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!
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 8 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!
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!
In our times, where tolerance and freedom of speech has become obsolete, a few hardworking individuals and organizations work hard to promote peace in society. Recently, a project titled Azm-e-Pakistan was taken up by an international company DAI. DAI (Development Alternatives Inc.) is working towards global economic and social prosperity.
The project Azm-e-Pakistan aims to increase understanding and encourage co-existence between communities that follow different faiths. This peace-building project branches out to all niches in the pursuit of ideas that can be utilized to promote brotherhood. As a propagator of social change, DAI understands the need for action on an official level and has thus started this campaign to achieve inter and intra-faith harmony.
Daastan takes Part in a Consultative Meeting
As part of a consultative meeting, Daastan was invited to Lahore to participate in a debate where the biggest industrial thinkers of Pakistan had gathered to talk about peace building solutions. The main aim of the meeting was to utilize the social media space by connecting influencers and experts to resources. These resources would then be utilized to create programs that promoted peace and harmony on grass root level and build a strong society.
Cyber laws were also discussed and their implications for peace were pondered upon. All participants gave their valued opinions. Daastan’s CEO, Ommer Amer deemed the whole experience to be one full of learning. Experts shared their experiences and case studies centered around promotion of tolerance and acceptance in communities.
Want to help us change the world, one book at a time? Become part of the Daastan community through our Facebook page or visit our website to learn more.
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
Books are better teachers than any school curriculum. They let us peek into lives– real and unreal—go to places we’ve never been, face situations we’ve never encountered and come out stronger and wiser. 5 years ago, Daastan took its first step towards realizing its goal of educating the masses through books. We wanted to make a book lover out of every individual whose life we touched and see a book in every hand. Today, Daastan has progressed with leaps and bounds and continues to expand its mission.
One such instance of furthering our vision was when we partnered with Books and Beyond in what turned out to be a highly successful series of book club events.
Daastan Chasing their Vision by Partnering with Books and Beyond
To develop interest and increase membership of Books and Beyond- a literary club from Hyderabad- Daastan decided to sponsor their second of many book club meets held at Khanabadosh Writers’ Café in Hyderabad. The book club discussed Manto, Dostoevsky, Existentialism and Socialism.
Daastan provided the attendees with literary souvenirs such as bookmarks and tote bags with phrases like “Books not bombs” and “Knowledge is power!”. The purpose of the freebies was to impart positive vibes to the members and encourage them to attend even more book clubs, thereby increasing their love for literature and reading. The gifts from Daastan were well-received and all in all, the book club was a smashing success.
About Books and Beyond
Taking birth in the soulful city of Hyderabad, Books and Beyond is a literary club that started in 2016. Its goal is to bring both amateur and seasoned readers together in a single space and break through reading barriers in Hyderabad. They are also expanding into bigger cities like Karachi. Run by a hardworking team of bibliophiles, Books and Beyond works to promote reading culture among students, revive the lost interest in reading, hold in-depth discussions between like-minded people and encourage writers to share their writings.
Under the leadership of Huda Bhurgri and Khushbakht Memon, this literary club has organized various successful events. The events include book club meetups, open mic sessions and digital discussion groups.
The Founder of Books and Beyond, Huda Bhurgri
Our very own #Oneof50, Ms. Huda Bhurgri is a power woman! She is the founder of Books and Beyond and a social enterprise Soormi, that works towards women empowerment. Her love for literature and a dream of equality drives her to hustle harder every day and amaze us with her achievements.
Ms. Huda, along with her friend, Ms. Khushbakht Memon, founded Books and Beyond in 2016 when both of them felt a void in Hyderabad’s literary space. They believed that Hyderabad was home to a number of book lovers but the diminishing reader body of Hyderabad left little room for them to openly talk about books with like-minded people. With a solution in mind, these ambitious ladies started holding book club meets in a safe and healthy environment and made a special space for Hyderabad’s literati. And thus, Books and Beyond was formed. Daastan is proud to have been a partner of such an innovative literary initiative. We love putting in our share in literary and social enterprises and increase book love all across Pakistan!
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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.
Libraries around the world are perhaps the most peaceful places. Entering a library is like entering a whole new universe. Silence, the enchanting smell of paper and readers all around make up an ideal place to relax your mind. Let me break this wall and tell you my own experience. I visit an old library right behind my college. Now imagine an old building in Lahore. Shameless moist walls, unable to hold the paint together, with huge wooden book shelves filled with books of all sizes. The long-necked fan is hanging low on top of your head while you sit on a worn out chair that creaks every time you take a deep breath. Yes, its sounds uncomfortable but it was paradise for many. The paradise we lost to CoronaVirus!
Libraries And Social Distancing
It is ironic how despite being surrounded by so many people, everyone is immensely occupied with themselves. Once in a while you see two people whispering over a book. At one end of a table, two old men discussing the fresh newspaper are hushed by the angry librarian. Some keep sliding down the aisle looking for a resource book. However mostly, (in my case always) people are drowned in the books under their noses. Point being, social distance is strictly practised in a library. But CoronaVirus is way more demanding!
Are We Completely Shifting To e-Books ?
As going out is not the safest thing anymore, how will libraries survive? In Pakistan, libraries were already far less populated even before the virus broke out. In this digital age where everything is shifting online, will libraries too evolve or completely die in the process? Are libraries even relevant today when every possible information is just a google search away?
Tell us how you envision a post-corona-library. How do you read and how often you used to visit a library. For Daastan, saying goodbye to the old Library won’t be an easy task. Sign Up with us and be a part of this struggle to save the reading culture!
#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 transformed our daily routine. From going out for groceries to important business meetings, it is all new to us. Staying home during lockdown has proven frustrating for some yet brought out good in many too. Having time to reflect has boosted creativity and performance in a lot of us. While many offices find it hard to manage their teams online, Daastan has had to face nearly no change at all! Yes you read that right. We have had to change none of our working habits, rather improved even more. Want to know the secret to our growing success? Keep scrolling!
Combating Covid-19 – Da’Knights On A Mission!
Team Daastan, better known as Da’Knights, work in a virtual office since day 1. Our team of diverse and talented individuals are spread across Pakistan. From Islamabad to Peshawar, Lahore and Hyderabad, our team operates from all corners of the country. We know its unusual, we know it seems unrealistic, but trust us when we say this, our team is more supportive and helpful then any office in the country. Online meetings were our norm. Through automation and digitalization, we have equipped our team in all spheres of work. So when lockdown happened, we were ready to take action!
Daastan’s Work From Home Approach
Perhaps the only difference we faced during the present Covid-19 is a shift from ‘work-from-anywhere’ to ‘work-from-home’. We talked to our CEO Mr. Ommer Amer about how he manages a virtual office. Read his comments below:
Q. How does Daastan manage remote-working? Has it ever affected your performance or been a hurdle for growth?
We use digital collaboration tools to track and plan work. Furthermore, since our team is relatively small, we follow a flat communication structure. Everyone assigns each other tasks and speaks directly. A central database with task lists segregated on a weekly, quarterly and annual basis helps in keeping everyone aligned to company’s goals.
Umm, yes, sometimes it does become an issue because of power outage or internet connectivity but since we keep everything planned and structured, it doesn’t cause much problem.
Being far from each other, how do you make sure your team maintains work harmony?
We have a very strict hiring process where we make sure that people who really live and breathe literature are chosen for the roles. We take passion, punctuality and honesty very seriously. Anyone lacking any of these three traits will never make it into the team. Once they land in, then it’s just a matter of time when a debate on a book starts and then we all jump in like voracious readers.
Tell us the challenges you faced while establishing a virtual office.
Our early years were super tough, primarily because I had limited experience in running an actual business and ensuring that we generate cash and pay team. Creating value for which people pay is a challenge. We tried to manage things using google docs and excel sheets, sometimes on emails. We tried tonnes of stuff but everything failed. Some tools were good but the team couldn’t adapt to them and what our team would adapt with was either too expensive for us to afford or too cumbersome to scale. Finally, after many iterations, we settled with Hubspot, ZohoMail, Weekdone and Timedoctor.
What are the benefits of working in a virtual office?
It is cost effective and easily scalable. What I really love is that it brings accountability and transparency in the company’s culture. Everyone knows what others are working on and how much they are contributing in the company. It’s a win win for everyone.
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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!