Vancouver’s Punjabi Lekhak Manch on novel Skeena

It is a privilege and an honour for me that Punjabi Lekhak Manch chose to hold a discussion on ‘Skeena’, that the feedback on the novel was most wonderful; and because discussion on Skeena was combined with the publishing issues facing Punjabi writers in Canada.

In Pakistan, the launches of Skeena in each of the nine cities referenced topics such as the status of Punjabi in Pakistan and West Punjab, rights of Punjabi authors, and support for Punjabi publishers. Valuable connections were created or refreshed between authors, publishers, distributors and booksellers.

In Vancouver Lower Mainland, the discussions on the Gurumukhi edition of Skeena are linked with the status of Punjabi Canadian writers, their rights as authors, and the ways to get a better deal from East Punjabi publishers.

There was a high turnout in speakers, and it was overwhelming for me to see that Skeena had generated a passionate response in each and every reader.

I am most honored also because each reader is a writer, critic, editor, publisher, teacher, journalist, cultural activist or a community leader.

Here’s the report:

Skeena: Prideful addition to Punjabi Literature – Punjabi Lekhak Manch
Regarding Skeena

Novel Skeena was hailed as a unique, artistic and prideful contribution to Punjabi literature by the members of Punjabi Lekhak Manch, one of the oldest BC Punjabi writers group.

Ten people shared their views about Skeena including both the coordinators of the Manch while four members took part in the discussion about Punjabi publishing. The meeting was held at Newton Library in Surrey on July 10, 2011.

The discussion was initiated by Sukhvant Hundal who had earlier requested the Manch to give time to Skeena.

Sukhvant Hundal said he values Skeena because of the many unique aspects of it. Unlike most other novels, Skeena depicts patriarchy in the class context. It acknowledges the oppression of Skeena’s own family whereas most other novels typically highlight the oppression of the ‘other’ family. The novel also artfully reveals the layers and layers of violence in our social systems. As well, Hundal was moved by the depiction throughout the novel of ‘sanjh’ or ‘togetherness’ of women across class, ethnicity and religion. ‘The storytelling is picturesque,’ remarked Hundal ‘once begun, the novel is hard to put down.’

Sadhu Binning said that Skeena is a work of such depth that more discussions need to take place on it. He said ‘I am happy and proud’ to have this unique novel in Punjabi literature where the style of writing is such that it seems the story is the reader’s own life, and the events are happening to him or her. The novel also shows the values of the jagirdari system through its effects and impacts on people rather than through socio-political speeches. The literary style of expression allows the readers to form their own conclusions about various aspects, characters and situations. Sadhu also appreciates that Skeena faces all kinds of difficulties in her life yet her desire to live remains strong. ‘Skeena is a prideful addition to Punjabi literature’, he said.

Sadhu asked Fauzia to speak about her experience with Punjabi publishers in Pakistan with reference to the Punjabi Shahmukhi edition of Skeena (Sanjh Publications, Lahore 2007).

Randeep Purewall said he liked the novel for many reasons but would limit himself to the mention of just two. First, the ways in which the novel references themes related to First Nations in the Canadian context from the very beginning; and second, the novel’s illustrations of people having different sexual orientations such as the two lesbian couples, in both its social contexts. He said that it is rare to find Punjabi or South Asian literature that integrates such themes into its projected social environments.

Amrik Duhra said that he enjoyed reading the novel, and was especially taken by its usage of different Punjabi dialects, and of the beauty of its language and expression.

Inderjit Kaur Sidhu said that she had just found a copy of the English edition of Skeena lying on the table, and when she opened it, she came across the following passage:
‘This is my third house arrest. First at my parent’s, second at my in-laws, and third in my own home. Seven months. Nine years. One week. Punishment, compromise, investigation.’
She said, ‘For sure, I will buy it and read it’.

Surinder Kaur Sahota said that she enjoyed reading the novel because of the beauty of its language and expression. The story deals with family values, social systems, and the hold of religious ideologies. She said, it is constructed from many ‘fictions’, events that cannot be true. Surinder gave two three examples of such untrue things including the one where Skeena is shown assaulted by an ‘educated doctor husband’. ‘But…’ she said, ‘I was most shocked to find that Iqbal Singh was Gamu’. Surinder said she was irritated by the spelling mistakes in the Gurumukhi edition of Skeena.

Ranbir Jauhal said that she also was not as happy with the fourth section as she was with the rest of the novel. As well, she said, she wanted the novel to be a lot longer but it finished too fast. Responding to comments made by Surinder she said that one of the things she most appreciates about ‘Skeena’ is in the ways it bursts various societal myths, like the myth that wife assault only occurs in ‘un-educated lower class’ families and that middle class ‘educated’ men do not assault/abuse their wives. She also affirmed Randeep’s observations about the integration in the novel of various taboo subjects such as sexual orientation.

Jarnail Singh Sekha, Co-Coordinator, said that he likes the name of the novel. The language is beautiful, characters have depth, and the story wins the reader’s heart where the reader does not want to put the novel away until it’s finished. There are however, conversion problems with the script, and they should have been taken care of before the publication of the Gurumukhi edition. He said that he has read Skeena in both Shahmukhi and Gurumukhi scripts, and Shahmukhi flows wonderfully well but Gurumukhi stalls time and again. Also, in the fourth section, the novel stoops to a low-level filmi plot when Iqbal Singh is revealed as Gamu. ‘In my opinion’ remarked Sekha, ‘Iqbal should have stayed Iqbal.’

Jarnail Singh Artist, Co-Coordinator, said that Skeena is a window into the cultural milieu of Pakistan and the status of Muslim women. He enjoyed the novel, but tends to agree with Mr. Sekha that at the end there is filmi-style plotting. ‘Nothing is added to the novel by turning Iqbal Singh into Gamu.’ Also, he said, the lesbian issues have been touched but in a superfluous manner since the lesbian characters do not move the plot. Artist affirmed that script conversion problems are irritating for the Gurumukhi reader.

Surinder Kaur Brar said she just loved the novel. The author’s ability to express delicate feelings, concepts and situations is amazing. The language and style of writing is beautiful. It has strong subject matter but then every novel has subject matter but not every novelist can fulfil it or do justice to it. The depiction of reality is subtle and realistic even ‘natural’. ‘I like everything in it, if you ask me, i can not find anything wrong with it. Skeena is a great addition to Punjabi literature’.

Fauzia Rafique thanked Punjabi Lekhak Manch and its members for giving this special time to Skeena, for reading the novel, and for sharing valuable insights. She also thanked Sukhvant Hundal for requesting the Manch to discuss Skeena. She said, she will take the feedback on Gurumukhi conversion issues to the publisher, Libros Libertad, so that the next print run is free of typos.

As suggested by Sadhu Binning, Fauzia shared her experience of publishing Skeena in Punjabi Shahmukhi script from Lahore in 2007. She said that like East Punjab, West Punjab also has three main publishing houses, out of which one had asked her in 2006 to convert Skeena into Shahmukhi. Once the manuscript was ready, the publisher was discussing printing details but no mention was made of any royalties for the author. Fauzia said, she had to withdraw Skeena, and then offer it one by one, to the other two publishers. Amjad Salim of Sanjh Publications came through; he signed a royalty agreement with the author, invested their own money, and published not the standard 200-350 books but 750 (hardbound= 500, Paperback=250). Sanjh also acquired funding from South Asia Partnership (SAP) to launch the novel in nine cities in Pakistan. With that, ‘Skeena may be the best-selling novel in modern Punjabi literature,’ Fauzia said.

The situation of Punjabi publishing is such where in most cases, she said, authors fund the publishing of their own books or they have to buy-back a large portion of the print-run; plus they have to do their own promotion without much support from the publisher. This situation necessitates that the Punjabi Canadian writers find better solutions for the publication of their works. The formation of a Punjabi writers cooperative to publish, promote and distribute the writings of Punjabi Canadian authors is one way to go.

She said, at this time, author royalties and rights are less a matter of money and more a matter of principle. There is not much money in publishing of literature in any language and especially not in the publishing of Punjabi literature, but it ‘torments me’ she said, to find that when a Punjabi book is published, each and every contributor is paid BUT the author. In addition, the author is powerless and held at bay by the publisher with ‘Punjabi books don’t sell’ oxymoron. Nothing sells without promotion and distribution, she said.

Satish Gulati of Chetna Parkashan, visiting Canada from Ludhiana India, outlined the many problems faced by Punjabi publishers. He said that it requires consistency and dedication to continue to publish Punjabi books, and it is a difficult path to tread. He explained the process of book publishing and selling, and outlined the many barriers to its success.

The discussion brought out the need to further brainstorm on the different aspects of Punjabi publishing to make it a more beneficial and respectful experience for Punjabi Canadian authors.

Nedeem Parmar, Treasurer of the Manch, was of the opinion that there is no need to discuss this subject as Chetna Parkashan is doing a wonderful job in serving the publishing needs of Punjabi Canadian authors.

Fauzia, however, has made a request to the Manch to make some time to hold discussions on different aspects of Punjabi publishing as it impacts Punjabi Canadian authors.

Punjabi Lekhak Manch was established over 35 years back. The first meeting was attended, among others, by its initiators Surjeet Kalsey, Gurcharan Rampuri and Ajmer Rode.

The meeting was attended by Jarnail Singh Sekha, Jarnail Singh Artist, Sushil Kaur, Surinderpal Kaur Brar, Kirpal Kaur, Gurcharan Singh Gill, Inderjit Singh Dhami, Krishan Bhanot, Khushhal Singh Gloti, Pritpal Singh Sandhu, Fauzia Rafique, Hrjit Daudhria, Joginder Shamsher, Barjinder K. Dhillon, Hari Singh Tatla, Narinder Baia, Jagdev S. Dhillon, Pavinder Dhariwal, Harjinder Singh Cheema, Inderjit Kaur Sidhu, Shahzad Nazir Khan, Nirmal Kaur Gill, Jasbir Kaur Maan, Satish Gulati, Nedeem Parmar, Davinder Punia, Gian Singh Kotli, Ranbir Jauhal, Sukhvant Hundal, Sadhu Binning, Randip Purewal, Amrik Duhra, Surinder K. Sahota.
(Note: The list may not be comprehensive.)

Punjabi Lekhak Manch meets every second Sunday from 1-4 PM at Surrey’s Newton Library. Contact Punjabi Lekhak Manch: lekhakmanch11@gmail.com

This report uses valuable input from Jarnail Singh Artist, Parvinder Dhariwal, Jarnail Singh Sekha and Randeep Purewall.

Buy Skeena:
http://www.libroslibertad.ca/book.php?id=42

Report first published at http://novelskeena.wordpress.com/.
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Most viewed Uddari posts 2008-2009

April 2008 – April 2009

In April 2008, Uddari Weblog was viewed over 600 times, by March 2009 the number had risen to 5000 views with the totals reaching 41000

Top Posts

Photo Album: Foto Mandli 2,361 views

Great Women of Punjabi Origin:
Punjab deyaN ManniaN PerwanniaN ZnaniaN
1,931 views

Punjabi Poems: NazmaN 1,758 views

Cultural Events: Rehtal Mehfli Varqa 1,670 views

Punjabi MaNboli Writers: Punjabi MaNboli Likhari 1,444 views

Punjabi MaNboli Publishers: Punjabi Maanboli Chhapay1,202 views

‘Sanjh’ A New Punjabi Literary Magazine 897 views

Slumbering Over Islamic Unity 887 views

All-Time Favorites
April 2008 – April 2009

Autobiography of the Great Dada Amir Haider Khan (1904-1986)

1. Royalty Rights in Punjabi Publishing

2. Royalties for Punjabi Language Authors

Modern Punjabi Literature at UBC: A glass half full!

Amarjit Chandan’s Poem being Carved in Stone in Oxfordshire

3. Author Royalties Down to Definitions in the Punjab

Post Retirement Positions for Musharraf

Bhagat Singh Shaheed Statue

Kishwar Naheed to Ahmad Faraz

‘Identity Card’ by Mahmoud Darwish in Punjabi

Lost and (Not) Found: Teen Idol Afzal Sahir

Kikli 13 July

THE SHOCK OF RECOGNITION: Looking at Hamerquist’s ‘Fascism and Anti-Fascism’ by J. Sakai

Yaar da Ditta Haar by Fauzia Rafiq

‘Porn Creation’ by Fauzia Rafiq

Most popular posts on Uddari pages

Sixty Years of Unflinching Beauty, 1948-2008

Kishwar Naheed: A Great Woman from the Punjab

Sophia Duleep Singh: A Great Punjabi Woman

Recent Raves
‘No Heer please, we’re Sikhs!’

Punjabi MaaNboli and the Punjabis-1

Fauzia Rafique
gandholi.wordpress.com
frafique@gmail.com

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Uddari is One

April 11, Uddari Weblog is one year new!

134 Posts

300 Comments

295 approved

First post
April 11, 2008

Photo by Partap Singh Ahdan, Lahore 1943

Photo by Partap Singh Ahdan, Lahore 1943


Title
Aahu Chashm Ragini
Photo by
Partap Singh Ahdan
Sourced by
Amarjit Chandan

Post intended to be the first
Royalty Rights in Punjabi Publishing

First Comment
‘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.’
Posted by
Chitrkar
On
Home Uddari Mudhla Warqa
Submitted
2008/04/07 at 9:19pm

First Uddari Page
Great Women of Punjabi Origin – Punjab Diyan Mannian Perwannian Zananian
Added on
2008/04/20

Kewal Kaur, a Naxalite activist

Kewal Kaur, a Naxalite activist

First post
Kewal Kaur: A Great Punjabi Woman
Photo and information by
Amarjit Chandan

First Uddari blog site
Uddari Art

First work of art
Shahid Mirza’s ‘Kala MaiNdha Bhaes’

In
Modern Art by Punjabis
On
May 23 2008

Fauzia Rafique
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Kishwar Naheed to Ahmad Faraz

Kishwar Naheed

An OPEN LETTER From Kishwar Naheed Looking back on a more than four-decade-old friendship with Ahmed Faraz, one of the best-known Urdu poets of Pakistan and of the sub-continent, now battling for his life in an American hospital.

KISHWAR NAHEED
24 Aug 08

Dear Faraz,
We met back in 1964, in the Peshawar office of Yousuf Lodhi (the great political cartoonist who died a few years ago). That night we talked about politics, literature and made small jokes about contemporary writers. That was the start of our friendship. You and my husband Yousuf Kamran grew closer. You were both too glamorous. I know the way girls used to write letters to the two of you. The phone was not common then. Yousuf was presenting PTV’s popular programmes such as “Sukhanwar” and “Dastan Go”. You were being introduced on TV as the Hero Poet. When a famous singer sang your ghazal “Yeh Alam Shouq Ka Dekha na Jai’, viewers still remember you looking like a shy adolescent, the singer with her ring-studded fingers, looking proud of her achievement. Yes, it was a small spark, which was quickly put to ashes by her mother.

Faraz, You were my colleague at the National Centre (a State-run cultural centre, now defunct). I was posted at Lahore and you at Peshawar. You opted for a transfer to Islamabad in 1974. Again, some love spark very intense, very absorbing. But despite being a majnoon, you were conscious that a writer has to be a person with status.

On one side, your popularity was speeding up after Dard Ashob, your second collection of poetry. On the other, you decided to build your own house. You were fortunate that poetry made you rich. As you often claimed, no other poet had been as lucky. You received the highest royalty ever paid to a poet for over 30 years. Your poems were bestsellers. You have roamed the world reciting your poetry, letting people from the crowd repeat lines. An old man enjoys your poetry in the same way as a teenaged girl or boy.

Sense of humour
Once, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, you and I were chief guests. After me, when you started reciting your poetry, the fiery Tahira Abdullah objected. We want poetry on women, she said. Abruptly, Faraz, you said “all my poetry is about women”. Your sense of humour is so remarkable that even eminent humorist Mushtaq Yousafi was impressed by your repartee and wit.

I can never forget 1977 for two reasons. One is the time you recited “Peshaawar Qatilo” (Professional Killers) at a function at Islamabad. Around 2.00 a.m., men in white clothes [I don’t know why they always come in white clothes] entered the house and threw you into an army jeep and drove off. After a few days we consulted with Abid Hasan Minto, the lawyer, and filed an appeal in the Lahore High Court, that for the last 15 days Faraz is missing.

Justice Zullah was in the chair; he ordered the army to produce Faraz in two days and asked me and Saif sahib to bring all the writers we could collect on that particular day. Nobody will believe, Faraz. Right from Qasmi Sahib, every writer of name was in the High Court that day. When I saw you, I screamed; so thin had you gone, so spoiled your complexion. You were brought in escorted by the army. The judge, judges could then still speak like that, asked you “why were you locked up, did you see some warrant?” When you said no, the judge, in a very angry voice, announced that Faraz may be freed immediately. The decision was presented before Gen. Ziaul Haq, who was army chief of Pakistan. It was June 27, 1977.

The General’s words
You remember, Faraz? The General spoke to you to convince you about how important it was to support Bhutto sahib. Less than two weeks later, the same General placed Pakistan under martial law on July 5, 1977. That is, of course, the other reason why 1977 is unforgettable.

Faraz, you told us that during your stay in Attock Fort, you were kept in a dark and dingy basement, where food was given to you in a thali, by a hand whose face you could not see.

During that crisis I talked to Begum Bhutto, as we came to know that your arrest had the approval of Bhutto sahib. She promised to talk to him. Next day when I again rang her, she too was angry; she said Bhutto sahib had said all of us were his supporters. So why had Faraz placed him in such a situation? All of us were perplexed, how to make Bhutto sahib agree to release you? With Masood Ashaar, I went to see Madame Noor Jehan, as she was your admirer. Also we knew that she was a close friend of the “Black Queen” (whose closeness to Bhutto sahib was known to every one). After a lot of discussion, Madame went to Karachi and persuaded Black Queen to request Bhutto sahib to order your release.

Faraz, In 1978, you were reciting your famous poem Muhasra at Karachi. Right there, in the middle of the night, you were made to get up and leave as you had been “exiled” from Karachi and Sindh with immediate effect. You were so dejected that you exiled yourself from the country, stayed with your brother for six years in London. When you returned from England and Fehmida Riaz came back from India, we celebrated with a function at Lahore. Again we were together, but the distribution of government jobs created a new horizon of relationships. You were appointed Chairman Academy of Letters, and Fehmida was made MD, National Book Foundation.

Remember you were earlier made Chairman of the same academy by its founder, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto? The urge for a job in the government remained in you until Pervez Musharraf got angry because you spoke against the Army and you and your luggage from the residence were thrown out like that of any low man. Despite protests by the press and writers, nothing happened.

Remember when we went together in the processions for restoration of judges 2007-08. Many junior but non-committed writers, following your instructions, joined the processions.

Faraz, You have had a tendency to create controversies about either yourself or about different issues. Remember you spoke against marriage and said this is also a sort of prostitution through a contract on paper. How many newspapers and fundamentalists spoke against you? Another controversy you started was about the Urdu language. You said Urdu is a dying language. The entire Muttahida Qaumi Movement (a party that represents Urdu speakers in Pakistan) and many writers got angry with you. You also spoke against the army but then changed your words saying “I am against the ruling junta, not against a sipahi”.

Internationally popular
You have been very popular internationally. You have hardly ever refused an invitation for a mushaira from anywhere in the world, but accept only on your own terms. You made writers conscious of getting royalty from the publishers; you made police crack down on illegal publishers. You made writers realize their self-respect. No one can accuse you of being a munafiq, a hypocrite. You have never been ashamed of your romances, never presented any excuse of your evening drink sessions.

Faraz, You have been the darling of singers, so much so that ghazals by others with the same name as you got popular. In all colleges, the girls who had never read poetry recited your couplets. Each one of them, even in Hijab, wanted your autographs. You, so conscious of your age, have never liked yourself to be called “Uncle”, especially by any women. You are Faraz Sahib for every one. But you did not object when my sons called you that. I, in turn, have been a darling aunty to your three sons and I have not seen any son so much fond of the father as your sons have been. But who is not fond of you and who will not remember you every evening with a glass in hand? Cheers my friend, your innings has never been without grace and glamour, and you are still our darling.

Love you,

From: www.hindu.com

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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

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
2. Royalties for Punjabi Language Authors
3. Author Royalties Down to Definitions in the Punjab

Royalties and Copyrights