Uddari Reading List 07/08

CMKP Digest
Wichaar.com
Awami Jamhori Forum
‘Real Utopia: Participatory Society for 21st Century’

From Pakistan’s judicial crisis in 2006 to the Long March held last month, the movement for equality in Pakistan has gained momentum. With that, new and existing online newsletters, blogs and news groups have stepped up to provide information and share ideas.

I am happy to receive the CMKP Digest from a Yahoo Group that is “a Marxist-Leninist email list with more than 3,000 members to discuss politics in Pakistan in the international context.” The list represents five major organizations through Mazdoor Action Committee Pakistan (Workers Action Committee). These are Working Women’s Organization (WWO), All Pakistan Trade Union Federation (APTUF), Anjuman Mazareen (peasants) Pakistan (AMP), Bhatta (kiln) Mazdoor Mahaaz (BMM), and Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP). As well, the list is utilized as a public forum by the members of Progressive Pakistan Movement (UK).

The CMKP Digest provides news and analytical articles, interviews of activists/writers/artists, and video reports in an informal environment of discussion. View Justice Rana Bhagwandas’ s historic speech at the SANA Convention in Texas last week in CMKP Digest Number 1542. This is 11659th message published in the Digest.
SANA Convention 2008: Keynote address of Justice Rana Bhagwandas by Aziz Narejo

Subscribe to CMKP List here:

Subscribe to cmkp_pk
Powered by groups.yahoo.com

Web address of CMKP List
(You may have to register if not already a member of Yahoo)

Another online publication that is excelling itself is Dr. Manzur Ejaz’s Wichaar.Com. Established in 2003, Wichaar has become a reliable source of daily news in Punjabi on the Net offering political, social, literary and art content in the form of news items, columns, short fiction, poetry and in-depth articles. In the past weeks, Veena Varma’s short stories have been a particular source of interest to me.

I enjoy reading regular columns from Masood Munawar, Jamil Akhtar, Saleem Pasha, Shabbir Gilani, Rozy Singh, Aamir Riaz, Zubair Ahmad, and Kehar Sharif. The columnists are based in different countries including Pakistan, Britain, United States and India; and, most materials are provided in both Gurumukhi and Shahmukhi scripts. Also, this the place to read Hasan Nisar’s Urdu columns in Punjabi.

Wichaar editorial team with Chief Editor Manzur Ejaz, Executive Editor/Webmaster Sajid Chaudhry, Staff Writers Hajra Batool, Tamoor Raza, Mamuna and, Volunteer Writer Ammar Yasir are making insightful editorial choices by focusing on one or two major news items of the day. As well, the team develops Punjabi political vocabulary with each issue of Daily Wichaar.

Wichaar Website:
wichaar.com
Contact Editor Manzur Ejaz:
wichaar@gmail.com

Next, Awami Jamhori Forum (AJF), an Urdu monthly that publishes from Lahore since 2002, has created an inspiring space for exchange of information and ideas filling somewhat the need for such a publication after the closure of Mazhar Ali Khan’s English Weekly ‘Viewpoint’. In addition, the AJF develops Urdu journalism by providing a more thoughtful coverage to events, and giving careful consideration to ideas.

Awami Jamhori Forum Magazine, Lahore, Issue 44

Awami Jamhori Forum Magazine, Lahore, Issue 44

The journal is anchored by Editor Amir Riaz who runs the publication from a one-small-room office in Lahore with a dedicated team of Joint Editors Kalib Ali Sheikh and Pervaiz Majeed, Art Editor Qaisar Nazir Khawar, Assistants Emmanuel Iqbal and Khurram Baqa, and Advertisements and Circulation Manager Rana Abdur Rehman.

The publication fully supports MaaNboli mother tongue language rights of Pakistani people, and seeks volunteers to translate and publish Awami Jamhori Forum in Punjabi, Pushto, Sindhi, Balochi and other mother tongues.

Subscribe to Awami Jamohri Forum by visiting their website:
www.awamijamhoriforum.org/
Contact Editor Amir Riaz at:
editor@awamijamhoriforum.org

Another collective production of interest is an anthology of articles on the politics and political theory of international left that takes forward the discussion on the nature of our developing societies, visions for change, strategies developed in the past, lessons learnt, new visions, and methods to achieve some of those visions.

‘Real Utopia: Participatory Society for 21st Century’ ed. Chris Spannos. AK Press, 2008
Real Utopia: Participatory Society for the 21st Century

Contributors are individuals from the New Left of the Sixties and Seventies, the activists of the Nineties, and the young left visionary leaders of today; and, include names such as Robin Hahnel, Barbara Ehrenreich, Michael Albert and Noam Chomsky (Contributor). The book is produced by the ZNet team in England. (As well, ZNet has over 30,000 left content items such as blog posts, articles, video and audios on their website).

The content is organized in six sections: Defining Spheres of a Participatory Society, Revolutionizing Everyday Life, Assessing ParEcon Internationally, Looking Backwards, Looking Forwards:
History’s Lessons for the Future, Theory and Practice: Institutions and Movement Building, and Moving Toward a Participatory Society. Click below to buy it:
Real Utopia: Participatory Society for the 21st Century

Lost and Found-2

More information is coming in after the previous post on the need to find the lost UNESCO Report that cites Punjabi as one of the languages that will disappear in fifty years.

Professor Bhupinder Singh aka Sarwan Minhás has given us this valuable information:

A short letter was sent to the editor of The Tribune a few days ago in connection with the UNESCO report. Here is the text of the letter…
B.

UNESCO REPORT ON PUNJABI

A news item “Nayar vows to save Punjabi” published in the Tribune on March 1, 2008, quoted Mr. Kuldip Nayar as follows:

“I have gone through a report prepared by Unesco which says the Punjabi language will disappear from the world in 50 years. It shocked me. I am out to save Punjabi language and culture,” he said here today.

I have tried my best to trace this report, but without success. I am beginning to doubt if such a report exists or if Unesco ever made the senseless prediction being attributed to it. Would Mr. Nayar kindly reveal the bibliographic details of the report?

Dr. Dalip Kaur Tiwana

President, Punjabi Sahit Academy

Ludhiana

From London, Amin Mughal in an email conversation with Amarjit Chandan says:

“I forgot to mention that the UNESCO’s definitions of endangered language and extinct language are extremely narrow. Of course, Punjabi would never qualify for either of those definitions. Check Wikipedia.”

Safir Rammah from apna.org sends this:

“The Saga of the mysterious UNESCO report continues. Check the editorial in the News today: www.thenews.com.pk

Author Royalties Down to Definitions in the Punjab

In the Punjab, not knowing what author royalties may entail nurtures the belief in some people that it will make the publisher liable to pay a percentage on all printed copies without consideration to sales. This view is held to with steadfastness, and in the face of evidence that the publishers are indeed well-protected under copyright laws worldwide, and that other than the publishers who are able to offer advances the rest pay royalties on the actual sale price of the actual number of copies sold.

This generated some heat around what author royalties really are, and i was enlightened indeed with some definitions. Top most among them is the one where it is suggested that since the word ‘royalty’ comes from ‘royal’ meaning ‘monarchy’, it is a bourgeois term, and so, it is hard for ‘progressive’ Punjabi publishers and intellectuals to support author royalties! The person may not be too far off as author royalties are indeed linked to monarchy in that it was Queen Anne of Britain who allowed the first legislation to pass that acknowledged such rights. This is Wikipedia:

“The Statute of Anne in 1709 was the first real copyright act, and gave the author in the new nation of Britain rights for a fixed period, after which the copyright expired. Internationally, the Berne Convention in 1887 set out the scope of copyright protection, and is still in force to this day.”

I was shocked by the discomfort i was causing my peers just by bringing it up, and then by the hostility that began to find its way to me. I was called ‘Greedy’, ‘Westernized’, ‘Individualistic’, ‘Selfish’ and ‘Destructive’ to mention a few common names; and, it also jinxed the publication of Gurumukhi edition of my novel ‘Skeena’ in Indian Punjab. All of this made me evaluate my position on author royalties several times in Lahore.

Until then, my interest in royalties was limited to enjoying the benefit of it for my anthology Aurat Durbar: Writings of Women of South Asian Origin in 1995 in Toronto (Sumach Press), and then hearing about it in Vancouver in the late Nineties from Author Susan Crean, now a co-Chair of Creators’ Rights Alliance Canada/Alliance pour les droits des créateurs (www.cra-adc.ca), who was then working on a policy paper titled “Intellectual Property and International Trade” (Crean, Edwards and Hebb) to contribute to the resolution of copyright issues arising from the expanding culture of Internet. Next, i heard about royalties and copyrights in 2006 from Poet Cesar Love in San Francisco who was working as a Contract Advisor for the National Writers Union.

Back in Lahore, I began way down the road but my vision was unobstructed; i also knew that author royalties and copyrights are acknowledged and implemented in Punjab and Pakistan by Urdu and English language publishers while Punjabi language publishers have extended these rights to ‘successful’ authors such as our wonderful poet Munir Niazi who received royalties from the more prosperous Urdu language publishers in Lahore.

The biggest criticism on my position is that i was being ‘individualistic’ by demanding money from publishers who are struggling to survive and cannot afford to pay; and, that I being a ‘Canadian’ should help out by donating dollars to the publishers instead of making such demands on them. This view is based on a myth and a misconception; the myth is that anyone who had been living in Canada or any other Western country must be rich even when they say that they are not; and, the misconception is that paying royalties to authors will weaken a publishing organization. Both the myth and the misconception are weapons to put away authors of any language.

I stopped working for money at the end of 1995 because i just could not do it anymore; for the next decade, i worked full time on my three novels that were in progress since 1991. However tough it had been, i feel i made an excellent choice. The myth cited above is a killer for me because it denies the reality of my life, and then obliterates it by making it the base of an argument that snaps my rights as a writer. As well, the toughness of my experience as a full time (woman) writer (of Color) of unpublished novels has made me wary of most myths and misconceptions.

The view that paying author royalties will weaken or threaten the publisher sounds almost the same as when the workers’ right to make trade unions was denied on the basis that it will kill the very industry that is providing employment to them or when a woman’s right to vote was negated to ‘protect’ her status in the society. Cloaked in many noble passions of anger and outrage, it remains what it is; an excuse to deny writers their right to earn money from the sale of their books.

Let us look at a standard case of publishing an original Punjabi work in, say, Lahore. The Author pays the Publisher the full cost of production including composing, cover art, lay out, design, processing, printing and binding. Once the book is published, usually 300 to 500 copies, the author gets about 20 to 50 copies for free. It is rare for a publisher to grace a title with a launch or to do anything to inform the larger group of Punjabi population. Over the first year, the same couple of hundred readers come to know about it through traditional channels as no concerted effort is usually made to let more people access the information about the new book. It sits in the shelf at the publisher’s own office/outlet, and in a few other shops and book shops that keep Punjabi books. The Publisher usually sells it at 50 Percent of cover price to a customer, and at 40 Percent to a distributor or re-seller.

This scenario tells us many things, this is one: At each and every step of the production and sale of a creative work, everyone including the Publisher who has not even invested cash in it, gets paid; some up front, some in smaller payments. The only person who does not ever get paid from the publication of her/his creative work is the Author. The situation is bad enough but it begins to erode the possibility of ever having full time writers and artists in our midst when a cultural community thinks that there is nothing wrong with this scenario or whatever is wrong is necessary or worse, that it is a ‘better’ or an ‘acceptable’ way to go about developing Punjabi language and literature.

In a larger environment where literary and arts communities are kept at a perpetual disadvantage caused by religious indoctrination and corresponding cultural values, Punjabi writers and artists are suffering double blows as the messages coming to them from their own communities also add to their projected valuelessness. It was amazing to see so many writers and artists writing, singing, dancing and painting while actually believing that no one really wants to read their books or see their creations. However, because the larger situation is discriminatory to Punjabi language and culture, we need to create more opportunities to value, appreciate and sustain Punjabi writers and artists. In that, there is no harm in looking at ourselves and saying, may be we can do a few things in a different manner and award some more recognition to creators because that will help bring Punjabi language and literature to the next level of its development.

I had the opportunity to ask a few questions via email from Safir Rammah of APNA.ORG who had been releasing information each year about the number of books published in Pakistani Panjab. I asked him if the number of published books increased in the last ten years, and why. Rammah Jee says: “… the total number of Punjabi books that were published during the 35 year period (1947-1982) were 1,528, or an average of about 42 books per year. During the last few years, my estimate is that an average of 100-120 Punjabi books are being published each year and that number is slowly growing.” (Early number from the bi-annual Khoj Magazine of Punjab University).

Rammah Jee goes on to say that “Book publishing, even in Punjabi, is a profitable business in Pakistan (of course, only if it is properly managed). A number of Punjabi book publishers are now well established (Suchet Kitab Ghar, Punjabi Adabi Markaz, Punjabi Adabi Board, etc., and now the Institute of Punjabi Language and Literature). In the absence of government’s support, the Punjabi magazines have played a major role in bringing more and more writers towards writing in Punjabi and in introducing new Punjabi writers while also playing the critical role of language planning. Both the number of writers and their readership has been growing, albeit slowly.”

Not so bad.

Please keep in mind, these numbers are for Pakistani Punjab; we will get a sense of what has been happening in terms of Punjabi books in Indian Punjab where Punjabi enjoys a better status, and in the Diaspora, by the next post.

Authors and Publishers Page
Fauzia Rafiq

more on Author Royalties

Lost and Found

LOST UNESCO REPORT
Lost and Definitely Not Found is the citation on Punjabi in the UNESCO report referred to by Author Activist Kuldip Nayar that lists Punjabi as one of the languages set to disappear in fifty years. We are getting frantic messages at Uddari from all types of flustered Punjabis to the following effect:

“I have wasted much time in locating the alleged report on Punjabi. It does NOT exist. The language spoken by 120 million people can NOT disappear in 50 years. It is a simple logic.” Poet Amarjit Chandan in an email message from London, Britain.

“For quite some time now reference is being made on both Pakistani and Indian Punjabi Internet networks to a UNESCO report that allegedly predicts that in the next 50 years the Punjabi language will become extinct. I have tried in vain to get hold of the report to make sure it is not a hoax” Author Ishtiaq Ahmed in The News, 5/24/2008 previously Stockholm and now from Singapore.

“Early last month Prof. Ishtiaq Ahmed had asked me about such report and source was Mr Kuldip Nayyar. I checked with several persons including Mr Nayyar. He said he had seen some such report and did not remember where and when. He was quoted in The Tribune of March this year. Accordingly I informed Prof. Ishtiaq” Journalist Gobind Thukhral from Chandigarh, India.

I first heard of this report and Kuldip Nayar’s initiatives from Rights Activist Mohammad Tahseen in Lahore. Now, though unsuccessful in locating Punjabi either in the ‘UNESCO Red Book on Endangered Languages’ or in the UNESCO report ‘Our Creative Diversity’, i did FIND a March 2008 news report where Kuldip Nayar seems to be in the same situation as the rest of us.

“I have gone through a report prepared by Unesco which says the Punjabi language will disappear from the world in 50 years. It shocked me. I am out to save Punjabi language and culture,” he said. He was invited by the Punjabi Bachao Manch seeking his help to save Punjabi in Chandigarh, capital of Punjab, a state carved on the basis of Punjabi language.” (http://www.sikhsangat.org/news/publish/social_issues/Punjabi_language_will_disappear_in_50_years_Unesco_report.shtml)

I must tell you that the FINDING of such a report is an issue of mere academic interest to me because i, coming from the West Punjab, do not need UNESCO or Kuldip Nayar from East Punjab to tell me that Punjabi is an endangered language; and that, if appropriate actions are not taken it will for sure become extinct in the near future. Here is a criteria that United Nations has developed to find the survival state of a language.
“Languages were originally divided into five categories; a sixth, potentially endangered languages, was added later:
(i) extinct languages other than ancient ones;
(ii) nearly extinct languages with maximally tens of speakers, all elderly;
(iii) seriously endangered languages with a more substantial number of speakers but practically without children among them;
(iv) endangered languages with some children speakers at least in part of their range but decreasingly so;
(v) potentially endangered languages with a large number of children speakers but without an official or prestigious status;
(vi) not endangered languages with safe transmission of language to new generations.”
(Source: http://www.helsinki.fi/~tasalmin/europe_index.html)

The status of MaaNboli Punjabi languages in Pakistani Punjab hovers between these two:
(iv) endangered languages with some children speakers at least in part of their range but decreasingly so;
(v) potentially endangered languages with a large number of children speakers but without an official or prestigious status;

And so, i would say to find a way to multiply Kuldip Nayar in both his male and female incarnations, at the rate of Thousand-A-Minute-Aggregate, and give tenacious support to all Kuldip Nayars and Nayara Kuldips in both the Punjabs and the Diaspora, to pull our Maanboli Mothertongue out of this rut.

Still, that UNESCO report needs to be FOUND.

Meanwhile, i like to take this opportunity to log a few other cases of Lost & Found but this time, i will be brief and do it later.

Feel free to make use of this space if you have lost something that you can not do without, something that is not a pet but still has to be found. If there is something of immense cultural value that you have found that was lost and it is not your pet…

Writings of Kuldip Nayar
Endangered Languages

UBC Students of Punjabi Literature, Delightful Performers!

This post was going to indulge in a discussion on different ways to further develop Punjabi literary communities in Canada with reference to the UBC Conference on Modern Punjabi Literature but then Sadhu Binning sent me photos that brought back all the smiles and laughs drawn by a skit performed by the ‘junior’ students of Punjabi at that Conference.

The package also includes an expected group photo with newly emptied tables that i am happy to present to you here.

UBC Conference on Modern Punjabi Literature, First Day

For the rest, please stay posted.

The skit ‘Mr. Binning’s Retirement’ was presented by the UBC students of Punjabi to celeberate the life long tenure of their teacher Sadhu Binning. A 20-delightful-minute long exploration of all available career options of a retired South Asian Canadian teacher of Punjabi literature in Vancouver, the skit was a light-hearted view of a teacher and the system.

Before we proceed further, it will be helpful to see this mobile-phone photo of a youth who could so easily project the body language of his teacher.

Sandhler as Mr. BinningShamsher Sandlas, the ‘Mr. Binning’, ready to hail Nasiruddin Shah?

The ‘Mr. Binning’ character played by Shamsher Sandlas brings out all of Sadhu’s laid back mannersim where though disinterested in climbing social ladders, he does oblige Mrs. Binning (Rupinder Gosal) time and again by giving a good shot to each presented career choice by turning it into a viable opportunity. From making an on-the-spot call to Actor Om Puri in India and arriving there for an audition on the next flight from Canada- to playing golf with BC Liberal Politician Ujjal Dosanj as a career move- to going all out for a chance to become a Punjabi Pop Singer- Mr. Binning tries everything with mild enthusiasm, and good-natured submission to various hiring requirements. Yet he FAILs at everything. This leaves an open stage and eight happy artists to ponder over various new possibilities.

The Seven UBC Students who predict Sadhu Binning’s post-retirement career options as being NIL. Shamsher Sandlas (Mr. Binning), Rupinder Gosal (Mrs. Binning, in red shirt), Daljit Mahal (Om Puri, Ujjal Dosanjh), Harman Bains (Actress), Rupeela Gill (Director’s help), Akashdeep Villing (Actor and Music producer), and Aman Oberoi (Music producer) in ‘Mr. Binning’s Retirement’.

The Eighth, if you are wondering, is Sadhu outside the frame at this point; and, if you find that people are not standing where their names indicate than please be my guest because i also can not understand all the moves made by our youth.

Moral of the story? Mr Binning CAN NOT do anything but teach Punjabi, and/or that Mr. Binning MUST NOT do anything but teach Punjabi. Sounds good to me because i know that teaching Punjabi the last few decades has not stopped Sadhu from working on his creative writing, and that is what matters the most.

An interesting observation is that the teacher role of Sadhu presented by his students who all appeared to be second generation Punjabi Canadians, is the same as is revered in South Asia for centuries where the love of teaching a particular discipline makes a teacher a strong role model for the students or at least, someone that they respect, learn from and remember as they move along to shape their lives. Yet at the same time, unlike the traditional model of a teacher in South Asia, Sadhu does not create distance as means to command respect but remains informal and communicative with his students, a quality attributed to teachers in the ‘Western’ education system. The character that comes out is a cross between the two traditions.

Another observation is that each time Mr. Binning enters his living room and takes a seat after a day’s hard work, the ominious remote (weapon of TV) control finds his right hand in a brisk and un-observing manner, compliments of course, to the groundedness of Mrs. Binning played by Rupinder Gosal.

Daljit Mahal was comfortable with enacting both character actor Om Puri and our own leader Ujjal Dosanjh. Harman Bains and Rupeela Gill, the actress and the director’s assistant in the film scene, provided faster tempo and some tension to Mr. and Mrs. Binning’s slow and comfortable drawl. Akashdeep Villing (Actor and Music producer) and Aman Oberoi (Music producer) came out strong in their roles as well. And of course, in the shape of Shamsher Sandlas we may be looking at an expatriot Nasiruuddin Shah, to say the very least!

That was a lot of fun Shamsher, Daljit, Harman, Rupeela, Akashdeep and Aman, thanks; it was a great group effort to write/direct/produce the skit in such a short period of time. We also must thank Bibi Anna Kaur Murphy for her advisory role in the skit, and so, thanks Anne.

Also view Rana Nayar’s forceful comment on Modern Punjabi Literature at UBC: A Glass Half Full, that goes right into the discussion that is about to take place in the next post. Before we split, let me tell you that from 40-50 new people that i had the pleasure to meet, Rana Nayar got me the most confused in that after hearing his first presentation par excellence i was sure he was a British Punjabi from London but he turned out to be a Punjabi Punjabi from Chandigarh thus challenging some of my myths and assumptions.
No More Watnu Dur by Sadhu Binning
Earthy Tones by Gurdial Singh and Rana Nayar
Punjabi Books at Amazon

2. Royalties for Punjabi Language Authors

After the first post, i received some feedback questioning the need to raise the issue of royalties for authors of MaaNboli mothertongue languages, and asking why even after getting royalty on my novel Skeena, i am still keeping on about it.

It is the historic discrimination faced by MaaNboli languages in Pakistan where most of the meager resources earmarked for the development of languages, art and literature are awarded to the ‘national’ language Urdu at the expense of all local languages. So now the MaaNboli literary organizations, authors and publishers of Punjab (Punjabi, Seraiki, Potohari), Sind (Sindhi, Behari), Balochistan (Balochi, Brahvi) and the NWFP (Pushto, Pukhto) face depreciation due to the persistent non-recognition of native languages by national and provincial cultural agencies. It is a miracle performed by writers, intellectuals and publishers of maaNboli literature that any of our languages have survived the last sixty one years of Pakistani politics.

Punjabi writers and publishers, artists and patrons, musicians/dancers and producers are facing decreasing markets and lesser value for their creative work and hardship because of the ever-increasing conservatism of the political environment that does not encourage or allow creativity in art and literature. Nahid Siddiqui, a master of Kathak classical dance, and i assure you there aren’t many left in the country, does not get a chance to perform on stage or on television very often; and so, she sustains herself with a percentage of student fees from her dance classes with a community-based non-profit cultural organization that struggles each month to pay its own bills in the absence of any core funding or structural support.

The perpetual lack of government funding and public resources has pushed Punjabi cultural communities to operate at ‘charitable’ levels from before the Partition of 1947; and, now the defensive strategy once adopted to help the ailing art and literary institutions recover, has become the only ‘possible’ way to continue. This has flung most Punjabi literary organizations into an overall low-lying introvert stance where work is valiantly carried on even in the absence of ‘basic necessities’ such as scanners and printers. A living example of it appeared in my inbox yesterday in the form of a general request to help fundraise for Publisher/Distributor Kitab Trinjan to get a UPS, a printer and a scanner (For more information and to extend your support, email Zubair Ahmed at kitab.trinjan@gmail.com).

I had the unique opportunity to travel within Pakistan from May to August last year to launch my novel Skeena; and, it was most rejuvenating to meet poets, fiction writers, prose writers, publishers, musicians and cultural/social activists in nine different places including my own city of Lahore. This was made possible by many individuals and organizations but most of all by Amjad Salim of Sanjh Publications who took a big step forward by launching what may well be the first actual promotion campaign for a Punjabi book in the Punjab; Columnist Hasan Nisar who gave the campaign his unconditional support by dropping the first cash donation; Mohammad Tahseen of South Asia Partnership (SAP) who supported the Campaign by approving funds for it. I am most grateful to the cultural communities of Gujranwala, Kot Adu, Multan, Sargodha, Islamabad, Jhung, Karachi, Hyderabad and Lahore who supported this action by organizing the events to launch ‘Skeena’ in their cities.

My gains are unlimited. Just getting the feel of different places and meeting some of the most inspiring people there would have been enough for me but i got luckier than ever; great exchange of ideas, strong cultural impacts, heated discussions, hot and cold weathers, home-cooked foods, great Hasheesh, and no kidding. On the question of royalties, most authors and publishers said that since Punjabi books do not sell it will be meaningless to ask for or grant royalties to authors; some reject the very idea of running a self-sustained Punjabi publishing business as being a ‘commercial’ and so negative activity while others feel it will be impossible to make a Punjabi literary publishing business a commercial success in a market catering to Urdu and English.

The most important factor in resolving this situation is to push for language reforms as has been suggested by Shahid Mirza in his comment on Uddari-Home: “It is so unfortunate that in the new provincial assembly there is no party/individual/group to voice the right of children to study in the mother tongue. maybe we need to start a signature campaign to promote the cause”; and, the comments made by Shumita Madan Didi here, and there. As well, this is the reason for Publisher Amjad Salim and I to launch an extended promotion campaign for Skeena that included discussion on language rights, and for Mohammad Tahseen, and others to support it. I believe that winning author royalties for Punjabi writers is an important part of developing Punjabi language and literature.

The sentiment behind rejecting the concept of author royalties is well expressed by Author Amarjit Chandan in his comment on the previous post: “…In principle there can’t be any debate about royalty rights for Punjabi writers. A Punjabi writer should assert his/her rights while dealing with big publishers, but sadly we don not have any in Punjabi book industry.” I understand this view but do not share it; to me, its not a question of whether a publisher is big or not, an author is ‘successful’ or not, a publisher is ‘commercial’ or not. “Everyone has the right to the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which (s)he is the author.” (UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 27). It is a matter of human rights; of how creative work is used and valued in a society; of how creators of art and literature are recognized for their work. To me, it is important to see that a system contains at least a semblance of the ‘possibility’ for writers and artists to sustain ourselves through our creative work; and, may also improve the quality of our work as suggested by Jatinder in her comment.

Amarjit Jee further says, “I belong to the old tribe of writers who wrote and published for the love of it without asking for any reward.” Yes, in South Asia as elsewhere, writing has been a noble profession and the profession of the nobility as it required not just intellect but also education, a commodity still inaccessible to a large majority of people. I shirk from it also because it reminds me of all those other ‘recommended’ and ‘favored’ roles that are created to dupe people into feeling good about themselves while they are made to serve larger vested interests; for example, the ‘sublime motherhood’ concept for women where a woman is prompted to negate all other aspects of her person to fulfill that one role.

In the absence of royalties, what do writers do? Depend on local monarchs where available, find affluent patrons and befriend wealthy printers; Have dual careers, self-publish through an established publisher, and stay in a position of acute valuelessness for being an author who is often reminded that her/his creative work is not read by many; few want to buy it; and, the publisher is taking a loss by printing it. That reminds me of Poet Arshad Malik in Sargodha who would not publish his collection of poetry because “Ke faida? whats the use?” he said; Mushtaq Sufi, a poet of unique sensibilities who has stopped writing poetry; Painter Shahid Mirza who may have canvases ready for six exhibitions but has not exhibited his work in years outside of his own Lahore Chitrkar, “ke faida?” he says.

In every city, i met some creative artists, poets, writers, singers, dancers who are working on their art day and night without hope to publish, perform or exhibit their creations. I am clear that this situation is caused by larger political realities where literary and cultural communities suffer as a whole regardless of their role in it. But the publishers and producers of Punjabi art and literature in Pakistani Punjab though miraculous in sustaining maaNboli languages, can not continue to overlook the negative impacts on their communities of their non-recognition of creative and intellectual rights. Seen from my perspective, this non-recognition mirrors the same model of projected valuelessness to authors of native languages and literature that is projected by the larger mainstream society in relation to native languages and cultural communities; the model that we are all fighting against.

Meanwhile, we are all in a bind and at this end, even authors who are not dependent on Punjabi publishers feel slighted by them, “Lugda ai Punjab de publishraaN agay sadee koi value nahiN” (It seems punjabi publishers do not value us) says Poet/Playwright Ajmer Rode of Vancouver who has worked with publishers both in India and Canada.

Punjabi Authors and Publishers Page brings this discussion together.
books on Punjab

1. Royalty Rights in Punjabi Publishing

I had the opportunity to publish my novel Skeena in Punjabi (Sanjh Publications, Lahore 2007) last year, and while it was one of the most creative and inspiring experiences for me, it did include, and still does, confrontations with my peers around royalty rights and promotional strategies.

All the wonderful things began happening with Ijaz Syed in California who after reading the English manuscript of Skeena, recommended it to a publisher in Lahore; who in turn, offered to publish it in Punjabi and invited me to come to Lahore to translate it. This was a wonderful opportunity for me, and Ijaz Syed again stepped up by bringing me over to California where i enjoyed his hospitality and that of his family and friends. I am most grateful for the time and attention i received there from Nusrat Syed, Sarmad Syed, Vidhu Singh, Sanjeev Mahajan, Shaista Parveen, Salma, Cesar Love, Nidhi Singh and Rob Mod. Later, Ijaz, Sanjeev and Shaista were prevailed upon to buy me a one-way ticket to Lahore.

This also meant a chance for me to live in Lahore for a meaningful length of time in 2006 after having left it for Canada in 1986.

This was a dream situation for me also because Skeena is a character and story rooted in Pakistani Punjab, that then reaches out into the Punjabi communities of Toronto and Surrey. The very diversity of our communities had shackled the English manuscript with sentences upon sentences of Punjabi while the living culture of Muslim characters had laiden it with shots of Arabic. This was pointed out by most of its readers, and by Editor Michele Sherstan in Vancouver who had worked with me on Skeena in 2004. At that time, I knew that the novel had to be re-expressed in Punjabi before the English can ever be published; yet i had been away for so long that many sounds and words shivered below the surface of my mind as i looked for the courage to draw them out in the open again.

It will be an understatement to say that i am grateful to Skeena’s Punjabi Editor Zubair Ahmed for giving me the courage, the skills and the environment to rewrite Skeena in Punjabi. Zubair is a rare friend who cares for me and my work, and challenges me to do better. He spent countless hours of volunteer work to edit more than three hundred manuscript pages of Skeena as he supported me to shape my voice in Punjabi. Zubair also provided a comfortable and creative environment at Kitab Trinjan, a Punjabi bookstore on Temple Road that he manages on permanent part time voluntary basis for over a decade now. I was also happy to know Trinjan’s only full time employee Ghulam Haider; as well, Zubair introduced me to some most wonderful people there including his wife Samina, and Amjad Salim of Sanjh Publications who later published Skeena in Punjabi.

The publisher who had originally offered to publish Skeena was excited about the submission of the Punjabi manuscript, and we were beginning to discuss production and promotion when i realized that nothing had been mentioned about royalties yet. After a while, i asked the publisher as to how much royalty i was going to get; the question set off a wave of double headed culture shock hitting both the publisher and the writer. The publisher nearly fell off of his chair, so to speak, telling me that the top most Punjabi authors in Lahore pay the production cost to get their books published, where I, a mere writer of unpublished novels, am asking for royalty when my book is being published for free. Across from him, my eyes were popping out of my forehead because years of living in Canada had made me unprepared to deal with a situation where a small or medium level literary publisher was apparently operating for many years without recognizing an author’s right to royalty.

That culture shock helped me to figure out that royalty is NOT one of the rights accepted by Punjabi publishers or writers. So, this was the beginning of many inspiring discussions and fiery confrontations on royalty rights, book promotion strategies and maaNboli language issues in Lahore and other cities. I am aware that fighting for royalty rights for Punjabi writers/creators, and generating a debate on this issue by pushing it on the Net is not going to make me popular in Punjabi literary circles on either side of the border. Still, i will continue to share my ideas and experiences in Uddari Weblog because i think that the non-recognition of royalty rights is central to the ailments of Punjabi publishing industry.

Before i end this post, let me put your mind to rest: Yes, Sanjh did accept, and respect, my royalty rights.

Fauzia Rafiq
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3. Author Royalties Down to Definitions in the Punjab

Royalties and Copyrights