Fauzia Rafique gets Ali Arshad Mir Award for novella ‘Keerru’

Amjad Salim Minhas, the Publisher of ‘Keerru’, received
the award from Farooq Nadeem in Lahore

Fauzia Rafique’s novella ‘Keerru’
(Sanjh Publications, Lahore 2019)
has received Ali Arshad Mir Award 2020
for the best in Punjabi Literature (prose).
Presented at the 12th Mir Punjabi Mela
organized by Professor Ali Arshad Mir Foundation
and Punjab Arts Council
at Lahore’s Open air Theatre
on December 26-27, 2020.

When i saw Hassan Junaid Arshad’s Facebook message informing me that ‘Keerru‘ has won Ali Arshad Mir Award, i was amazed because it is a tough book to recommend.* Anyone can enjoy reading ‘Keerru’ but in order to recommend it the readers/jurors must be free of prejudices related to not just class, caste and patriarchy but also of religion and sexuality. I know that this is a tall order, but ‘Keerru’ aka the Little Big Book, does it effortlessly in just over a hundred pages. My compliments to the decision makers of this award for choosing it.

This is the complete list of award winners. Congratulations to my peers for excellence in each area.
Fauzia Rafique (Literature, prose)
Dr. Saeed Bhutta (Research)
Hameed Razi (Translation)
Asim Padhiar (Poetry, nazm)
Zafar Awan (Poetry, ghazal)
Abdul Karim Qudsi (Children, poetry)
Dr. Fazeelat Bano (Children, prose)
Mahboob Sarmad (Faith-based, poetry)
Aleem Shakeel was posthumously awarded Ali Arshad Mir Service Award for his contributions to Punjabi literature.

My thanks to jurors, organizers and participants of the 12th Mir Punjabi Mela 2020.

It is delightful that at the end of 2019, both my hometowns, Surrey and Lahore, honored me by recognizing my work; earlier, I had received the City of Surrey’s Arts and Heritage Literary Arts Award.

This is a hopeful beginning for 2021. Happy New Year to us all!

*That is also the reason why I value the reviews of ‘Keerru’ by Qaisar Abbas, Ramsha Ashraf, and Sara Kazmi. Thank you.

Fauzia Rafique
gandholi.wordpress.com
Author of Skeena, The Adventures of SahebaN: Biography of a Relentless Warrior, and Holier Than Life
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2019 Dhahan Prize Youth Award for Creative Writing – March 14 Surrey

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You are cordially invited to
The Dhahan Prize launch of
The 2019 Youth Award for Creative Writing
8 PRIZES VALUED AT $500 EACH
Thursday, March 14th
10:30-11:30 a.m.
LA Matheson Secondary School, Surrey
9484 – 122 Street, Surrey V3V 4M1

The event will host speakers including:
The Principal, teachers, and students of LA Matheson Secondary School
A representative of sponsoring partner, Coast Capital Savings
Founder of the Dhahan Prize

Snacks and Refreshments will be served

For more information, visit
dhahanprize.com/youth

Download PDF poster:
Dhahan Prize – 2019 Youth Prize Invitation
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Memory Wall on the Strip: a Mirror for the Officials of the City of Surrey

memorywall-daveFriends We Remember, Lives We Celebrate

There is a place in Surrey where a ‘Celebration Of Life’ event begins and ends with memorializing the ongoing presence of death.

In the icy evening of Saturday 17 December, a few people were gathered on 135A, Surrey’s homeless Strip, to honor and remember those who had died here. The Strip is one of the few streets in Surrey that has no trees. Sparse one-level structures of a couple of auto parts shops, Front Room (drop in center, shelter and a food outlet serving the homeless), a couple more commercial units, and a small church across the street. In front of the closed auto shops, a group of 8-10 wonderful people, who said they were individuals ‘unalligned with any church or other group’, had laid out food on two long tables with boxes of pizza, cookies, juice and pop. On the sidewalk across the street, between a tent and a food table, a white board with some color markers and candles was propped up against the fence of the church.

Already, it had a few names.

I came to know of the Celebration of Life event in early December from a Surrey activist of Alliance Against Displacement (AAD), an organization helping the Residents of the Strip against homelessness. Scheduled for December 10, the event was moved to December 17th to avoid the snow storm; and, during that storm nine homeless people died on the streets of Vancouver, 13 in BC, in one single night.

The almost empty white board began to fill with names as people walked by, stopped to read, some came up and added names of their friends and relatives, some asked for other names to be added. A woman wanted ‘Jessy’ to be written as ‘Jessie’ because she said Jessie would turn in his grave if he saw it written like that; and, more than one person wanted to make sure that ‘Old Man Dave’ was indeed there along with ‘Dave’. A young woman touched a name on the board, cried and said, ‘My one best friend’.

The above photo and the two below were taken the next day, December 18, when a woman named CeeCee, who had the previous night added the name of her late partner to the Memory Wall, herself died in her tent.

memorywall-dave1Native / CeeCee / Dec 18, 2016

Tears are irrelevant in this place. The question is how many more people have to die before the prosperous City of Surrey yields a solution to the increased poverty and homelessness on its streets?

It is obvious to everyone except perhaps the high officials of the City of Surrey and its mouthpiece publications and organizations that these deaths are not ‘fentanyl’ ‘ODed’ deaths but deaths caused by homelessness and poverty. I say it because the ‘famed’ plan that the City was working on without consulting the Residents of the Strip, came out to be a plan totally off the mark- it’s as if people were dying because of hunger, and the City assigned more ambulances for a solution. The irony is, it’s not ‘as if’, this is exactly what has happened and is happening. The City’s new ‘plan’ for the Strip is to scare away it’s residents with increased surveillance and intimidation, but the problem is that there’s no place else to go from here.

There is a letter that a group of academics put together with regards to homelessness in Victoria, I find, it’s relevant here too. And so, Surrey! THIS WINTER – HOUSING FIRST!

The City of Surrey must provide the following to the residents of the Strip:
– Comfortable housing to the homeless people living on the Strip.
– Full assurance that until their housing needs are met, the people living on the Strip will not be required to unpitch their tents and leave each morning.
– A Memorial where the Memory Wall now stands.

memorywall-dave2Behind the Memory Wall

Uddari is grateful to Alliance Against Displacement (AAD) for supporting the Residents of the Strip in their demand for safety and housing, for organizing the Celebration of Life event, and for providing the photos for this post.

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