A book review of Zubeida Mustafa’s My DAWN Years – Exploring Social Issues.
I recently told Zubeida Mustafa that I had an issue with the subtitle of her memoirs. I feel her years at DAWN were more meaningful than simply the pursuit of social issues, important as they are and clearly close to her heart. With over 30 years at DAWN, many of which were in the position of a senior editor, Zubeida had a more significant impact on the newspaper than perhaps she cares to lay claim to – out of her inherent modesty. Her years at DAWN did see a shift in editorials, from ambivalence to clear positions on issues that matter – democracy, pluralism and rights of the marginalised, to name a few. If Ahmad Ali Khan (the editor for most of her years at DAWN), was her mentor, Zubeida too, in her own quiet way, exercised a significant influence on the newspaper’s journey. Continue reading A woman of quiet influence→
When a pioneering journalist pens her memoirs, you pay attention. Especially when she is Zubeida Mustafa of Pakistan, a long-time feminist and champion of social causes who, from her editorial perch at the daily Dawn, witnessed momentous transitions in the country’s media and political landscapes for over three decades. Beyond being a witness to change, she has also, as she realises with a thrill, “been a part of it, at times driving it and at times being driven by it.”
The narrative in this slim hardcover, My Dawn Years: Exploring Social Issues, is quintessential Zubeida Mustafa: direct, understated, deep, nuanced, thorough — and meticulously indexed. Black and white photos, though somewhat grainy, are well captioned, providing a pictorial reference to many of the events and people mentioned in the book. Continue reading Integrity above all→
What makes a life interesting, well lived? Doing something you love, despite the adjustments that have to be made, and doing it well; travelling to new countries; meeting new people; making professional contacts with a wide range of people — and then leaving the world on a high note. That would be the definition of a life well and fully lived.
Judging by that criteria, Zubeida Mustafa, journalist turned social activist, has led a truly remarkable life. In her book, detailing her 30 plus years working in Dawn’s editorial department, she brings her own unique perspective to how she started out, and how she – and the paper – evolved over the years, with the changing times and the fast-moving wheels of technology. My DAWN Years – Exploring Social Issues is not just an account of an individual’s life but that of an institution, and on occasion, it is difficult to extricate one from the other. Continue reading A woman of substance→
The book under review is a collection of 24 articles with a foreword by Professor Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, and an introduction by the editors. An afterword by Ahmed Kabel brings the work together as a conclusive whole. As anyone at all familiar with the academic discourse in the teaching of the English language will immediately understand, this is the latest endeavour by people who have not accepted the hegemony of English without question: rather, they have chosen to make people conscious that English has become a hydra, in the sense that it is weakening the other languages of the world.
Indeed, writers, like Robert Phillipson and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, have been raising key questions about this hegemony for a long time. In a sense then, this volume revives some of these old anxieties, with the help of new case histories of countries as diverse as Iceland and China, and helps explain what precisely is at stake in the field of education in general, and language-learning in particular. Continue reading Mother of all tongues→
THE reading habit needs to start being cultivated in early childhood through stories of fantasy, fairy tales and folk sagas as these ignite the imagination and the curiosity of children. Every culture and every language has its own heritage of such stories. And so does Urdu. However, what was missing was biographies of renowned people written for younger readers in Urdu.
The Oxford University Press is now filling in this gap by bringing out a few series devoted to the genre. Under the series Azeem Pakistani and Tasveeri Kahani Silsila, biographies of notable figures highlighting their contributions to the country have been published. Roshni kay Meenar is the third series focusing on biographies of prominent personalities of Sindh who have made valuable contributions either before Partition or since. The three biographies published earlier under this series presented the lives and works of Mirza Qaleech Baig, Hasan Ali Effendi and Ruth Pfau. Continue reading Syed Adibul Hasan Rizvi: Book Review→
A question very often asked of writers is why do they write. Khushwant Singh, India’s best known author and journalist, said he wrote to inform, amuse and provoke. The author of Pearls from the Ocean , Parvin Shere, quotes the American writer and poet, Maya Angelou to answer this question. “There is no agony greater than bearing an untold story inside you,.” Says Angelou.
For Shere this untold story has to find expression and it does in three forms, prose, poetry and painting. She could not have been more articulate in giving expression to the discovery she made when she submitted to her urge to penetrate the barriers of faiths, languages and cultures: the Earth is home to all humans and their oneness binds them together, but…
The success story of the SIUT (Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation), starting on a modest scale and growing into a state-of-the-art medical and surgical hospital with impressive research and training facilities, gives you the feeling that all is not lost with this country. It is heartening that here is a government institution, run by a qualified and well-trained team of inspired and dedicated personnel, which offers free treatment to thousands of poor patients. What is more, they are all treated with the respect and dignity they deserve and are made to feel that medical treatment is their birth right.
The SIUT and its journey is documented by Zubeida Mustafa in the coffee table book, The SIUT Story: Making the ‘Impossible’ Possible. During the research for the book, Mustafa spoke not just with medical practitioners but also with kidney donors and many patients who have been treated successfully. With donations and help in cash and kind flowing from individuals and corporate bodies who have trust in the integrity and capability of the people running the institution, not many plans had to be dropped owing to lack of finances. Continue reading In service of humanity→
By Zubeida Mustafa
AS Pakistan’s problems multiply, publications on Pakistan receive a corresponding boost. Never before have so many books on the country hit the shelf. Hence an author has to come up with something really new to justify writing about the country. Not many can do it and that is why many books appear to be a rehashed version of the same old story.
Seen from that perspective, journalist Babar Ayaz’s book, What’s Wrong with Pakistan?, might at first glance appear to be a narrative of Pakistan’s history that one would take up with a yawn. But once you start reading it, you find a freshness of approach to the issues that have nagged historians for many years. More so, Ayaz’s focused style makes this book a compelling read. Continue reading Telling it as it is→
Sips from a Broken Teacup
By Raihana A Hasan
Ushba Publishing International, Pakistan
The rattling narrow-gauge Surma train that carried a young urban bride to a far away and unknown world of tea plantations stopped at the deserted Shamshernagar Railway Station on a dark wintry night of January 1962. Little did the disembarking passenger know that her prolific and perceptive mind was already capturing the first outlines of what was to appear in the form of a book some fifty years later.
Raihana Hasan could not have chosen a more thoughtful, apt and immaculate title for her captivating book, Sips from a Broken Teacup. Each word depicting delicately woven themes that stretch from reminiscence of life as a tea planter’s wife to the traumatic events that preceded the break-up of Pakistan and finally the drama and the ordeal as the author and her family escape from then East to West Pakistan.
SALEEM Asmi has worn many hats. Beginning his professional life as a sub-editor in The Pakistan Times in 1959, he rose to be the editor of Dawn. Versatility is his virtue, which means his writings always have a freshness about them. Having known him professionally as a newsperson demonstrating his skills in the newsroom, and later as the editor of Dawn, one who was always willing to go an extra mile to test political waters, I was happy when I saw the collection of his writings from the early years, Saleem Asmi: Interviews, Articles, Reviews. The collection sheds as much light on the writer as the numerous personalities he interviews or writes about. We now see Asmi at his best, as an erudite critic of arts, culture and music. Continue reading NON-FICTION: Keeping a record→