The Best Selling Punjabi Novel: Skeena


I am delighted to share with you the news that my first novel Skeena has become ‘the most-sold Punjabi novel’ of all times in Pakistan, and it’s publisher, Sanjh Publications, is coming out with a Second Edition in March 2016.

In an email message, Publisher Amjad Salim Minhas said that ‘Sakina is the most sold Punjabi novel Sanjh has ever published; it is also the most sold Punjabi novel in Pakistan’.

In addition to the Shahmukhi Punjabi, Sanjh Publications now has the rights to publish Skeena in Gurmukhi Punjabi, English and Urdu.

This best-selling Shahmukhi Punjabi edition was published in 2007, and it was the most-launched book in Pakistan with events held in nine cities, each in partnership with local writers and literary organisations. This also made it the ‘most reviewed Punjabi book‘; and, the only novel that brought the movement for Punjabi language rights to the fore at each of its launching events.

Skeena’s Shahmukhi edition was printed 1000 copies where 350-500 is the norm; Skeena is sold-out, and that also is not the norm. The publisher thinks that the reasons for its sales/popularity are ‘content, style and exceptional literary quality’.

It is interesting to note that Author Anthony Dalton’s 2011 predictions about Skeena’s English edition are sl–ow–ly but surely coming to pass in Punjabi, though we still have to see how the Gurmukhi edition does in the Indian Punjab where Skeena has never been published or marketed.

My gratitude to the readers, reviewers, peers; the publisher, editor, all members of the production team; and, the funders and supporters of Skeena’s Shahmukhi Punjabi edition for this profound and rewarding experience.

Thank you.


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Not just ‘like’ – LOVE the Preetlari Trust

Preetlari Trust, the publisher of monthly Preetlari, is catching a second wind via Facebook where Activist Shumita Didi Sandhu, Editor Poonam Singh, Publisher Ratikant Singh and other supporters are coming together to strengthen a lasting literary publishing tradition in the Punjab.

The trust was formed in 1984 in the aftermath of the killing by the militants of the then Editor of Preetlari, Sumeet Singh. Since then, Poonam and Ratikant have been publishing the magazine, and in that, the guiding roles of Sh. P.H. Vaishnav, Dr. Maan Singh Nirankaari, Smt. Mohinder Navtej Singh and Smt. Santosh Balraj Sahni are much appreciated.

With the publishing of Preetlari magazine, Preetlari Trust also organizes literary and social events in Preetnagar, Chandigarh and Delhi. It has presented puppet shows, poster workshops, street plays, dramatised story readings, art workshops, exhibitions, talks and readings; and has hosted artists, writers and cultural activists coming from diverse areas and backgrounds to develop dynamic spaces for discussions and dialogue to take place.

In 2011, the Trust expanded to include community building work for Preetnagar’s children by offering remedial education, nutrition information, computer literacy, and team building. The old community centre, Preet Ghar, has also been re-opened for villagers, visitors, artistes and volunteers.

To sustain its publishing and community building work, Preetlari Trust needs urgent support. Please donate through cheque/cash to:
Saanjhey Ranng Punjab De or ‘SRPD’
Payable at AXIS BANK, G.K.1, New Delhi
Account No: 049010100442916

Details here: Facebook Page
For more information contact Editor Poonam Singh:

So, don’t just ‘like’ but LOVE the Preetlari Trust, and not only because it has such a beautiful name, ‘lovestring’.

50,000 Views for Uddari Weblog in 2010

With 50,000 views in the past calendar year, at just over 4,000 a month, Uddari Weblog is perhaps the most visited blog on Blogosphere on Punjab/Panjab, Punjabis and Punjabi literature.

The busiest day of the year for Uddari was August 25th with 327 views.
The most popular post that day was ‘Autobiography of the Great Dada Amir Haider Khan (1904-1986)‘ May 2008, says ‘Your 2010 year in blogging’ by (offering Uddari Weblog a ‘Wow’ on it’s Blog Health-O-Meter).

Here is more from it:

Uddari Attractions in 2010
Most viewed posts and pages

Dada Amir Haider Khan 1904-1986

Visit the post:
Autobiography of the Great Dada Amir Haider Khan (1904-1986)
(22 comments/pingbacks)
April 2008 – April 2009 Cultural Events page
(14 comments/pingbacks)
Cultural Events
(5 comments/pingbacks)
Photo Album
(29 comments/pingbacks)
Punjabi MaaNboli Writers
(32 comments/pingbacks)

Uddari Top referring sites in 2010,,,, and punjabibooksonline.

And now, other Uddari blogs:

Uddari Art Exhibition
(Happy to have earned ‘You’re on fire!’ on the Blog Health-O-Meter of

Uddari Art was viewed about 7,800 times in 2010.

The busiest day of the year for Uddari Art was June 13th with 222 views.
The most popular item that day was Punjab Landscape Page.

Uddari Art Attractions in 2010
Punjab Landscape
(28 comments/pingbacks)
People Punjab: Portraits and Groups
(27 comments/pingbacks)
Lord Krishna with Cow by Manjit Bawa, September 2008
Partition: The Punjab 1947
(5 comments/pingbacks)
Roopa Bheda, Nov 2009
(1 comment/pingback)

Uddari Art Top referring sites in 2010
were,,,, and


Love Life: the Story
was viewed about 8,800 times in 2010.

The busiest day of the year for Love Life was April 29th with 90 views.
The most popular post that day was ‘Gendercide in Pakistan: Women are a colonized population!’.

Love Life Attractions in 2010
Gendercide in Pakistan: Women are a colonized population! October 2008
(33 comments/pingbacks)
(4 comments/pingbacks)
PAKISTAN: Police gang rape a teenage boy in custody and distribute footage on the Internet March 2009
Shaheed Bibi Iram Shahzadi: Rawalpindi November 2008
PAKISTAN: The killing of two Christian brothers July 2010

Love Life Top referring sites in 2010,,,, and

This information is a compliment to Uddari visitors, authors and contributors.

P.S. If you have not yet subscribed to Uddari Weblog, please take a moment to go down the Sidebar and find at the bottom ‘Subscribe to Uddari’, click on ‘Sign me up!’ to take a free email subscription.

‘Revealing the Invisible Heritage of Panjab’, Panjab Digital Library

Appeal for Support

‘What if you could give a book to the entire world? Well, now you can when you Adopt a Book for digitization through the Panjab Digital Library. Your simple, generous gift comes with the promise that a piece of history will be globally available forever.

About Panjab Digital Library (PDL)
‘We continue to preserve Panjab’s heritage for future generations. Today you can view one million pages free at To date, PDL has digitally preserved more than five million pages of manuscripts, books, newspapers, magazines and photographs.

‘But we can’t keep it up without you, our supporters around the world. Will you join with others today who are dedicated to preserving the stories and truths of Panjab? Individual donations in support of our work is the best way to help in protecting the data for perpetuity.

‘You can also support PDL’s work through a direct donation to the organization. You will be amazed at how far even a few dollars today could go toward ensuring the strength of PDL’s work in 2011!

‘Your one US dollar ($1) helps us locate, digitize, publish online and preserve 4 pages

Archives Digitized
Kurukshetra University
Panjab Languages Department
Government Museum Chandigarh
Shiromani Gurduara Parbandhak Committee
Delhi Sikh Gurduara Management Committee

Let us preserve what remains

‘Panjab Digital Library was recognized as the “Best E-Content in Culture & Heritage”
of South Asia – 2010

‘All donations are tax-deductible in the US and Canada where Sikh Research Institute is accepting them on behalf of PDL.’

Panjab Digital Library
#867, Sector 64, SAS Nagar
Panjab – 160065
South Asia: +91-981-411-3047
North America: +1-210-704-7096

Lahore’s First Punjabi Bookstore Deemed Shut

Kitab Trinjan (KT), the first dedicated shop of Punjabi books in Lahore, is due to close end of this month.

Kitab Trinjan was established in 1997 to encourage the publishing and dissemination of Shahmukhi Punjabi literature in a situation where Punjabi books were shunned away by the ‘regular’ bookshops that were happy instead to sell the more ‘lucrative/prestigious’ Urdu and English books. With regard to the privilege enjoyed by English and Urdu at the regular book shops, however, the situation in 2009 remains more or less the same.

In the last 12 years, thanks to the continuous and ongoing volunteer work of Zubair Ahmed Jan, Kitab Trinjan has sold more than 1,200,000 (12 Lakh) Punjabi books; bought 7,71,635 books from other publishers; published works created by modern Punjabi writers under various imprints; but most of all, has built a cultural community unique to itself. This community is built by extending regular interaction, support and contribution to literary communities of the Punjab, Panjab and the Diaspora. Zubair’s ongoing support to Sangat Shah Hussain in Lahore, to the online Punjabi news and cultural digest, to the largest online archive of Punjabi Gurumukhi/Shahmukhi literature Apnaorg, to the only Punjabi literary quarterly magazine that prints simultaneously in Gurumukhi and Shahmukhi Temahi Sanjh, for example, has strengthened the respective organizations and cultural communities.

I had the opportunity to visit Kitab Trinjan in its very first year when Activist Zafaryab Ahmed told me in Islamabad about it, and later introduced me to Author Zubair Ahmed who was instrumental in establishing, and then managing it. Later, i went to the shop, a 1.4-roomed top floor of a depleted inner city building in Lahore, though inside, it was the most inspiring place to be. In fact, that was the first time that i had actually seen hundreds of Shahmukhi Punjabi titles in one place. It created a feeling of wonderment where i was enchanted also by the fact that the development of Punjabi literature was not in the hands of policymakers of Pakistan but us, the writers and readers of Punjabi.

Here is a 1998 photo of Kitab Trinjan from the outside, taken by Amarjit Chandan, a long time supporter of KT.

Kitab Trinjan. Lahore..1999. Pic Amarjit Chandan(2)

Detail, Kitab Trinjan by Amarjit Chandan, 1998

In 2006 and 2007, i found Kitab Trinjan in a newer, bigger and brighter place. It was doubtless the most well-organized and well-managed book shop of the three Punjabi book sellers on and around Mozang Chowk since Zubair had help from KT’s only paid worker, Ghulam Haider who worked as a full time sales associate.

The following are the reasons given for the closure of Kitab Trinjan: That there were no Punjabi book stores in 1997 and now there are two more that are operating as full time businesses; That there is duplication of services between Suchet Kitab Ghar and Kitab Trinjan; That KT is limited by its voluntary nature; and, that Zubair Ahmad, the Volunteer Manager of KT, wants to focus on his creative work.

The above reasons do not jell with me as they defy all logic; and in that, it seems that this decision is taken for the benefit of less than half a dozen people instead of the benefit of even those 6,896,000 Punjabis who were living in the city of Lahore just after Kitab Trinjan first opened its doors. In the 1998 Census, the total population of Lahore was counted as 6.8 Million, however, later estimates indicate that the population of Lahore was 10 million in 2006.

My problem is as follows:
The first reason encourages us to believe, in defiance of all demographic considerations, that perhaps there are no Punjabi speakers in the additional 3.2 Million people that were counted as living in Lahore in 2006; that may be there is no increase in the city population since 2006; or if the population increased it did no sprout any new buyers of Punjabi books; that there are no new students of Punjabi language; and, certainly no new lovers of Punjabi literature. Else, the simple fact of population increase would have been enough to justify the continued existence of, at least, these three Punjabi book stores. In other words, such reasoning suggests that 3 BOOK STORES are too many for 6 to 8 MILLION Punjabi speakers of Lahore.

The second reason perpetuates confusion as it meddles with the roles of Suchet Kitab Ghar a Publisher of books and magazines who operates as a distributor/retailer to support its primary role as a Publisher; and Kitab Trinjan, a Bookseller/Distributor who has published books only on occasion.

The third and the fourth reasons are issues that can easily be resolved by Zubair himself if given the chance. Having an outlet for Punjabi books at his home in one of the suburbs of Lahore will eliminate the daily hardship, and leave more time for creative work.

I also do not share the ‘expatriate’s politically correct’ statement forwarded by my friend and another long time supporter of KT, Ijaz Syed, in his response to the closure of Lahore’s first Punjabi book shop.
‘My heartiest felicitations to the Central Committee members for taking this timely decision! Kitab Trinjan played its historical pioneering role in the publication and distribution of punjabi books at a time when this service was most needed. In my view, along with other Central Committee friends, a lot of credit for maintaining and managing Kitab Trinjan for these twelve long years rightly goes to Zubair Jan. Of course, none of this would have happened without Najam Sahab‘s benevolent presence.’

In accordance with the ‘enlightened expatriate’s politically correct guide’, a non-critical acceptance and appreciation of this decision has duly been tendered by Ijaz, else, why would he call it a ‘timely decision’? Is it really the requirement of this time to close one of the three (progressive) Punjabi book centers in Lahore?
I think it’s time to relocate this one, and open the fourth.
Tell you why.
When Kitab Trinjan was selling an average of 1 lakh books per year, Suchet Kitab Ghar and Sanjh Publications were also registering sales, I am willing to bet on it! So, if in the last 12 years, all three have shown an increase in sales, i don’t see why Kitab Trinjan needs to shut. Also, if the establishment of a sales/distribution center by Suchet Kitab Ghar (and Sanjh) did not have a negative impact on Kitab Trinjan, why now, Kitab Trinjan needs to be eliminated in the interest of one or both?

Maqsood Saqib of Pancham/Suchet and Amjad Salim of Sanjh Publications have, for different reasons, earned my un-wavering respect and love as people and professionals; and, i fully support the work of both. The same, may be more so, is true for Zubair Ahmad of Kitab Trinjan.

In other words, Bawa Jees te Bawi Jees, please do not be presenting Lahore in such narrow terms. The City and its people need and deserve all three of these wonderful spaces to develop Punjabi literature; and still, a few more. Not less!

Fauzia Rafique

Contact Uddari

Author Najm Hosain Syed

Najm Hosain Syed, Lahore 1999

Poet, Playwright, Linguist and Literary Critic Najm Hosain Syed is unique for having created the greatest positive impact on Punjabi literature, language, and the movement for the integrity of Punjabi in West Punjab.

The author of over 22 literary titles, Najm Hosain Syed runs weekly ‘Sangat Shah Husain’ since the Seventies, a literary gathering that is may be the highest school of learning that Pakistan can offer. Classic Punjabi poets such as Shah Madhulal Husain, Bulleh Shah, Gurunanak, Waris Shah and Damoodar are read, interpreted and discussed line by line over months and years.

Such schooling has produced most of what we now have in Punjabi writing and publishing in the West. Suchet Kitab Ghar and Monthly Pancham published by Editor Maqsood Saqib and Faiza, Kitab Trinjan operated by Author Zubair Ahmad, and Rut Leekha are the kind of fine organizations that are supported by Najm Syed. Earlier, he had encouraged the establishment of the first educational institution in Lahore to teach Punjabi at a graduate and post-graduate level, the Shah Husain College.

Below are links to the renderings of some of Najm Syed’s poetry and plays, and to more information about him.

Read excerpts from ‘Recurrent Patterns of Punjabi Poetry’ by Najm Hosain Syed at APNA

A Profile of Najm Hosain Syed by Zubair Ahmad (PDF)

More Photos in the Photo Album

‘Najm Hosain Syed: A Portrait’ by Iqbal Rashid at Uddari Art Exhibition

Photo by Amarjit Chandan.

What we have above is just the tip of the iceberg that does however satisfy Uddari Writers Page but there is a lot more that I like to share with you here.

Though we have seen ‘poet, playwright, linguist and literary critic’ with Najm’s name supported by about 20 titles containing poetry, stage plays, language development projects and literary criticism yet there is sufficient reason to add ‘Musician and Composer’ to it. In the past three decades, Najm has composed and recorded over 300 cassette-length UNPUBLISHED works of semi-classical and folk music. The best part is that most use classical Punjabi poetry. In this venture, he has had a solid partnership with his wife Samina Syed who is an ‘Ustad’ of her discipline of singing, and has a deep voice that has been honed by years of ‘riaz’ practice. Another person who has been singing on Najm Syed’s tunes with Samina Syed from the Seventies, is Yasoob Tahir, and in more recent years, Ayesha Ali. On the technical side, Abbas Sidiqui has been working to organize the music library; in addition, there are many musicians who have practiced and performed with Samina Syed in the past years. We can now hear Ayesha Ali at Lahore Chitrkar but the singing voices of Samina Syed, Yasoob Tahir and Najm Hosain Syed are still unavailable.

more …
A dedicated group of visual artists headed by Producer/Director Huma Safdar has staged some of Najm Syed’s plays in Lahore and Punjab, and have drawn admiration from critics and audiences. Most of Syed’s plays deal with themes of equality and re-interpretation of history in the context of the Punjab, and so are challenging to produce. Also, the plays are produced on volunteer basis. Ghazala Khan, Samiya Mumtaz, Farjad Nabi, Dr. Nusrat and many others have contributed their time, skills and talents to the development of Punjabi theater in Lahore.

Najm Hosain Syed takes a clear and strong stand against the growing societal trends of ‘commercialization’ by refusing to make profit from his work whether in the form of publications or plays. All his books are sold on the cost price, and the cultural organizations he supports are non-profit who do not seek funding from the government or other aid agencies. He abhors the growing influence enjoyed by the media, and stays away from media hypes about himself and his work.

Using a more intellectualized and structured version of Punjabi, Najm Syed’s poetic voice is aware and contained in its passions; and, his dramatic themes reach epic proportions as our past is brought to our present, and from their to a hope of a more enlightened future.

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 (, 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