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.
Ummara Yousaf is a 35-year old, mother of one, upcoming author, who recently penned down her first ever book “Journey to an Ultimate Legitimacy”. Our team of editors was highly impressed with how Ummara had given shape to some of the most beguiling questions humans have ever asked.
So, we decided to sit down with Ummara Yousaf and have a chat about how she came about writing this book. And what was her journey like. What followed was an engaging discussion. So let’s dive into the interview for a dose of spirituality, finding the inner self and questioning the world around us!
Why don’t you start with telling us a bit about yourself and your book?
U: Hello, I am Ummara Yousaf. I am 35 years old and have a daughter, Duaa. Before I got married, I had completed my MBA and was working as a banker. I used to seek a career in banking but after my daughter’s birth, my life goals and purpose changed, completely. Initially, I was unable to accept the change that the baby had brought in my life. The time I passed alone with my baby was like a quarantine of its own. But it helped me explore my inner self and the meaning of life. I studied various books and explored the realities around me, trying to understand how people perceive their own and others’ lives. Different people see life according to their personal experiences, perceptions and key events.
I had been career-oriented since my childhood and had always been inspired to learn new things in my life. I continued my studies and did M-phil and Masters Economics side by side, which I completed in 2013. Currently, I am pursuing a Doctorate degree.
Another turning point was when I started teaching. It gave me a fresh perspective on life; different from a banker’s. I started writing about the things I learned in the form of essays. The essays gradually took the form of a book, the final product of which was ‘Journey to an Ultimate legitimacy’.
This book is about exploring one’s inner self. In the book, I have portrayed life through the lens of a group of friends who pose questions about life, existence and the world, in front of a wise, old man, Baba Ji. I have tried to answer those questions according to my understanding. This book is my contribution to the next generation who find it difficult to differentiate between right and wrong. The book takes help from key events in Islamic history to support my main theses.
What were your motivations and reasons behind writing this book?
U: In life everyone plays a role. Your positive contribution to society can be a stepping stone for the people after you. Hence, whatever your capacity is, if you leave behind some positive things, your life purpose is served. A book is not meant for everybody to read and gain guidance from. But for some, a particular book can change a person’s life and create a better understanding of it. Sometimes we are alone, depressed and find no one to share with. In such times, a book can become a great companion. I believe my purpose was providing someone with a companion and guide.
Writing a book is an investment in generations. This book may be for just that one person whose life may change after reading this. They might start exploring other such books which would make them a productive member of society. It is possible that this may be after many years of my death or it may be soon; it depends. But even if one person is benefited in any way by this book, then my motivations behind writing it will be justified.
What kind of message do you want to convey to your readers through your content?
U: This book conveys a message to the readers that life and career are two different avenues. We struggle to build a career and put all our energies in getting a formal education to one day fit into a profession. This, however, is a materialistic desire. On the other hand, a spiritual path or a path of wisdom needs recognition of one’s self and a spiritual guide. A spiritual guide can be in the form of a true person having great knowledge and wisdom, as portrayed in the form of Baba Ji in the book or in the form of a true book. Seeking spirituality in oneself is in fact knowledge of the Creator. We can only recognize our Creator if we follow the path of spirituality. The basic purpose of human life is the recognition of one’s Creator and one can only estimate the Greatness of the Creator, if he follows the path of spirituality and struggles to find the real truth or legitimacy of life.
Did you experience any hurdles when you were looking for companies to publish your book? If so, what were they?
U: Yes, for one year I kept on searching and sending my manuscript to different publishing companies– international and national– but after my various efforts, I could not find a good deal. I used to think why someone will be interested in publishing my book when I have no recognition at all. Publishers only seemed to be interested in representing a book written by a leader or someone famous or exceptional.
Most publishers I contacted were involved in course books or English grammar books’ publications. One day I found Daastan publishers in Pakistan through a google search. The name was so appealing: Daastan. Over the website I came to know, that this publisher is promoting new and young authors. I uploaded my book over the website and to my surprise I got a reply. I called on the given number and Mr. Ommer responded. I was thinking it may be a cheat again as who can be so nice to publish my book. But soon, I was convinced over the explanation of how he planned publish my book and get it edited. So, I made a contract and found all my editing services online. I didn’t once step into their office and got each and every thing online. My experience with Daastan remained satisfactory as I think Daastan is one of the reliable publishers in Pakistan.
Tell us a bit about your journey with Daastan.
U: My journey with Daastan remained a memorable one. Initially, I was told the whole process will take only three or four months but the editing was delayed. My book was given to an editor first but after a delay I was told that they had left. Then Daastan’s team handed over my book to Miss Summaiya. Now, she is a great fellow. She took the book very seriously. She read, analyzed, made suggestions at each point and made many corrections. I learned a lot from her as well. Daastan is a very good platform for young authors as the services are reliable and good. Even though the work was delayed, I’m still happy that it has been completed. Further, I am happy my first book is going to be published through a renowned publisher.
U: Soon, Insha Allah, Journey to an Ultimate Legitimacy will be available in print. I am so happy. I hope it helps give a fresh perspective on life to its readers. For next year, I am busy in writing my thesis for my doctorate degree. Soon after, Insha Allah, I will be publishing my second book with Daastan, which I am also working on currently. The new book will be more philosophical and spiritual and will have much for my readers to ponder upon.
Journey to an Ultimate Legitimacy by Ummara yousaf will soon be in print. Keep yourself updated on Daastan’s Facebook page to order a copy!Join us today and be the voice of your dreams!
Throughout the month of July, Daastan carried out an awareness campaign for Sexual and Reproductive health Rights. Through a Story Writing Competition, we took initiative to start a healthy discussion on the topic. Discussing SRHR has always been a taboo in many parts of the world and we wanted to break that chain.
We began the campaign by introducing the issue through a Facebook Live session with founders of Stories to Action.
Iris Pi and Sanne Thijssen along with Summaiya Naveed and Samin Alam from Daastan conducted the live. They explained what SRHR is and how people could participate in the #WeToo campaign to make a change. This was followed by a detailed blog on SRHR published by Daastan to further explain the issue and give a clear idea of what kind of short stories we were looking for. Gladly, the hardwork paid off and we received some amazing stories this month.
Story Writing Competition Winners!
We received stories both in English and Urdu language. Some stories were exceptionally well put but unfortunately, could not meet our criteria. Some stories drifted away from the themes. However, there were 9 such stories that were exactly the stories we were looking for. Writers put in great effort and talent and we are so happy with the response we received!
Here are the writers of our top 9 Stories that we will be publishing on Qissa and submitting to Stories to Action!
Our Favourite Picks
Among these stories, here are a few excerpts that really stood out for our team. We believe they deserve special recognition!
Pappu is what they call you. That’s not your name though. Merely a title, and it’s not unique either. There’re probably a dozen more living in the same city. A dozen boys like you. Boys who are ‘Allah log’ or ‘saaen’ of their mohallas.When you don’t have a broad chest and strong arms and you’re weak and clumsy, always looking down with a harmless smile on your face, you kind of earn these titles, first in your school and then in your whole village, until a time comes when they forget your real name, calling you ‘Pappu, Pappu’ all the time.You don’t mind it, or ‘take offence’ as they put it sometimes. You’re weak, remember? You can’t stand up and shout curses like all of them. You’ve been taught to behave. For if you don’t, they’ll break your legs.Also, how many Pappus have ever taken offence? They’ll just cry sometimes. But then, some boys fight and win, some others – not so boyish – just stand and cry, even if it’s not their fight. And they all grow, though differently.
At her lack of response he continued,” I have been raised in a society where men don’t talk, sure we joke about physical intimacy but no one educates us, when a guy gets married he doesn’t know much, he is told that his ability to sire children decides his manliness, and he believes that. The idea that he might have some problem is unbearable, so like everything else in this society we blame the woman. It’s easier, it’s the norm, it’s such an unconscious action that you don’t even realise it. I didn’t know I was doing it until recently, I realized how I blamed you and was so proud of myself for still loving you, for not holding anything against you.
آدھے گھنٹے بعد شہاب کی جنونی کیفیت کچھ کم ہوئی تو اس کے حواس قدرے بحال ہونے لگے، کپڑے پہنے اور سو کا نوٹ اسے دے کر بولا، ”بھاگ اب یہاں سے، اور خبردار باہر کسی سے کچھ کہا ورنہ میں چوری کے کیس میں اندر کروا دوں گا۔ پیسے لے اور باہر سے روٹی کھا لینا اور خاموش رہنا سمجھا، لے یہ ایک اور کیک لے اور ٹھنڈے پانی کی بوتل بھی، اور ادھر نظر نہ آنا پھر اور خاموش بھی رہنا۔“
We congratulate all the winners and thank all those who submitted their stories. The purpose of this story writing competition was to bring such issues to discussion. We thank you all for playing an important role in bringing social change in society!
Stay tuned for further updates on the winning stories. As promised, Daastan will be publishing these stories online on Qissa. If you support our cause, you can join us today and play your part!
Daastan has had a diverse range of authors in these past 5 years of existence. Some of these authors leave an ever-lasting impact on their readers. Thir strong sense of identity sets them apart from the crowd. A very similar strong woman, who joined Daastan to pursue her life’s mission is Ms. Aisha Rahat.
About Aisha Rahat:
Aisha Rahat, a writer, social activist, and counselor, is the eldest of all her siblings. She graduated from the University of Punjab, Lahore, with a postgraduate degree in Space Technology and is currently a student at Al Huda International. Most of her work comes from abrupt thoughts, personal experiences, and inspiration from her surroundings. She now lives in the United States with her husband and two sons.
We talked to Aisha about herself and her book. Have a look at what she had to say.
What inspired you to write this book, especially considering how it discusses some of the more darker yet very relevant issues of today?
I got in touch with several children from broken families and heard cases of sexual harassment. There were people losing their zeal and determination to the usage of drugs, even contemplating suicide. I was truly jolted to my core. I decided to write this book after observing human psychology deeply to portray how one can survive all these and become a light for others.
It’s quite noble of you to want to inspire and lift people like this. Would you say that’s the purpose you wish to serve with your book?
With the world going downhill, depression and hopelessness mounting, and people losing the purpose of their creation, this book definitely aspires to change the thoughts of its readers. The storyline is strong enough to grab major issues such as child sexual abuse, drug abuse, and broken families. The issues we all are currently facing at our homes and workplaces. By seeking proper help and connecting themselves with the Book of Allah, Made For Each Other aims to help its audience regain lost hope.
So who would you say your target audience is, then? Who are the readers that could benefit the most from your book?
I would recommend this book to parents who are thinking about or have decided to break up so they can see what horrors a child faces as a result of a failed marriage. This work is also going to benefit teenagers since our hormones surge at that time, and we can easily get carried away with our emotions. This story is going to help them all, In Sha Allah, fasten their relationship first with Allah (SWT) and then with the rest of the world.
Is there any advice you’d like to give to writers like you?
Since the pen was created before the birth of the universe, Allah (SWT) has blessed it with great powers. I believe whoever seeks to write words is a very special person. They have the power to change the thought process of people. Also, if we talk about it on a larger scale, writers can definitely change the destinies of nations. So, I humbly request people who are blessed to write that they should create something that stays in the hearts of millions of people and benefits them even after they die.
That’s very profound. Now lastly, who was the first person who read your book, and what was their reaction?
It was actually a follower of mine who read it, and she was both in tears and quite hopeful as she could relate to a few of the events mentioned. After giving it a read, she decided to stand up for herself and her rights, and it always makes me feel so happy that this book has already helped many people in ways I could never have imagined when I started writing it!
As writers, it really is one of the best feelings in the world to watch your work change someone’s life even in the slightest. We’re glad that Aisha Rahat had the opportunity to witness that. If you are one such writer who wants to change the world with your words, Sign Up with Daastan and make change today!
This is an unconventional Love Story that you’re about to read. You might have read hundreds of stories that unite lovers under old oak trees. Oak trees that have survived multiple seasons, from centuries and witnessed love of all sorts. But have you read about a lover who creates two lovers and make you fall in love with them? Rawish Ali Tirmizi is that fine lover. She has defined love for her craft through a candid, un-filtered conversation with Daastan.
Rawish – A Love Story
At Daastan, we come across so many different authors who inspire us everyday. After a long day at work, editing stories, getting the designs approved, shipping books to your door steps – it is the success of our authors that we take our energy from. So we thought why not introduce these wonderful people to you too.
Q. What drove you forward to write and publish your first book?
Writing came to me as an instinct. I have a habit of creating stories from childhood. In a group of friends or family, everyone wanted to listen to what I had next to share. From social issues to personal problems, it always came to me without any effort, which I think many writers can relate to. And that’s what I believe is the beauty of “thinking” all the time about random stuff. You see a couple and think, “Let’s imagine what their story would be!” You hear the talk-of-the-town and imagine, “Wow! It can be successful!” or you observe a social issue and feel to pen down for a social cause. It all comes to me naturally.
Q. How has your experience with publishing been so far?
Well, publishing a novel was something I had never thought of. Though I always aimed to become a writer, I never had guts to make this dream come true. I thought it was difficult as I did not have resources. I called a few publishing houses but their package was as high as the sky, and to be honest, I did not know what else to do. Thanks to my mentor who guided me about Daastan and here I am, holding my dream in my hands.
Q. Tell us a little about the feedback you’ve received on your book?
The feedback on my book has been really overwhelming. I still remember when I accidently sent my friend a chunk of Love Lucknow aur Lahore and she called me saying, “Rawish? I need this full book. Damn! Who is the writer?” Ayishm’s reaction was priceless. Other than my friends and family, I think my biggest achievement was getting appreciated from a City-42’s senior Urdu editor. His words moved me greatly. Right from the day people started reading my book and its excerpts, my inbox is filled with wishes and compliments. A few months before I did not know I would have fans other than those in my home (pun intended). They text me on Instagram and Facebook flooding my DMs with love and respect. I never knew becoming a writer would bring stardom in such a beautiful way.
Q. How has becoming a published writer affected you as a person?
To be honest, its feels like I’m living in another world. At the point where I thought, “would I be able to become something other than what I am doing for living?” becoming a ‘published writer’ happened to me by chance. My family was always proud of me and now more so. My friends always uplifted me, now they do more. Zainab, one of my biggest support systems, always told me there is something in me people need to see, now she winks at me for the credit. In short, life has become more beautiful and welcoming.
What message do you have for budding authors?
Those who know me personally would second my opinion that “supporting” someone for a cause is one of my hobbies. People don’t do it usually, they rant about it but when it comes to actually helping, they run away. So for all the beginners, if you are writing something and thinking of publishing it, I am only one text away.
For now, remember my unpopular opinions: Never let anyone dictate you. What you are writing is what you are. Don’t let anyone tell what you should be. Write whatever you want to. Don’t hesitate that a Love Story would be too cliché or who would read a horror fiction? Just hold the pen and write it down. Do learn from your mistakes. Receive the criticism in a kind way (if you don’t feel it worth your learning then ignore it like a boss that you are).
If you’re an avid Urdu reader, looking for fresh and interesting content to keep you gripped, Love Lucknow Aur Lahore is what you need. Hop over to meraqissa and order the book today!
Based on the theme of our writing competition, the Facebook Live was aimed at educating our viewers on Sexual and Reproductive health and rights. (Read more about SRHR on our blog here) Our guests emphasized on the importance of vocalizing stories to spread awareness and tackle injustice from its roots. They also spoke about how a lot of people shy away from telling their personal stories. Our hosts suggested writers may use their pen names instead. The main idea is to bring forward these stories in order to engage in a useful and healthy conversation to overcome the issue.
Our Guests From Stories to Action
Ms Iris Pi is the Co-founder of Stories To Action. Being a global citizen, Iris has work, training and volunteer experience in the Philippines, Egypt, the United States of America, Thailand and Vietnam. Iris’ research and work focuses on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women.
Ms Sanne Thijssen, Co-founder Stories to Action, is also the founder of Shake The Dust, an independent consultancy working on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and meaningful youth participation. Sanne’s work within the field of SRHR has led to her nomination as a Women Deliver Young Leader (2018-2020 Class).
Have you submitted your story yet? Hurry up the last date to submit your story is 20th June, 2020. Sign Up with Daastan for more updates!