Qissa – A Digital Platform For Urdu Writers

Qissa – A Digital Platform For Urdu Writers

Urdu writers in Pakistan have been decreasing lately. One reason for its downfall is the traditional publishing methods used by Urdu publishers. There has been a decline in Urdu language since English writers and publishers in Pakistan have grown quickly in the past few years. It is a crucial time for Urdu readers and writers to save the glory of the dying language. Daastan has been working towards the improvement of the literary space in Pakistan. Through digitizing the publishing process, Daastan seeks to revive the reading and writing culture in Pakistan.

How Daastan Supports Urdu Writers

Since its inception, Daastan has been keen to promote education, literacy and healthy learning in Pakistan. Daastan has always laid equal importance on literature in Urdu as well as English. At Qissa we have published around 70 Urdu books and are working on many more. We believe the best way to keep a language alive is to read it. Since Urdu is our national language, we know it a lot better than English, which means we can write better in this language. While writing in English, most writers struggle with translating their thoughts into words. With Urdu, it is a lot easier consequently producing finer stories.

A collection of Daastan's Urdu Books
A collection of Daastan’s Urdu Books

Services For Urdu Writers

Daastan provides Editing services for Urdu writers. Our Urdu Editorial works with the author to help them improve their book. A basic level editing includes spell check, and editor’s advice on improving the manuscript. This level of editing is required for ebook publishing. Level 2 for Urdu editing includes grammar check, fixing the sentence structure and formatting the text. Our Editor will discuss your story, layout and characters in detail and work with you to improve the text. At the third level, our Editor will guide you with formatting the book for print, after a detailed overview of the text. Any required changes will be made with the help of expert Urdu Editors to ensure good quality of your book. Our Urdu Editorial also offers a customised Mentorship program for writers where you can learn and explore different genres and writing techniques through exercises.

Importance Of Urdu Language

The world today is no longer disconnected. Countries are interdependent in terms of economic, political and social activities. In this global village, sticking to regional languages seems like a backward idea to many. Most writers want their name to be known all over the world. Pakistani writers too, perhaps carry the same vision. To broaden their market and reach out more people, writers stick to English language. On the contrary, protecting and safeguarding your language is probably more important today than ever. With an increasing threat to smaller cultures and languages, we need to make sure that our language survives and flourishes.

If you are an Urdu writer, Daastan is the best place for you. We do not treat your books as merely a product that has to be sold. For us, it is our cause. Publish your book with us today and join our mission to revive the reading culture in Pakistan!

Is Urdu a dying language?

Is Urdu a dying language?

While our favorite drama serials are littered with heart-warming Urdu dialogues that we can’t help but memorize; and while we believe Urdu to have a glorious past and a bright future, we might be wrong about the latter.

Urdu, as we know it, is a language that has survived alongside the Muslim resistance in colonial India. The “Urdu Movement” started back as early as the fall of the Mughul Empire, when the language was at the risk of falling into disuse because of foreign rule. Championed by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan in its initial stages, it became one of the focal points of Muslim identity and the struggle to keep it alive was only second to the struggle for independence.

So, where did our language come from?

This is how much a layperson knows about the importance of thi language. If we trace our steps back, we come to know that the language has evolved from the Apabhraṃśa register of the preceding Shauraseni language, a Middle Indo-Aryan language that is also the ancestor of other modern Indo-Aryan languages. (Parekh, 2011). If we wish to go back even further, we find that it is also one of the modern languages which evolved from the Indo-European language group, which is turn is the predecessor of P.I.E (Proto-Indo European).

But while it is relatively easy to understand where our beloved language came from, the current situation of Urdu– be it in literature, education or everyday speech– makes us question what path is the language on presently? And how will it affect its future?

The Future of Urdu

Recently, we shared a post on Daastan’s Facebook page about bilingualism. It explained how being a bilingual could affect how we use our languages. On particular commenter, in a long and informative comment, presented counter-arguments about the utility of bilingualism. He went on to say how, as a trilingual himself, he had experienced difficulty learning Urdu, as compared to the other three languages he knew. This he attributed to the fact that Urdu was a language with “no utility” and would “die out miserably” along with Pushto. Have a look at the post here:

The #polyglot problems you won't understand.www.daastan.com

Posted by Daastan on Friday, February 7, 2020
Daastan’s Post on Billingualism

Da’knights Opinion on Urdu language


1) As a trilingual heading to quadralingual, you are MORE likely to remember words in the language you speak most often because of its constant utility. Suppose a word doesn’t exist in Urdu (I mean, come on, with the last official grammar standardization done in 1898, that is the biggest understatement of the year), or it doesn’t exist in some regional language only 300,000 people speak. Supposing this, you have a choice: Submit the word for consideration in the dictionary of the language, assuming that it has a council which accepts words; just borrow words.

You know why English, Spanish, German, Persian, Arabic, French, Italian, Turkish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and virtually all other languages except Urdu are an easier series of languages to learn but Urdu and Pushtu are going to die out miserably? Its because of deliberate psychological stunting done by pathologically hypocritical societies which – unlike English, Spanish, German, Persian, Arabic, French, Italian, Turkish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and virtually every other language except Urdu and Pushtu – take ownership.

The Oxford English Dictionary became a standard BECAUSE EVERY SPEAKER OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE CONTRIBUTED TO IT. Punjabi grew as a language because of the Sikh community (it is not just their language of communication, but also their language of lithurgy). Urdu has a council which doesn’t do anything other than live on the dole, and the idiots constituting L1 speakers of Urdu are too caught up in their own shit to contribute to this language’s development.

And while we are on the topic, Urdu is a pygmy language that should fall under the Semitic language family, whereas English, Spanish, German, Turkish (post-1921 language reformation), and Italian are Latin rooted. Granted that Spanish and French are Romance languages, while English and German are Germanic, they still are written in the latin alphabet (whereas Urdu has become an example of Abjad scripts being Romanized and not being allowed to evolve properly).

You, are capable of finding the exact word you are looking for, if you use the same language family. And specifically in language family clusters which have been allowed to grow and groom.

2) Notes in multiple languages are actually a good thing. Why is this a problem? HOW is this a problem?

Oh wait… THIS was an overreaction, sorry about that.

3) Truth be told, this is a lie. And here’s why:

POINT NUMBER 1. And furthermore:

ISO 639 Check: International Language Standards. And while we are on the topic: Persian has existed as a living language in its spoken form for at least three thousand years. In its written form, it has had three scripts. Arabic had a script form BEFORE it became an Abjad which is of significant importance for multiple reasons. What does Urdu have in its favor? Read: A Critique of Languages

But let’s go further. Structuralism and Post-structuralism in Urdu Criticism And A Modest Plea ; Could we have a Proper History of Urdu Literature? Explain well, just how pathetic the situation of the lanugage is.

Coming back to the first point I made in this big long rant. I am fluent in English. It is my primary language. My secondary language is German. And my tertiary language (which I am learning) is Spanish. And I hope to become quatralingual by learning French. I do not count myself as a fluent speaker (even though I have read Naseem Hijazi, I have read Ya Khuda by Qudrutullah Shahab to completion.Every time. Because it has no utility, and unless we as the people of the country of Pakistan, decide that this language will simply become extinct and be beaten like a dead horse by every single snob and shithead of the country.

The sixth most published language in the world, by sheer volume of publications, is German. And these include scientific and academic works. In point of fact, Spanish, French, Chinese, Arabic, English, and Russian all have more publications in all sorts and structures.

While this site is admittedly not that updated, it proves my point (Wikipedia you magnificent bastard): Books Published Per Country Per Year

The UN languages of the world are Arabic, Chinese, French, English, Spanish and Russian.there.

Publications, prior to 2000 in this language do not have ISBN numbers. Furthermore, publications made in the late 90s (even reprints from as late as 2019) still use the handwritten scripts submitted to include in the publication. I wouldn’t be surprised if the author’s script was literally just tossed in as is rather than being typewritten. And it could have been, because InPage did not come into being until 1998, and typewriters specially developed with Urdu had entered the market and still are in use. I know, because I own one.

People still read in the country… to what end? It is a national language, NOT an official language. dramas and radio and all these medium only count if you are referring to people who do not have access to Netflix. And even these are exceedingly, almost neurotically, formal.

National Book Foundation, the government publisher which is open to all members of the public as a source for anyone to get their stuff put on paper, does not publish poetry anymore. Nor does it publish in English. You know why? it is a sunk cost, and with it, it is also a loss maker. They do not get a return for what they publish. I know this, because I went there myself to see if I could publish my own book. And for what it is worth, I’ll just get it self-published rather than go through the dilemma of publishers generally.

If anyone would like to go ahead and prove me otherwise, please, go for it. The fact is that Urdu does not have any intrinsic value to the people of Pakistan, and when you have elite assholes who do not WANT it to have any value, I do not see why I should give a shit about it. I have a documented history of German (which is unbelievably awesome in its own right), and the same for English (which is fascinating), Spanish, Persian (the language is so much more satisfying than Urdu, which might as well be the bastard child which Persian is better off forgetting), Arabic (the more I read about Arabic, and its origins and how it developed, the more I come to realize how important it is as a language), heck the same is the case for Swahili and Afrikaans, which have lesser speakers than Urdu yet have more development and standardization than it. And with all these, I think it just makes more sense to highlight Urdu as a failure of a language, that I can’t relate with. And if anyone wants to relate with it, more power to them.

Shehroze Ameen’s comment on our Facebook Post

While we understand the frustration of a linguist with the limitations of Urdu, we cannot form an opinion or understanding of the matter without first reviewing some key facts about Urdu. Only then, can we be sure of what we say.

About The Language

Urdu language is an amalgamation of a number of languages including Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Hindi. Itenjoyed its development in the 14th and 15th century under the Mughal rulers. It was, however, not the official court language of the mughals. Famous poetry and prose was written during this time. One might think why during this golden period of Urdu literature, had there been no formal documentation of the language. It is perhaps because this langugae had no history of its own. It borrowed whatever traditions, from its parent languages that are Persian, Turkish and Arabic mainly. Since there was no method of compiling a history in these parent languages, Urdu too, remained so.

Development of Urdu under the British Rule

Urdu flourished significantly during the British rule, perhaps as a force of rebellion. Anjuman Taraqq-e-Hind was found in Aligarh in 1903 by Nawab Mohsin-ul-mulk. It was the center for promoting and developing Urdu language in the sub-continent through publications. Even after partition, the Indian government and the Bureau for the promotion of Urdu have largely contributed to the codification and standardization of Urdu language. A 100 000 technical terms have been created in Urdu language and around 600 books published on academic subjects. After independence, Abdul Haq established Anjuman Taraqqi e urdu‘s office in Karachi.

During the Pakistan movement, Urdu became a symbol of Islam, uniting muslims across the sub-continent. When Urdu came into being, its central role was communication amongst people belonging to different cultures, regions and religions. With the Pakistan movement, Urdu became an identity. Once Pakistan came into being, Urdu was shaped into a political agenda; claiming precedence over the Bengali speaking Pakistanis. When Urdu was declared as the national language of Pakistan, a natural split emerged between the various ethnicities within Pakistan.

Urdu’s journey from pride to shame

As Bangladesh came into being and Urdu won its status as the national language, attitude towards Urdu also changed. Urdu speakers became English-enthusiasts and education in English began to be promoted. There was nothing else to be conquered, hence, Urdu fell from being the agent of change, to a glory of the past.

To think of Urdu as a dying language would be too radical a statement since even today, it is spoken as a first language by almost 70 million people and by a 100 million more as a second language. However, Urdu lacks modernization which has perhaps been one of the reasons for the lowered interest in the language. Unfortunately, western education system has further created a class consciousness in the people, associating fluency in English language as the benchmark for being well-educated and belonging to the upper-class. A loss of connection to Urdu with the rest of the world is also apparent in the fact that fewer books are being translated in this language and vice versa.

Is There A Conclusion To This Endless Debate?

It is thus, a sad truth that Urdu lacks significantly as compared to many foreign languages. There is no denying in the fact that interest in the language is falling greatly today. But despite this, Urdu is surviving and doing so with dignity. Millions of Urdu speakers, readers and writers not only enjoy the language but also take immense pride in it. To call Urdu a dying language as of yet, is rather harsh, but it is indeed, in a gradual decline. It is now in our hands to save the grace of this language by promoting and encouraging writers to keep breathing air into this beautiful language. We here at Daastan, work for this very purpose and so can you by becoming a part of our struggle simply by signing up with us at Daastan.

Tribute to Asrar Jamayee: Poet Falsely Declared Dead, Passes Away

Tribute to Asrar Jamayee: Poet Falsely Declared Dead, Passes Away

We often say that the hour of death cannot be foreseen. When we say this, we imagine this hour would be in a distant future. We never thought that we would be remembering Asrar Sahab as a memory, when we were publishing his book.

Hafsa Idrees, Co-founder Daastan

An artist breathes their art. They become it. When their art is appreciated, they feel appreciated. But when their art is ignored, overlooked and forgotten, it feels as if they have faded away too. Such is the story of our beloved, Asrar Jamayee.

Who was Asrar Jamayee?

Asrar Jamayee was an Urdu poet, born in 1937 in Patna to Syed Wali-ul-Haq; a landlord who was an active member of the Khilafat Movement. A once renowned and sought-out poet, Asrar Sahab’s life took a drastic turn when he was shockingly declared dead by the Government of India. What followed was years and years of struggle for recognition and basic human rights. But while he suffered, his awe-inspiring determination in the face of adversity and his excellent poetic works made him friends with people who loved him and continue to do so.

Daastan has had the honour of being one of those who could play a little role in Asrar Sahab’s life. We helped bring his work “Tanz Paarey” to life. And two days ago, we received the heart-breaking news of him finally passing onto the other world. The 83-year-old poet took his final breath on April 4th, 2020 in a small home in Delhi. His death is, indeed, a huge loss not only to mankind but to Urdu language too. We, at Daastan express our immense grief on this sad occasion and pay tribute to the legend who deserved more by bringing to you his story. A story we shall never forget.

Asrar Jamayee’s Life

Asrar ul Haq who adopted the pen name Jamayee, began reciting his poetry at a young age upon his teacher, Dr Hussain‘s advice. Jamayee lost both his parents while he was still struggling to establish himself. He was thus forced to quit college and return to Patna where he opened a coaching institute for engineering and medical sciences. But this unfortunate course of action resulted in a bloom in his poetry.

Jamayee wrote four volumes of poetry books and kept reciting at Mushairas and soon his work earned him a name. Asrar was awarded a Prize by the 1st President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad. His satirical expression along with the crisp sherwanis he often wore, became his style statement across the country. He not only scored among the commoners but also inspired various Chief Ministers and big names like Rajiv Gandhi and President Abdul Kalam, who later invited him as a guest on one occasion.

Rekhta recently payed tribute to Asrar Jamayee through this video:

Rekhta’s Tribute to Asrar Jamayee

Downfall for the Urdu Poet

In a sad turn of events, Jamayee soon found himself in adverse conditions. He lost his only property, a room in Jamia Nagar, Delhi to local thugs. In 2013, due to a government fault, Jamayee lost his pension upon being stated dead in official records. He spent his final years trying to prove his existence to the government officials. Arre, an Indian Website covered his story while Jamayee made rounds to be recognized as a living person.

मैं ज़िंदा हूँ | मृत कवि की जीवित कहानी

#BestOfArre: अस्सी बरस के असरार जामाई को दिल्ली के सामाजिक कल्याण विभाग ने मृत घोषित कर दिया। ये व्यंग्यकार और कवि अब एक दफ़्तर से दूसरे तक खुद को ज़िंदा साबित करने की जंग लड़ रहे हैं। Read the full story here: http://bit.ly/AsrarJamayee

Posted by Arre on Tuesday, December 26, 2017
My Name is Asrar Jamayee and I am Alive

Among those who stepped up to help the poet, Jamia Alumni of Chicago Chapter were also on fore-front. They raised a sum of Rs 70,000 as aid for Jamayee to deal with the financial crisis at hand. Welfare Minister Rajendra Gautam also visited Jamayee and promised an inquiry into his case to restore his pension.

I have handed over your valuable contribution amount to Asrar Jamai Sahab.Jamia Nagar poet’s work to Urdu is immense,…

Posted by Tourism Professionals on Monday, September 18, 2017
Delivering funds to Asrar Jamayee
Delivering funds to Asrar Jamayee
Source : Tourism Professionals

A Struggle to Survive

During this time, in a car accident he fractured his hand but could not go for surgery due to lack of funds. Having no family of his own and brother Iqbal Yousaf who never supported him, Jamayee spent his last breaths in tragic conditions.

Last days of Urdu Poet Asrar Jamayee
Asrar Jamayee Poet

No matter how much value his words contained, there was very little that he could now trade them for. In 2018, The Wire held an interview with the old poet who talked about his life and struggles:

The hardships he faced for himself, he bore without complain. He wished nothing for himself but a respectable place and for his writings to be recognized. His only desire in these last days, was to publish his work. Abhijit Khandkar, a regular visitor and close friend of Jamayee Sahb’s caretakers, writes:

A man who never even once wallowed in self pity when there was every reason to. Even when we had to raise funds for his ailment and daily needs, we had to guise it in a way as he still wouldn’t take money or cash directly from any of his visitors, such was his self respect. All he asked for, was an honest listener, to whom he could read his poetry.

Abhijit Khandkar, a close friend of Asrar Jamayee

Who cares for an ageing, long ignored poet who dies all alone when the whole nation is under a lockdown. How ironically…

Posted by Abhijit Khandkar on Saturday, April 4, 2020
Abhijit Khandkar’s Recent Post for Asrar Jamayee Sahb

Books and Awards

Asrar Jamayee wrote several books as a satire on politics inculcating hindu traditions and legends. Ram Darshan is one of these political commentaries that talk about society and return of Ram. His collection of books include Shayare Azam, Attare Azam, Baghe Daraz, Zarbe Kalaam, Khale Jibraeel, Murghane Hijaz, Dili Darshan, Bharat Darshan and Ram Darshan. Although deserving, Jamayee never received awards like the Padma Shiri or Urdu Academy Award, perhaps due to the lack of political support that he inherited. In Jamayee’s own words, the worth of an artist is :

“Wazn kitna hai kisi fankar ka

yeh pata chalta hai kaise aur kab.

Jamayee Asrar bola jaan lein

jab uthate hai ise kandhon par tab

Asrar Jamayee

source : Clarion India

What was Asrar’s Last Wish?

We are honored to have helped a true legend in these last, most sorrowful days of his life. Daastan with the help of Jamayee sahb’s fans in both Pakistan and India, published his book titled ‘Tanz Paaray‘. Daastan’s Urdu Editor Ms. Qudsia Jamali, digitized Asrar Sahb’s book. The book’s cover design, publishing and distribution was done by Daastan. The beautifully written poems that were long awaiting a roof over their head just like their creator, were finally given the shelter of a book. The journey of these torn, dusty sheets lying dormant beside the man who had once recited them to crowds of hundreds, reached their destiny by being published.

[Update] Smiles cure sadness. We were over-the-moon to see this historic event. Mr. Asrar Jamyee, an eminent Urdu poet…

Posted by Daastan on Monday, July 8, 2019
Asrar Jamayee Sahb with his newly Published book

The smile on his face upon holding his last book was priceless and we shall cherish that for a lifetime. Daastan is proud to have been a part of this journey.

You don’t know the extent of joy you gave him by publishing his work. He would show it to every visitor so proudly. The copies he would keep by his side. He wanted to publish more and visit Pakistan again. That now remains…

Abhijit Khandkar to Daastan

We published Asrar sahab's book a few months back at Daastan. Asrar Jamayee sahab is an Urdu poet in India who had no resources recently to bring his book to reality. So with the support of so many people in India and Pakistan, we were able to pull this off. Today, my dearest friend Abhijit video called me and I talked to Asrar sahab. I was smiling soooo wide from all his love. So grateful for this, Abhijit. Also, so proud of my entire team at Daastan. ❤

Posted by Sidra Amin on Saturday, December 7, 2019

Book cover of Tanz Paaray by Daastan

Daastan’s Relation With The Late Poet

Apart from helping Jamayee publish his book ‘Tanz Paaray‘, Daastan worked closely with Karan, the founder of Arre. In a radio interview hosted by the Co-founder of Daastan, Ms. Hafsa Idrees, she talked to Karan about his work and the condition of Asrar Jamayee Sahb.

Listen to show @ https://www.facebook.com/mydaastan/videos/697647037275141/__Tune into "Ask Hafsa" tomorrow at 9pm…

Posted by Daastan on Monday, October 8, 2018

Ms. Idrees penned her condolences for the late Asrar Sahab,

He had the most amazing, courageous strength and tenacity that every single person who ever came in contact with him could feel. We all know he went through so much in the past years, from being falsely declared dead to the struggles that followed. Things that would have broken a lot of people but never Asrar Sahab. He carried on gracefully because he knew he had to be strong for the people who were going to follow him and his legacy. Rest in peace, Asrar Sahab.

Hafsa Idrees, co-founder Daastan

Daastan had been working with Karan and Asrar Jamayee in these past years which developed a very special bond between both parties. It is due to our emotional attachment to the departed soul that we are left in deep sorrow upon his death. Syed Ommer Amer, the founder of Daastan expressed his feelings in a recent Facebook post that read:

We will miss you. Forever. I promise that every year, we will keep your legacy alive and tell the world about you, your work and the life you lived

Syed Ommer Amer, founder Daastan

#FoundersDiary: May his sol rest in peace. I remember him, his voice and his wishes. It was one of my dearest wish to…

Posted by Syed Ommer Amer on Sunday, April 5, 2020

Our Cofounder Sidra Amin, through whom we connected with Asrar Jamayee and Karan, shares an equally strong bond. She conveys her despair in the following words:

“It is heartbreaking to know about Asrar sahab’s demise because we couldn’t give him anything in all this time. He needed financial help for his health and living conditions, but we couldn’t manage to do any of it. Heck, we couldn’t even get on another call with him. I am happy he had his poetry books, his smile, and love of people when he went away. I am glad that he wasn’t as lonely in this time as he must have felt when he was wrongfully declared dead earlier. Rest in peace, Asrar sahab

Sidra Amin, co-founder Daastan

Ms. Qudsia Huzaifa, the lady who digitized Asrar Sahab’s book, Tanz Paaray expressed her views by stating

It was an honor for me to work on his work and it was my dearest wish to meet him… I am not a great author or a poet who can pay a tribute to him however based on what I read, I want to say that ‘Every word written by the father of humor is complete in itself and carries secrets within which serve as an institution for other poets’.

We value these hand-written notes sent to us by Jamayee during our correspondence over his recent book, Tanz Paaray on which we were working.

Hand written notes from Asrar Jamayee’s book
Hand written notes from Asrar Jamayee’s book

In this meek attempt to keep his legend alive, we at Daastan pay tribute to Asrar Jamayee sahb and take comfort from the fact that his soul must have finally found the peace and comfort which this temporary world could not offer. We hope that Urdu language and Urdu lovers keep his poetry alive, if not while he lives then at least while he rests, we must remember him!

We have included information about Jamayee to the best of knowledge. If you have any more information about the late poet, do share it with us at merasawal@daastan.com.