In this crucial time, when relations between Pakistan and India are at a sensitive stage, it has become more important to promote peace, positivity and love among the two nations. While the drawing of our borders years ago declared us two separate nations, at heart, a Pakistani and an Indian are the same. They are born of the same homeland and in their hearts, they carry the same love. To explore and promote that love and to reminisce the past, we decided to do something. In collaboration with White Falcon Publishing, India , Daastan launched a #WriteForPeace letter-writing campaign.
Chitti Sarhad Parr Say– a letter-writing campaign which began in January 2020. It aimed at reconciling peace across borders through letter writing which is a long-forgotten art. Writers from both countries were requested to send in their letters for the campaign as part of a contest. This activity was mainly aimed at mending the relation between Pakistan and India. Letter writing is a very personal and emotional task that requires both the reader and writer to invest in a piece of paper. By doing so today, thousands of readers and writers got a chance to feel and connect with their counterparts.
The Love for Peace We Received
We received an enormous amount of love from both countries in shape of letters that touched us deeply. Daastan processed the entries from Pakistan while the submissions from our Indian writers were handled by the good folk at White Falcon. Letters from Pakistan were submitted in English and Urdu. From a huge number of submissions, 19 were short-listed. Selecting the letters from a pool of immensely talented Pakistani writers was one of the hardest tasks we had to do. Every submission was heart-felt, and struck a cord. The entries went beyond our expectations and we got to see some highly well-articulated letters.
The Selected Entries
We decided that the selected entries deserved a book of their own. So, in collaboration with White Falcon Publishing, India, Daastan chose some of the best entries to be compiled together in book form and be published digitally on Qissa–Pakistan’s first self-publishing platform. Qissa provides local writers an opportunity to publish their work and reach readers on a wide scale. Qissa has been publishing stories and anthologies since 2016 and aims to reinstate a literary culture in Pakistan.
The entries that spoke to us (and in some cases, made us tear up!) are:
Hajra Imran Khan
Naheed Akhtar Baloch
Dr Fiaz Ahmad Dar
Ifrah Ahmed Malik
All writers showcased great skill and talent. We were moved by the gush of emotions that each letter brought with itself. Stories of pain, suffering, love and tragedy were all equally spell-bounding. A small peek into one of our short-listed letters read:
‘At the time of departure our hearts were crying. Do you know why we don’t come back? Because things never did get settled. I know you cursed me early the next morning when you came to our house for breakfast and no one was there. I know you wept bitterly when the walls and swings in my courtyard didn’t answer your questions. I know you asked every passerby about us.’
Chitti Sarhad Parr Say was an attempt in writing for peace at a time when atrocities between the two countries are increasing every day. The medium of letter writing perfectly complements the campaign as letters provide a very personal account of one’s feelings which the reader can easily relate to. The bond between the two countries is above political agendas and must be achieved so through a positive communication. We, at Daastan, promote the ideology of peace and love through words. Help us grow by sharing your stories and becoming a part of the Published writers in Pakistan simply by signing up with us @ Daastan.
After diving headfirst into the Olympiad culture and sponsoring numerous talent hunting competitions in the span of just a few months, Daastan started attracting the attention of the big names in the community and getting invited not just to help groom the talent, but also share our experience and inspire those who might want to walk down the same path. And so, with this, we zeroed in on providing sponsorship, technical and media related support, and marketing to the literature exclusive festivals and happenings across Pakistan. The team would then help those interested find their way to their first self-published works through Qissa, empowering them to monetize their hobby and – if they chose so – to make a career out of it.
A Seminar on Feminism:
The first of such events was a seminar titled “Feminism in Language, Literature and Marketplace”, organized on Women’s Day, where Daastan’s founder, Mr. Syed Ommer Ammer, was invited as a guest speaker. Ommer shared the success stories of Ms. Laiba Sehrish Nawaz – the youngest published author of Peshawar, Ms. Lareb Soomro – the youngest published author or Sindh and Ms. Faiza Kayani a police commando who defied all odds to chase her dream and published her first book through Qissa. He also spoke about how Daastan was enabling women voice their opinions through their stories, and also gain financial independence by training them to generate revenue from their writings and connecting them to resources which can help them do so.
NUST and LUMS Literary Fests:
Just a couple weeks after that, we sponsored not only the National Literary Festival by NUST in Islamabad, but also one of the biggest campus based literary festivals in all of Pakistan, i.e. the LUMS Literary Festival 2018. Through Daastan, the literary festivals received judges to adjudicate all their competitions, discounts on all books published on Qissa, the chance to talk to our team and learn more about utilizing digital tools to help them carve their out their niche in the industry. Not only this, the winners of the LUMS Literary Festival received wild card entries to the finalists of the on-going season of ‘The Stories Untold’, through which the authors would all go into print for free through Daastan.
If you want us to sponsor you event, or provide support, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Daastan may have started small, but in no way was it destined to remain that way as the years rolled by. When the team started out, one of their primary missions was to help train raw talent from across the whole country and maybe even beyond, and enable them in setting up their literary ventures through the Qissa portal – or help them polish their skills to perfection, making them industry-fit and ready for hiring. We at Daastan, have always felt it as one of our responsibilities to reach out and give opportunities to anyone who has even a smidge of talent, along with a ton of passion.
Sponsoring the EME Olympiad:
It was to uphold this very ideal that Daastan jumped forward at the mention of giving support to the first competition which reached out to them i.e. the EME Olympiad. A delegation from team Daastan consisting of Ms. Sidra Amin, Co-Founder, and Ms. Mahnoor Naseer, Editor-In-Chief were invited to judge the Speed Writing as well as the Poetry Slam competition. The two exceptionally talented ladies were honored to have been given the opportunity to witness such exceptional work by some of the participants. The delegation also consisted of Ms. Syeda Aleena Bukhari, a Literary Fellow graduate and a part of Urdu Editorial Board at Daastan, who was there to judge and score the participants enrolled in Urdu based literary competitions. Daastan provided a sponsorship of almost 50,000 PKR to EME Olympiad, along with social media support.
PIEAS National Olympiad x Daastan:
A month later, we had the opportunity to collaborate with and provide funding to the PIEAS National Olympiad. One of the biggest Olympiads being held in the twin cities, with participation from more than 30 Universities from all over Pakistan. The team of Daastan saw more than 800 participants competiting each other and showcasing their skills. Their literary modules were judged by a delegation of Daastan, consisting of Ms. Areesh Fatmee, Director PR Daastan, Ms. Syeda Aleena Bukhari, Urdu Editor Daastan, and Ms. Aaina Batool, published author at Qissa. Daastan also offered print publishing to the winners, along with marketing on social media to provide additional support to the event.
The IST Youth Carnival:
In the same week as the PIEAS National Olympiad, Daastan also collaborated with the IST Youth Carnival. Our published author Ms. Iqra Saeed set up a stall there and spread awareness on the literary industry and self-publishing scenario in Pakistan, and Daastan also provided judges to adjudicate the short story competition.
If you are organizing an Olympiad or Carnival at your University and require sponsorship, drop us an email at email@example.com.
Exactly a month after the chain of events, titled “Literary Evenings” by Words and Metaphors, was kick started in the city of Peshawar, the team of Daastan traveled all the way to Karachi to hold the second one in its succession. The first event had turned out to be a huge hit, with a crowd turnout that amazed even the most hopeful among us. The poetry and performances we got to see in the event were of such good quality that weeks after the audience would find themselves thinking about the cozy environment in which all of the literary geeks felt connected as if they were a family.
Literary Evenings Volume Two was split into two events held at separate venues so as to celebrate each one according to its needs. The first event was the book launch of Daastan’s youngest published writer from Sindh, Lareb Soomro. The 15-year-old girl from Larkana wrote her very first novel “The Secret of Spring”, and finding no avenue to bring her work to the public, turned to what would become her enabling family – Daastan. Within a few months of her sharing her novel with the team, it was proofread, edited to its best version, and then sent to print. It was such a pleasure for Daastan to have empowered such a young but a creative and budding mind. Lareb’s book launch was held in Nizamani Labour Hall where students from different colleges, writers and people with an appreciation of literature graced the event. Her launch received extensive media coverage. The news report of the event and her interviews were featured on Samaa news, Sach Tv, as well as local Sindhi news channels like Awaz.
The second occasion of the volume two of Literary evenings was an open mic session which took place in Pakistan Chowk Community Center. The Open Mic was themed, and people from all walks of life came together to share their works and lift the stigma from society’s notion regarding “Abuse”. Over the course of the evening, with so many hearts opening up to individuals who had gone through more or less the same experiences as them, the air grew somber but bittersweet in the knowledge that they were not alone.
Somewhere in the humdrum that was the year 2017, Daastan’s co-founder Sidra Amin took it upon herself to launch a platform that worked solely for the propagation of literature through offline events. For months before the forum was founded, Sidra hunted for literati and like-minded individuals with a heart filled with sheer love for literature and related arts. In mid-summer, it finally came into being, and was named ‘Words and Metaphors’. They had the pleasure of introducing to KPK its very first spoken word performance by their debut artist Mr. Kayenaat Hameed Khattak.
Literary Evenings Volume 1:
Almost a year later, Daastan powered what was to become the signature event series of Words and Metaphors, titled “Literary Evenings”. The idea was to initiate a chain of events solely focused on encouraging the literature invested local community artists, and bring their work out into the open. The first volume of Literary Evenings, held in the city of Peshawar, had a two-tiered agenda. The first, was to hold a Poetry Slam Contest between the poets of the city, in both Urdu and English. The contest was divided into three rounds, each with its own unique theme to challenge the performer and their written content. A panel of three exceptionally qualified judges was assembled, which consisted of a research scholar pursuing her MPhil in Literature, Founder Daastan, and Co-founder Words and Metaphors, each especially suited to evaluate the poet’s abilities of speech, written word and body language.
The second purpose of the event was to hold abook launch for the most talented writer of Qissa, who also had the honor of being the fastest crowd funded author of Daastan, Ms. Laiba Sehrish Nawaz. Her book, Abduction from the Lethe, had hundreds of entries of poem and prose, which she had written since she was a little child, as well as art and photography that resonated with her work.
The event had an astounding turnout. More than 50 people showed up to witness the rise of the empire of literature, and cheer for those who had accomplished their dreams and visions related to it. The guest of honor was Dr. Nasir Jamal Khattak, a professor at the University of Peshawar who wowed the crowd with his soul-searching talk about realizing one’s inner potential.
Three winners of the Poetry Slam contest were selected and were awarded gifts from Daastan. The book launch also received media coverage from multiple news channels, such as Geo News.