More at Uddari

Information on AIDS Walk San Francisco, register now for July 20.

Amnesty International is presenting ‘Super Patriots and Morons’ in Vancouver, a political play banned in Zimbabwe. Written by Raisedon Baya and Leornard Matsashort, it was short-listed for the Freedom of Expression Award by Amnesty International UK. The Vancouver production of ‘Super Patriots and Morons’ is directed by Pasi Gunguwo, and features Jean Pierre, Carlos Joe Costa, Ezeadi, Patrick Onokwulu, Tendai Mpofu, Ruth Akefa Azu among others.

A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammad Hanif
A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammad Hanif
Meet London-based author Mohammad Hanif in Karachi and Lahore this week where he will present readings from his first novel ‘A Case of Exploding Mangoes’, a satire on General Zia ul Haq, the dearly departed conservative ruler of Pakistan.

Aitzaz Ahsan, one of the most prominent leaders of the movement for democratic rights in Pakistan, is coming to Amnesty International USA in Washington DC to speak about the issues emanating from the dismissal last year of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, and others. Ahsan has led the recently held Long March (June 9 from Karachi and Quetta to Sukkur-Multan-Lahore-Rawalpindi-Islamabad June 14) to demand the reinstatement of justices. More on the event in Washington DC.

At the same Page, find information about events happening in Vancouver tomorrow to celebrate the ongoing contributions and achievements of the First Nations and Aborignal Canadians at the National Aborignal Day, June 21.

View the new Photo Album page created today to display photos of cultural, art and literary events. It is a matter of pride for Uddari to begin it with the memory of a remarkable youth, Deepak Binning, who continues to create positive impacts on our communities in Vancouver. So, click over, and see some photos of the Ninth Deepak Binning Foundation Walk-a-Thon and West Coast BhangRa Festival held in Richmond earlier this month.

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

A new edition of the out-of-print autobiography of Dada Amir Haider published in 1988 titled “Chains to lose: Life and Struggles of a Revolutionary – Memoirs of Dada Amir Haider Khan, Vol 1” edited by Hasan N. Gardezi (462 Pages, Rs. 350, Patriot Publishers, Delhi 1988) is now available. Here is the cover page of the new edition.

Life and Struggles of a Revolutionary, Memoirs of Dada Amir Haider Khan

Chains to Lose – Life and Struggle of a Revolutionary
– Memoirs of Dada Amir Haider Khan

Hasan N. Gardezi, Ed., (Karachi 2007)

The following book review on the 1988 Edition by Shafqat Tanvir Mirza was published almost 20 years back in Weekly Viewpoint, Lahore. Today, i am honoured to post it at Uddari as it brings together at least five individuals who have and are contributing to the enrichment of our cultural and political life in the most magnificent ways.

Dada Amir Haider induces tears of love and respect from anyone in the Punjab with a mention of his name; Shafqat Tanvir Mirza’s life in journalism shows us how to live and work with integrity under oppressive regimes; Hasan N. Gardezi has shaped our ways of thinking with his political and literary writings; Amarjit Chandan reminds us of the best traditions of our poets who fight for revolutionary change; and, Mazhar Ali Khan who brought out Viewpoint and kept it going in Lahore in the toughest of situations.

Because of this, today is a beautiful day at Uddari even when clouds are bearing down on Vancouver.

Dada Amir Haider

Dada Amir Haider Khan
By Shafqat Tanvir Mirza

CHAINS TO LOSE is the life story, in his own words, of a great revolutionary, a father figure, a living legend. Every inch of a rebel from his very childhood, this colossus of a man stands before us dominating a whole era. In these pages, for the first time in print, revolutionary and trade union leader Dada Amir Haider chronicles in graphic detail the class struggle in colonial India. The readers of these memoirs will see the events of an important era in our history from the perspective of a highly refined proletarian consciousness.

Dada Amir Haider Khan 1904-1986

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Dada Amir Haider (1904-1986)

This is how the publisher has introduced Dada and the first part of his autobiography, which was written in English in 1939 when the leader was denied personal appearance in a Bombay court. He was arrested in Bombay under the Defence of India Rules and lodged in the Central Prison, Nasik Road, on a two-year sentence. Dada filed an application in the High Court demanding that he be allowed to plead his own ease against his conviction. His application was rejected. Dada then decided to put down in writing what he wanted to say, and gradually resolved to preserve in writing the entire story of what his life and labour had taught him as a revolutionary activist. The narrative covered the period from Dada’s childhood to 1926 when he, for the last time, bade goodbye to the United States and sailed out for Moscow to get training in revolutionary work.

Dada has narrated the story in the minutest detail in the last chapter of the book. According to him, the C.l. (Communist International) was attempting to help all colonial countries which had industrial workers to develop Communist parties. With this in view the Cl was attempting to help train some revolutionary workers who would become party organisers and political workers m their respective countries. The Indian Communist Party was also asked to select some students. The job was assigned to M. N. Roy, who could not find any in India. Therefore, he asked the American Communist Party for help which in turn contacted the Ghadar Party. The Ghadar Party selected five students of whom Dada was one.

VD Chopra, an old political colleague of Dada in Rawalpindi, writes in the preface: “These memoirs in reality are recollections of the history of this Sub-continent and bring into sharp focus how the revolutionary urge of a peasant youth in the most economically and politically backward region of the Punjab before partition, the Pothohar region in north western Punjab – in Kahuta in particular gripped his mind. This was not an isolated development because from this very region a large number of young men had joined the INA. This fact is being recapitulated to make out that the national movement of united India did leave a deep impact on the common people of the entire country. Dada Amir Haider Khan was a product of this new national awakening who through a zigzag process became one of the founders of the Indian Communist Movement.”

Dada Amir Haider’s memoirs, therefore, are not only a narration of events and how these events moulded his life. They form a rich source material for historians and research scholars. However, the most important aspect of the memoirs is that they reveal how determined efforts were made by him, step by step and against heavy odds, to liberate our country from foreign domination and build a new social order.

The first volume of memoirs covers the first 22 years of the 20th century. Dada had a very, very hard life right from the beginning. He was born to a Chib Rajput family of village Sabbian of Kahuta. This family had its social roots in the Kashmir area. Dada’s first bitter experience was at a very tender age. At the time of the death of his grand father his father and his younger brother were minors. Therefore their brother-in-law was made their custodian. This gentleman cleverly deprived both the brothers of agricultural land left by their father. They were no match to their brother-in-law and therefore avoided confrontation and legal battles. Dada’s father selected a barren, rather stony piece of land and with his hard labour turned it into a small farm.

Dada was still a lad of hardly five or six years when his father died. Difficult days were ahead for him and his elder brother. The circumstances led their mother to marry the younger brother of her late husband. The stepfather’s attitude was almost hostile towards the young Dada who was very fond of education.

Unfortunately there was no school in the village, and the nearest one was four or five miles away. Anyhow his stepfather unwillingly agreed that Dada should go to a maulvi of the village who would teach him the Quran.

That was the beginning of Dada’s hardships. Dada went to many maulvis and then to schools but ultimately had to desert his home. Once he ran away and went to his elder brother, who was in the army at Peshawar. He was brought back but again forced to leave the house. This time he went to Calcutta where his elder brother after release from the army, had joined a gang of drug traffickers. The gang was headed by some Europeans. Dada was recruited in the gang. When this group was smashed he left Calcutta and went to Bombay where he got a job as a labourer on a ship. This assignment took Dada to Europe and America and it was there that his contacts with the American Communist Party and the Ghadar Party were established.

SS Leviathan is one of many ships Dada Amir Haider worked on

SS Leviathan is one of many ships Dada worked on.

What did Dada do after leaving America for Moscow in 1922? For that we have to wait for the next volume of his autobiography.

Ayub Mirza has written a biography of Dada in Urdu in the form of a novel. Both these books make extremely interesting reading. — SHAFQAT TANVIR MIRZA
[November 30, 1989. VlEWPOINT, Lahore]

The New Edition is available from Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi, Karachi-752702007. Price Rs 800 (Vol I-II), Pages 793. Contact the Publisher Syed Jaffar Ahmed at pscuok@yahoo.com, and Editor Dr Hassan Gardezi at gardezihassan@hotmail.com.

More information on Dada, and a review of the 2007 Edition by literary and art critic Sarwat Ali, is posted here: nasir-khan.blogspot.com

Materials provided by Amarjit Chandan

Modern Punjabi Literature at UBC: A glass half full!

Yes, a glass half filled with an invigorating and inspiring drink when it could as easily be brimming with it; despite falling short on the representation of over one half of Punjabis, and Punjabi women, it was still an important landmark in the development of Punjabi literary community.

The UBC Conference on Modern Punjabi Literature this past weekend was a powerful mix of literary criticisms, academic observations, poetic expressions and cultural activisms. So when the next morning, i was still grappling with the overwhelmingness of this pleasant experience, Amardeep Singh of Lehigh University had already written and published his Notes From a Punjabi Conference in Vancouver. And so, soon after meeting Amardeep at the Conference, i was happy to again experience his crisp, observant and ‘positive-interventionist’ presence through his blog, and it did bring things in perspective for me.

The discussions at the Conference were initiated by Sabina Sawhney of Hofstra University with her paper on Punjabi/Sikh identities where some of the points made by her led to issues put forward by Sadhu Binning about Canadian Punjabi literature . Though each paper presented and every thought expressed was valuable to me, I am most appreciative of ideas that tackled the work of individual writers because though we may find a sizeable body of work on Punjabi classical writers, there is a dearth of criticism on modern Punjabi writing. In that, we had Amritjit Singh of Ohio State University on “The Generational Challenges of Progressivism in the Poetry of Gurcharan Rampuri and Sadhu Binning“; Rana Nayar from the Punjab University on “Narratives of Dispersal: Stories of Raghbir Dhand” and “The Novel as a Site of Cultural Memory: Gurdial Singh’s PARSA“; and, the views expressed by UBC students of Punjabi on Ajith Kaur.

The organizers had created a safe environment where giving and taking criticism was the way to find solutions to various problems faced by Punjabi cultural and literary communities in Canada and elsewhere. “The Uncomfortable Residue of Dis-location: Fragment, Hybridity, and Panjabi Literature(s) in Canada” by Harjeet Grewal (University of Michigan), “The Cultural Politics of Crossing Boundaries” by Anne Murphy (University of British Columbia), and “Secular Sikh Writers” by Amardeep Singh pointed to some groups and individuals that are attempting to extend existing cultural, social or religious boundaries.

The Student Panel, Writers Panel, and Punjabi Poetry Readings were the highlights of this weekend of inspiration and togetherness.

Though Pakistani side of the Punjab, and the literature created by Pakistani Punjabi writers did not feature in any area of this conference on modern Punjabi literature yet the problems, needs and barriers faced by us are the same. The sad truth of the current state of Punjabi literary communities in India and Pakistan, in Canada, and in United States is apparent where we are swamped by the challenges of our immediate situations while our totality is being annihilated by our ignorance, and sometimes, our denial of each other. Let us see who we are then. We are Nanak, Farid and Kabir; Madhulal Hussain, Waris and Bullah; Amrita Pritam, Najm Hosain Syed and Ashu Lal Fakir; We are Ustad Daman, Gurdiyal Singh and Pash, Amarjit Chandan, Baba Najmi and Ajmer Rode; Mushtaq Sufi, Amarjit Pannu and Neesha Dosanjh Meminger; Nilambri Singh Ghai, Ahmad Salim and Sadhu Binning; We are Parveen Malik, Surjeet Kalsi and Baljinder Dhillon; more, and many more.

As was pointed out by presenters and participants from time to time, modern or classical Punjabi Literature is not limited to the writings of Sikh writers of Punjabi language; rather, it includes works of writers of all religions who write Punjabi maaNboli whether in Gurumukhi, Shahmukhi and Roman scripts; who live in India, Pakistan, Canada and elsewhere. As well, it must include works of writers of Punjabi origin using languages other than Punjabi because a literature is not just the keeper of a language but also of the culture and diversity of its people.

In other words, Punjabi literary community must be represented in its wholeness in Punjabi departments, language courses, educational seminars and conferences, and in text books. I was happy to note that the structure put in place by Sadhu Binning, Anne Murphy and others here at UBC already contains this capacity. The faculty members seemed proficient in both scripts; most students were aware that Punjabi uses two scripts; some senior students were able to read books in both scripts. That in itself is gratifying and encouraging; so, i came away from the Conference with the hope that steps will be taken to bring a sense of balance to our persepectives on and appreciation of Punjabi literature by assuring full representation at various levels of cultural and educational activity at UBC and in Canada.

Taking my own advice, i would like to express gratitude to Anne Murphy for the wonderful work she has accomplished for Punjabi in Vancouver by adding a title to an existing name given to her by Punjabi Sikh community so that it reads ‘Bibi Anna Kaur Murphy’ instead of ‘Anna Kaur Murphy’. The imperceptible change from ‘e’ to ‘a’ in the first name is optional but highly recommended as it will help create a beat that may appease all the diverse communities of Punjabi-rhythm freaks.

Another post will soon follow on the development ideas and strategies put forward by Sukhwant Hundal, Ajmer Rode, Darshan Gill, Baljinder Dhillon, and the Student Panel.

Fauzia Rafiq

(Update: Second Post:
“UBC Students of Punjabi Literature, Delightful Performers”

Punjabi Literature

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