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 Wichaar.com, 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?
Na!
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
gandholi.wordpress.com
frafique@gmail.com

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‘Sanjh’ A New Punjabi Literary Magazine

Quarterly Temahi Sanjh is a one-year new magazine on Punjabi literary scene that simultaneously publishes in Gurumukhi and Shahmukhi from Indian and Pakistani Punjab. In doing so, Sanjh attempts to fill two of the steepest gaps in Punjabi culture; the gap of division, and that of diversity.

In the past few decades, on both sides of India Pakistan border, Punjabis have experienced with pain the consequences of physical divisions created by foreign and local political interests. This has prompted many of us to increase our efforts to communicate with each other as people. For years, human rights and cultural activists in Pakistan and India have worked together to form a consensus on this issue whereby both governments are lobbied, for example, in favor of less restrictive borders. From West Punjab, Fakhr Zaman, Karamat Ali, Mohammad Tahseen, Imtiaz Alam and Ahmad Salim are among the many people who have worked hard on the ground to bring about discussions and joint actions among Punjabis.

We have not had that same clarity when dealing with the gaps created by our diversity; foremost among them, the usage of two different scripts. In this case, instead of yielding the ‘bad guys’ such as the local governments in case of divisive borders, the discussion on the diversity of Punjabi language scripts leads to a level of confusion where intellectuals and cultural activists shirk back before a consensus can be formed in our literary and cultural communities.

The issue of two scripts raises many questions pertaining to our history as Punjabis, and the fact that the Arabo-Persian script was instituted by Muslim invaders replacing the indigenous script does not endear it to many Punjabis. Also, the ambivalence created by this situation manifests itself in larger communities where the two major respective religions of Punjabis, Sikhism and Islam, begin to take ownership of the language turning the scripts into scriptures. In this equation, each religious stream develops their ‘own’ script overlooking the other. A glaring example of it is found in the ‘Sikh Chairs’ in the institutions of learning around the world that blatantly exclude the Shahmukhi script and with it the literature of 60% of Punjabis by patronizing Punjabi language courses pertaining to Gurumukhi alone. Likewise, in West Punjab, authors recognized by authorities are the ones writing in Shahmukhi.

Being a ‘Shahmukhi Punjabi’, if i can say so for now, i feel a terrible squeeze. First, there is not a possibility that getting a few ‘Muslim chairs’ will work to develop my mother tongue because the ‘Muslim’ identity in Pakistan is attached to Urdu not Punjabi; Second, the ambivalence of Punjabi opinion leaders on this issue is perpetuating a situation where Shahmukhi Punjabi faces gross neglect in most language development efforts.

‘Sanjh’ is not the first to acknowledges this issue. Magazines such as ‘MaaNboli’, ‘Pancham’ and others have shown a commitment to publish writers from both East and West Punjab, and have printed the writings of many Gurumukhi writers in Shahmukhi. Academy of the Punjab in North America (APNA), the Publisher of Temahi ‘Sanjh’, publishes Shahmukhi and Gurumukhi writings as well as the conversions. However, Sanjh is the first Punjabi magazine to affirm both the scripts by publishing the magazine in both.

Another valuable aspect of ‘Sanjh’ is that it brings the ownership of both the scripts where it belongs, to cultural and literary activists. In that, it finds common ground where Punjabi is being eroded by Urdu/Persian and Hindi/Sanskrit vocabulary in Pakistani and Indian Punjab.

Another interesting aspect of Sanjh is that it publishes from East and West Punjab while its editorial resides in Washington DC. Related humorous comments aside, this fact allows the publication to transcend some of the limitations faced by cultural organizations working in the Punjab, and enables it to reach out to both cultural communities while affirming the presence of the third.

View the Fourth issue of quarterly ‘Sanjh’ here: http://www.apnaorg.com/sanjh-4/

For more information, contact Safir Rammah, the Editor of Sanjh and Coordinator of APNA, at:rammah@apnaorg.com

APNA Website: www.apnaorg.com

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