BOOK PUBLISHING is a high risk business in Pakistan, says Mr Shams Quraeshi of Mackwin & Co. who has been in the book trade since 1947. Returns are slow in coming, hence not many people with capital to spare wish to invest in it. They would rather opt for an industry with quicker and guaranteed returns.
Even banks regard books as poor risk. Thus one can get a bank loan of Rs 80,000. against paper reams worth Rs 100,000. But as soon as the paper is converted into a book, no bank is prepared to accept it as security to advance a loan.
Malik Noorani, whose Maktabe-i- Daniyal has published the works of Faiz, Mushtaq Yusufi and Josh, considers himself to be lucky if he breaks even. “You have to be an entrepreneur, gambler and philanthropist to be a publisher. You also need a Qarun ka khazana and Ayub ka sabr,” sums up Mr Noorani, “I do not have the first, though I have the second.”
IN 1978, the year for which full statistics are available, 642,000 titles were published in the world. Out of these Pakistan’s share was a meagre 1,317 titles, whereas Japan and West Germany, with smaller population produced over 43,000 and 50,000 titles respectively.
What will life be like twenty years hence? If you read science fiction and have a lively imagination you might conjure up fantasies of space travel, computers and robots. But if you are a hard-headed realist your thoughts should turn to how 154 million — instead of 85 million —- impoverished people will eke out a living in an underdeveloped country.
Lite, at least in Pakistan, is not going to be easy at the turn of the century. Problems are to be anticipated if projections made by experts are to be believed, and there is no reason why they should not be. This is how life will be in the year 2001: Karachi is a city of 18 million.
A middle class family like that of the Ahmads lives at least 50 kilometres away from the city centre where accommodation is relatively cheaper the rent of a tiny flat being Rs. 8,000 per month.
Thatta is a suburb of Karachi and given the pressures on trains and buses it takes Mr. Ahmad three hours to commute between home and place of work every morning.
Transport is not the only problem. There is not enough food to go around so it is rationed and Mrs. Ahmed spends hours standing in queues. Food is expensive too beef sells at Rs. 100 per kilo, chicken Rs. 90 per kilo and eggs cost Rs. 25 per dozen.
Lubna was not even .four when Bangladesh was born in the midst of blood and tears. She was obviously too young to understand what was happening. Today Lubna is nearly fourteen and is appearing for her class nine examination this year. She still does not understand what happened in 1971. And you cannot really blame her for her lack of knowledge and understanding. Lubna is an intelligent and widely-travelled child who is definitely brighter than the average student of her age. All that her Pakistan Studies textbook tells her is that in December 1971 “half the country had been separated”. Fortunately she does not remember that in Class Five she had read in her Social Studies textbook, ‘Tne defeat of 1965 war did” not bring any change in the attitude of Bharat. It went on trying to harm Pakistan. This time it tried its luck on the eastern front. East Pakistan was surrounded by Bharat . . . A great number of Hindus lived there. Through its agents and other self seekers Bharat at first caused great troubles in East Pakistan and then attacked it from three sides . The war continued for three weeks and ended in the creation of a separate state called Bangladesh.” Continue reading What our students get by way of history and social studies→
“THE BEST ambassador Pakistan could ever have in Germany.” That is how a West German official described Dr Annemarie Schimmel. She is a lot more. In her quiet but keen manner she projects what is so beautiful and mystifying in the East. In Pakistan, Dr Schimmel needs no introduction though in West Germany her admirers are confined to a small circle of orientalists and, of course, those who are in any way interested in Pakistan.
The research she has carried out on Iqbal’s works and her publications on Mir Dard, Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai and on Urdu literature generally have made her a familiar figure in literary circles here and even otherwise. Her frequent visits to Pakistan – in November she was here on her fifteenth trip – have also brought her in close contact with the land and the people.
A visit to Dr Schimmel’s home in Bonn’s Lennestrasse is quite an experience. It is like a journey to the orient in the heart of the West. Her living room and study are full of big and small souviners she has carried back with her from the east. The huge rilli piece pinned on the wall, the silver scrolls containing her honorary degrees from the Universities of Islamabad, Hyderabad and Peshawar, the Kufic and Naskh styles of calligraphic inscriptions and the paintings by Chughtai and other artists give an oriental touch to her home.
As she enthused about Pakistani handicrafts, Dr. Schimme! brought out a Sindhi kurta embroidered in rich hues and held it up admiringly. This little gesture, more than anything else, revealed her love for all that is traditional here.
Dr. Schimmel lives in Bonn for six months, where she is busy writing books, and for six months she teaches in Harvard. But she draws inspiration from the East as was clear to me from the discourse she went into on the colour combinations used in Sindhi embroidery. Why has someone not researched on this fascinating aspect of Sind’s handicraft, she stopped and wondered.
Dr. Schimmel’s interest in Pakistan, its languages, culture, and religion is quite fascinating. It was the Turkish language which first attracted her to the East. Gradually she was so taken up by her study of mysticism that she soon found herself learning other languages – Persian, Arabic, Urdu, Pushto, Sindhi – to keep up with “her sufis”, as she calls them. It was not just the sufis who drove her but also a quest for knowledge.
A friend had asked her to write an introduction to his book on the Makli Hills. While looking for material to acquaint herself with the subject, she discovered that most of this was in Sindhi. She simply went on_to_ learn the language. And that introduced her to yet another Sufi – Shah Abdul Latif.
Islam is another passion with Dr SchimmeL She did her doctoral research in Islamic studies. Not only the religion but also Islamic art and calligraphy fascinate her. Blended with her deep interest in sufism, her insight into Islam and Islamic culture has helped her to produce some of the best literature on Islam. One of her most outstanding publication is Mystical Dimension of Islam which was published in 1975. Her works Islamic Calligraphy and Islamic Literature in India had appeared earlier. Then came books on Dard, Shah Abdul Latif and Maulana Rumi. Her latest works which have just been published or are forthcoming are Islam in the Indian Subcontinent, Mystical Poetry in Islam and Veneration of the Holy Prophet in Islamic Literature.
Given her deep interest in Islam, it is not surprising when people, especially Germans, ask Dr. Schimmel what her own faith is. She replies without much. ado: “I am a moderately born Christian.” And then she goes on to explain how she can look objectively at Islam without being sentimental about it.
feels this absence of subjective involvement gives her greater credibility and she can project more convincingly than a Muslim can all that is good in Islam. And there she is right because Islam, Sufism, Iqbal, Shah Abdul Latif and others acquire a new meaning when seen through Dr. Schimmel’s eyes.