If you are a bookworm active on Facebook, there is very little chance of you not knowing about Bookay! But let’s not take that chance. Bookay is the virtual hub for literary activity in Pakistan. Throughout the years, Bookay has been providing a platform for literary enthusiasts to join their heads in thoughtful discussion, debate and sometimes a war of opinions! Right when you think you know it all, you step into the world of Bookay only to be amused by the immense amount of knowledge around you.
Daastan has had strong ties with the Bookay family for quite a while now. In 2018, Daastan published an anthology compiled by the writers of Bookay called Bookay 2018. You can read the book here.
To celebrate this mutual love for books and literature, Daastan is paying tribute to a few Bookay members. What better way to start off this feature series than with the ‘Bookay Guy’ Hasan Saeed?
Hasan Saeed — The Bookay Guy
Let me repeat, if you’re a part of bookay, there is a very little chance of you not knowing Hasan Saeed. But let’s not take that chance. Hasan Saeed is one of the admins of Bookay. If the odds play well in his favour, he’d love to write a series of letters that he’s working on. Let us find out more about him, in his own words!
Q. Tell us a little about yourself, who is Hasan Saeed?
To be honest, I am more famously known as the Bookay Guy due to being the admin of the online book club, Bookay. Apart from this, I am currently working at Invest2Innovate in Islamabad as a research associate. Recently, I have started two podcasts focusing on history and literature; and always trying to find time to read a book on my ever growing TBR list.
Q.What is the last book you read? How do you decide what to read?
The last book that I read was the Ministry of Utmost Happiness and I loved it. It does drag somewhat in the middle but Roy ties up everything well in the end and finishes strongly. I like to call myself an eclectic reader. While I might have a few favorite authors, I don’t adhere to a specific genre or bestseller lists. I will be randomly browsing a website, a bookstore or even social media. Sometimes I like the book because of its title, story on the back or the cover. This has led to some fantastic books over the years.
Q. What is one book you think all book lovers must read and why?
I will admit that this is a very difficult question to ask because there is never one book – only a never ending list. The book that I read, which left an impact on me, (there have been many but this one is slightly more recent) ‘The Footprints of Partition‘. I feel that this book should be mandatory reading in the Indian Subcontinent and highly relevant in our current environment. As long as we don’t address and acknowledge partition, we will be stuck in this never ending vicious cycle.
Q. If you could be friends with a character in a book, who would it be and why?
This is difficult to answer because there are multiple characters that I have loved and it will be disrespectful to pick one. I think it would be Sirius Black because I empathize with him. His arc in the Harry Potter series was one of my favorites and we might have a lot in common.
Q. Have you ever written or tried writing a book? Do you think of publishing your work some day?
Yes, I have tried to write a book on multiple occasions and each time, I have barely made it past a page or two. I am still at it and if it is good enough, I will be honored if a publishing house takes a chance on me.
Q. What challenges do you think do Pakistani writers face?
This is a loaded question because in my experience as an admin on Bookay and interactions with multiple writers, there are multiple issues that are interwoven together. The first is the lack of publishing houses within the country. There are multiple houses that publish novels but they aren’t accessible to everyone. Secondly, limited readers. While we have more readers than people think but they aren’t as many as they should be and coupled with lack of PR, it makes it difficult for writers to break through. Third reason is slightly tricky and it is tied to the first two, there aren’t many bookstores. It is difficult for people to know that these books exist. Now, we have social media and new publishing houses such as Dastaan and this could be a game changer.
Q. Lastly, If you start to write a book today, what would it be about?
I actually have a few ideas and hopefully, I will be able to write some more on them. I have already written a series of letters in a historical aspect such as Pakistan writing a letter to India, Punjab to Punjab and one to Manto. Hopefully, there are more to come.
This was the ‘Bookay Guy’ for you all! We loved getting to know him better. We wish Hasan the best of luck for his future endeavours and hope that he fulfills his dream of publishing a book someday! You can read the Bookay anthology here.
The best way to equip ourselves for future endeavors is training our youth so that they understand the importance of innovation and leadership. Team Daastan has always believed that opportunities for growth and exposure bring out the best in people. And we love being able to put in our part in shaping the future.
When our youth has a firm knowledge of the needs of their people and are equipped with talent and skills, they can find workable solutions to social problems. By doing so, they bring about change and betterment in society. Fortunately, in the last few years we have witnessed an increase in opportunities for learning—taking the shape of competitions, conferences and workshops. These youth empowerment ventures are doing some great work and creatingsocial entrepreneursout of promising individuals.
Markhor—a Youth Leadership Conference
At the forefront of this youth empowerment movement are organizations like Markhor hosted by Youth Impact. They enable individuals to learn and grow by putting them in the middle of real-life situations. Markhor is Pakistan’s “premium wilderness-based youth leadership conference” which combines various learning experiences to offer a wholesome and holistic experience.
At the 5-day conference, you spend your days learning about social entrepreneurship and then applying those teachings to solve real-life problems. Right there, at the spot! What better way to learn then to put your learnings into practice and internalize the experience? The conference aims towards self-exploration, social activism, instilling the Markhor spirit, creating sustainable change through social entrepreneurship and encouraging creative thinking.
Daastan’s Role in Training the Youth
In an adventure-packed wilderness experience at the beautiful Makra Peak, Shogran, Markhor provides its participants with a board of keynote speakers, successful social entrepreneurs, international CEO’s and philanthropists. These professionals share their experiences, recount their hardships and impart snippets of useful knowledge that will help the leaders of tomorrow succeed in their future ventures.
Daastan’s CEO, Syed Ommer Amer was invited as one of the speakers of the panel to talk about story telling. We all have a story to tell but most of the time, we do not articulate it well-enough. The words that form so beautifully in our mind, come out incoherent when we’re speaking in front of large groups of people. Add to that the usual time limit that is imposed to speak and the pressure builds exponentially!
Syed Ommer Amer, who is an award-winning social entrepreneur and an excellent public speaker, told participants how to master the art of telling your story. He has spoken at various national and international public forums and is a staunch supporter of youth activism and empowerment. Through Daastan, he has been able to provide opportunities for more than 5000 writers. He has helped writers get their word across borders, monetize their work and create a fan base for their future works.
For this event, Daastan collaborated with Youth Impact, which is a non-profit organization combining various forms of learning such as Outdoor Education and Society Programs to bring out the best in youngsters and shape them into purposeful leaders.
Daastan has organized some of Pakistan’s most exciting writing competitions, offering prizes and opportunities for growth to the winners. Our competitions have helped us gather an army of talented writers. We have also had the honor of publishing the best works, especially from the winning submissions of The Stories Untold.
One of our competitions that we organized in the summer of 2018 was in collaboration with White Falcon Publishing and Outcast Magazine. The competition was titled the ‘South Asian Award for Micro Fiction, Literati‘. The themes of this competition were ‘The Fifth Rivulet‘ and ‘Mosaiked Souls‘. After receiving hundreds of submissions the first time, we decided to hold another season of the same competition again!
This time around, we received an even more overwhelming number of submissions from all over South Asia, on the themes of ‘Folklore Retold’ and ‘Apocalypse-The End of Humans’. The pool of South Asia’s most creative and daring writers came up with jaw-droppingly brilliant ideas that awed our judges. Daastan was happy to see submissions from some of its veteran writers and even more thrilled to spot new faces.
From over a hundred submissions, we chose our Top 20 finalists and set out to interview them! We wanted to know what the most innovative and imaginative minds in South Asia were like. The interviews included questions about their likes and dislikes, the hardships they had faced and their very first reads. We also took suggestions from them regarding opportunities for writers in South Asia. It was great getting to know our writers in person.
How Writing Competitions Help Writers Grow
One constant that we noticed in these interviews was that all of them had, at one point, suffered from the lack of opportunities in the writing industry. This ever-expanding void stunted their growth in the field of writings and became a big hindrance in their path to becoming professionals.
Team Daastan recognizes the need to help writers realize their dream and monetize their work. To convert a simple hobby into a way of earning and growing. We believe that earning recognition and appreciation for their works helps encourage writers to go forward and become strong-minded individuals who influence society positively through writing.
Want to get published by us? Upload your manuscript on Qissa! For more information, we are always ready to listen at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the summer of 2015, Ommer Amer, a then-budding writer from Wah was searching for a publisher for his first novel, The Forbidden Story. However, at that time, quality Pakistani publishers were almost non-existent. Disappointed by the lack of a proper platform to launch and market his book, Ommer decided to do something about the matter. With the help of 2 friends, Hafsa Idrees and Tahniat Saba, Ommer Amer founded Daastan—a self-publishing platform that would give access to all Pakistani writers to get their written word out into the world. And thus, we began our “daastan”.
Team Daastan has a dream—to help writers monetize their work, earn from their talent and grow Pakistan’s literary space. At a time where a large number of people, especially the youth, is tech oriented, the best way to thrive was through the internet. Ommer and his team turned to Plan9 and the startup was incubated in one of its 2015 batches. After a six-month incubation period, it took off and soared to greater heights. We went through a roller coaster of experiences—some good, some bad and some absolutely mind-blowing! (Like when we bagged the 2nd prize on an international platform)
Operating under Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), Plan9 is Pakistan’s first tech startup incubator that started in September 2012. A business incubator works as a catalyst between dedicated and enthusiastic groups with unique ideas and help them to start their businesses. It provides funds from interested investors and services including office space and training.
Plan9 is one of its kind; providing its selected candidates (picked twice every year from a pool of 15 groups) with training from its experienced board, working space with computers, internet access, and even electricity so that Pakistan’s power shortage does not become a hurdle for budding startups. It has launched 130+ tech startups in Pakistan, with a vision of each business making a mark on international levels. The startups by Plan9 are gross valued at $70 million and they have raised a gross investment of $2.5 million
PITB’s tech incubator is led by founder, Dr. Umar Saif who
is also Chairman, PITB alongside Nabeel A. Qadeer, Director Entrepreneurship
and Enterprise Development, PITB.
Daastan upon its Graduation from Plan9
Since it’s incubation, Daastan has surpassed the expectations of many. Shortly after its graduation from Plan9, Daastan arranged a massive caused based letter writing campaign. Students from different schools and UET Taxila wrote letters to the Army. At the Brand Launch of Daastan in Arfa Technology ParkMughees Anwar and Rutaba Yaqub spoke as guest speakers. By the end of 2015, we had organized a number of important literary events such as the Daastan Literary Fest.
2016 was a roller coaster year for Daastan! Filled with endless work despite night and day, we organized out first ever big scale competition, The Stories Untold Season 1. Luckily, we received an overwhelming response. Soon, Daastan launched Qissa—Pakistan’s first self-publishing digital platform, enabling writers from all over the world to publish their books with a few clicks! Qissa garnered appreciation from writers and businesses alike and revolutionized self-publishing as we know it. But that’s not all! Team Daastan kept breaking through barriers by launching its very own Literary Fellowship which would bring together literary activists from all over Pakistan.
Today, Daastan is the biggest self-publishing house in Pakistan. We are working towards the betterment of the country by increasing readership and bringing the works of previously unpublished authors to light. We have helped writers monetize their work, turned passions into careers. Our team has held worldwide competitions, launched businesses, made a space in the media and much more. From one person’s dream, we have transformed into an army of readers and writerswith an unshakable will to rejuvenate literature in Pakistan.
#WeToo is Daastan’s Story Writing campaign based on Sexual and Reproductive health issues. The aim behind this campaign is to promote Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) in Pakistan. In many countries including Pakistan, discussing Sexual and Reproductive health issues is considered a taboo. Seeking medical help is out of question for many. A huge amount of people living in Rural areas lack even the basic knowledge regarding SRHR. Story writing is a powerful tool to help spread awareness. We are thankful to our writers who always participate enthusiastically in our campaigns and invite you all to be a part of our cause.
What is SRHR and #WeToo?
#WeToo is the name of our story writing campaign. It derives its meaning from the context of #metoo – sexual harrasment campaign. #WeToo focuses on how men and women are not allowed to share their sexual and reproductive health issues simply because it is considered shameful. SRHR stands for Sexual Reproductive Health Rights. Sexual health is the physical, mental and social security of men and women. Sexual rights are the rights associated with one’s sexuality,sexual privacy and pleasure. Each one of us has a right to make descisions for ourselves. Marriage does not give your partner the right to dictate your sexual life and this needs to be accepted and respected.
Reproductive health rights are the basic rights to decide for your reproductive capability. Deciding when and if to have children is your right. Couples should be allowed to mutually decide and carry out family planning. Seeking medical help and consultation and not being discriminated against for doing so is also part of your reproductive rights.
Details of #WeToo
We are looking for authentic stories that highlight the harsh realities we face in Pakistan. Domestic abuse, marital rape, having no consent in family planning, being harrased online by threats to leak your private information or pictures on the internet are all around us. We witness these stories on a day to day basis but in whispers and private chats. By bringing these stories to the forefront, we want to show support to the victims and make the perpetrators feel threatened. We hope to educate our public on what their rights are so that next time they are being shamed, they know how to defend themselves.
Word limit for the story writing competition is 1500-2000 words. You can have a look at the themes and submit your stories on this link. If you support our cause and want to be a part of something meaningful, sign up with us today and play your part. Every voice matters!
Covid-19 has had a huge impact on human life. Health and economy however, are not the only key areas that are suffering. In a country like Pakistan where we were already struggling to increase literacy rates, Online schooling has further aggravated the situation. The private/public system divide is sharper than ever. Social media is flooded with parents asking each other to find the perfect solution for home-schooling their children. To make this quest easier for you parents, Daastan has come up with a number of online-schooling options that majority of the parents suggested online.
Top 4 Online Schooling Platforms In Pakistan
Our research team took rounds of social media. We read posts from parents, fished through the comment sections and came up with a small list of what appears to be the most authentic online schooling options available for you. In no order, here are the 4 online teaching platforms that you should try for your kids!
Robo Minors offer coding courses that enable your children to think critically, learn problem-solving and take actions independently. Machine language is an essential skill for the next generation. Equip your children with relevant knowledge and skills to prepare them for tomorrow.
2. Khan Academy Kids
Khan Academy Kids provide a Free teaching programme designed to promote learning in a fun manner. Targeting children aged 2 to 7, Khan Academy courses are diverse and cover the wide range of interests your child could possibly develop.
IXL offers learning programs from Pre-kindergarten to grade twelve. They have a variety of skills for each standard. A comprehensive curriculum is designed to make sure your child develops a good understanding of all fields of knowledge.
4. Educational Resource Development Center (ERDC)
ERDC, based in Karachi offers learning programs for children and training programs for parents and teachers. Through training parents and teachers, they allow them to better understand the educational needs of today’s children and help them teach their own kids at home during quarantine.
This is a resource for all those seeking to educate their children at home. However, we must not forget the fact that our children will have no bright future in a country where 50% of the population remains un-educated. We understand that parents are concerned about the education of their children, but we by no means imply that this is a viable solution. Families who cannot afford online schooling must be catered to, in order to ensure a bright future for our country.
For more resources and information regarding education, learning or publishing, Join Daastan today and be a part of our community. Let us grow together!