a cord. The entries went beyond our expectations and we got to see some highly well-articulated letters.
The Selected Entries
We decided that the selected entries deserved a book of their own. So, in collaboration with White Falcon Publishing, India, Daastan chose some of the best entries to be compiled together in book form and be published digitally on Qissa–Pakistan’s first self-publishing platform. Qissa provides local writers an opportunity to publish their work and reach readers on a wide scale. Qissa has been publishing stories and anthologies since 2016 and aims to reinstate a literary culture in Pakistan.
The entries that spoke to us (and in some cases, made us tear up!) are:
Hajra Imran Khan
Naheed Akhtar Baloch
Dr Fiaz Ahmad Dar
Ifrah Ahmed Malik
All writers showcased great skill and talent. We were moved by the gush of emotions that each letter brought with itself. Stories of pain, suffering, love and tragedy were all equally spell-bounding. A small peek into one of our short-listed letters read:
‘At the time of departure our hearts were crying. Do you know why we don’t come back? Because things never did get settled. I know you cursed me early the next morning when you came to our house for breakfast and no one was there. I know you wept bitterly when the walls and swings in my courtyard didn’t answer your questions. I know you asked every passerby about us.’
Chitti Sarhad Parr Say was an attempt in writing for peace at a time when atrocities between the two countries are increasing every day. The medium of letter writing perfectly complements the campaign as letters provide a very personal account of one’s feelings which the reader can easily relate to. The bond between the two countries is above political agendas and must be achieved so through a positive communication. We, at Daastan, promote the ideology of peace and love through words. Help us grow by sharing your stories and becoming a part of the Published writers in Pakistan simply by signing up with us @ Daastan.
The APYE is a two-weeks intensive program that aims at increasing awareness among youth about global problems and help them develop and enhance skills to combat those problems by taking initiative. Combining activity-based learning, immersion from local communities and leadership training, APYE encourages youth to take action furthering the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Daastan in APYE-2019
The theme for this year’s APYE was Sustainable Tourism and with 116 delegates from 15 countries, the competition could not get any tougher. The participants were divided into groups and had to devise applicable solutions to address some of the most pressing problems faced by Thai villages and their inhabitants.
Daastan’s CEO, Ommer Amer, leading a group of six dedicated and hardworking individuals from different countries came up with an innovative digital toolkit to help local businesses market themselves. For their unique idea, they bagged the 2nd prize at the APYE. From a cultural perspective, the experience was rich and enabled Ommer to take part in many interactive activities such as Canal Cleaning Drive, Mini marathon and Thai Cultural Dance.
Your Chance to Shine in APYE-2020
After the success at the intercultural exchange event, Daastan decided to go one step ahead and partner with APYE to provide an all-expenses paid trip for next year’s programme. We’re looking for dedicated entrepreneurs, aged 18-28. You should have a basic understanding of SDGs in Action and posses critical thinking skills. Fluency in English and strong leadership qualities are a must and specialized skills such as ability to code, design, paint, write, sing, play, build and plan using digital technology would secure you an edge!
You will be able to learn and train with the 2nd prize winner of APYE and leader of his group: our very own founder, Mr. Syed Ommer Amer for 2 days. Learning from his experience and sharpening your social entrepreneurship skills. The challenge is to win the first prize at the APYE for Pakistan! The schedule for the 2-day training is as follows:
Intro to APYE
Identifying Problem and Interview Ethics
Mock Interviews of local leaders
Regular fee including all expenses per delegate is around $2500. However, participants trained by Daastan only have to pay a non-refundable fee of 25,000 PKR— all other expenses including air fare and lodgings will be covered by us. Moreover, you can avail an additional discount of 5000 Rs by registering by 30th Sep, 2019.
Do you have what it takes to become APYE’s champion?! If so, gear up to bring the first prize home and register now by filling out this form. For more information, you can check out our Facebook event page or leave a comment down below.
Daastan’s vision for the revival of literature was never limited to the widely used language English, nor was it bound to our national language Urdu. In fact, when Daastan launched its Qissa self-publishing portal, it was one of the very first forums to recognize the need for an online tool that allows users to upload their works in regional languages such as Pashto and Punjabi. After that, the team worked hard to bring on board specialists that would help us realize the dream of thousands of writers, and breathe life back into the literature of such languages, that were heaving its last breaths. And so, Daastan finally upgraded its tool into one that accepted most of the regional languages of Pakistan.
To further this idea, Daastan in collaboration with Punjabi Parchar, launched its very firstPunjabi Writing Competition by the name of “Likh Punjabi”. Punjabi Parchar is a hub of intellectuals from the Punjabi community, that works exclusively for the preservation and promotion of Punjabi literature, art and culture. The editor of Punjabi at Daastan, Ali Usman Bajwa, helped bring them on board with us – and he also took lead on Likh Punjabi and became project manager for the module. Such a competition being held in the language which is very dear to his heart was his lifelong dream, and in Daastan the team is willing to work day and night to bring the dreams of their family to reality.
Dream Turned Reality:
Likh Punjabi became an excellent initiative to revive and rebrand Punjabi literature. It helped us reach the legendary authors who, even in this day and age, refused to part with their ancestral language. Due to this movement, we got the opportunity to work with Punjabi authors, helping them digitize their stories and tales, and preserve their work so that it could reach lands as far and wide as they wished.
Come the summer of 2018, having just successfully conducted a ground breaking season of The Stories Untold, Daastan teamed up with a few others who were also in the race to bring quality literature to their readers. Since its inception, Daastan and Qissa had scaled, and eventually launched a writing competition which was dubbed “Literati”. The team was once again taking not only Pakistan by storm, but were also slowly but surely taking over the world too. And so, to bring another round of thought-provoking stories that made one bite their nails with the anticipation of what was coming next, which would eventually lead to an unavoidable heartbreak on the part of the reader as the story would slowly draw to a close, we opened the award for participants from all over South Asia.
Literati Micro Fiction:
Literati was brought to the public in collaboration with White Falcon Publishing, a company that provided the services of self-publishing much the same way as us and encouraged quality literature to find its way to the surface, but across the border in India. Another collaborator of the micro story writing competition was Outcast, a queer lit magazine which was founded by a graduated Literary Fellow of Daastan. The authors of the micro fiction award were given a time period of one month, in which they were to write short stories with no more than 2500 words on the themes of “The Fifth Rivulet” and “Mosaiced Souls”. The themes themselves were enough to get any true storyteller thinking and dreaming in their world of imagination, spinning and weaving tales which would eventually find their way to our screens.
The award was closed a month after its launch, and all the partners were delighted to received more than a hundred submissions of gripping and awe-inspiring literature. The submissions were all carefully reviewed, and the top 20 were selected. These finalists would receive the exciting prize of seeing their work go into print, along with exclusive opportunities to further their career as a writer.
Ours is a mission to put a book in every hand, join us now to to become a part of our community of readers and writers.
The establishment of Daastan was not just a step towards bringing the writers of Pakistan a way to get themselves recognized, but rather also a resource which we wanted to utilize to help improve the educational sector of Pakistan. Ours was a mission that focused on spreading knowledge and for this goal, the team always welcomed any opportunity to engage in and positively modify the currently sorry state of education which is, more often than not, experienced by students all over Pakistan. Our Founder, Mr. Syed Ommer Amer, also has an exceptional track record when it comes to writing pieces that not only enhanced the knowledge of the children who read or interacted with it, but also quite enjoyed themselves while they were learning. A previous example of this was the animated series Teetoo and Tania, aired on PTV, the script of which was written by Mr. Ommer himself.
Daastan x Al-Huda:
Therefore, when we acquired the chance to partner with Al-Huda International in Wah Cantt, we were more than excited to get on board. The team of Daastan generated tailored content, which aimed to enhance the learning experience of the 700+ students enrolled in the school. We wanted to promote learning through storytelling, which would thoroughly capture the interest of the student listening to it and help them relate to and therefore learn from the story being read to them.
Painting the World with Words:
Daastan ran its first prototype of the said vision of proliferation of knowledge through stories, on more than a hundred students. The tale which was read to them was titled “Bakhshu Mian”, and the story was written and read by our founder himself. The story was a treasure trove which highlighted the importance of being grateful for the blessings endowed upon us, such as our eyes which help us see the light and colors. The recital was aptly written for the theme which was being celebrated in the school, which was “Color Day”, and taught the students moral values that helped them recognize their privileges over others, such as the blind people, and be thankful to Allah Almighty for them.
Want us to revamp the teaching structure of your school? Drop us an email at email@example.com and let’s start transforming the future together.
After diving headfirst into the Olympiad culture and sponsoring numerous talent hunting competitions in the span of just a few months, Daastan started attracting the attention of the big names in the community and getting invited not just to help groom the talent, but also share our experience and inspire those who might want to walk down the same path. And so, with this, we zeroed in on providing sponsorship, technical and media related support, and marketing to the literature exclusive festivals and happenings across Pakistan. The team would then help those interested find their way to their first self-published works through Qissa, empowering them to monetize their hobby and – if they chose so – to make a career out of it.
A Seminar on Feminism:
The first of such events was a seminar titled “Feminism in Language, Literature and Marketplace”, organized on Women’s Day, where Daastan’s founder, Mr. Syed Ommer Ammer, was invited as a guest speaker. Ommer shared the success stories of Ms. Laiba Sehrish Nawaz – the youngest published author of Peshawar, Ms. Lareb Soomro – the youngest published author or Sindh and Ms. Faiza Kayani a police commando who defied all odds to chase her dream and published her first book through Qissa. He also spoke about how Daastan was enabling women voice their opinions through their stories, and also gain financial independence by training them to generate revenue from their writings and connecting them to resources which can help them do so.
NUST and LUMS Literary Fests:
Just a couple weeks after that, we sponsored not only the National Literary Festival by NUST in Islamabad, but also one of the biggest campus based literary festivals in all of Pakistan, i.e. the LUMS Literary Festival 2018. Through Daastan, the literary festivals received judges to adjudicate all their competitions, discounts on all books published on Qissa, the chance to talk to our team and learn more about utilizing digital tools to help them carve their out their niche in the industry. Not only this, the winners of the LUMS Literary Festival received wild card entries to the finalists of the on-going season of ‘The Stories Untold’, through which the authors would all go into print for free through Daastan.
If you want us to sponsor you event, or provide support, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.