Category Archives: Culture and the Arts

Raising daughters: anguish of a mother

By Zubeida Mustafa

45-22-09-1989As the social fabric begins to disintegrate under the stress and strain of ethnic violence, crime and political fragmentation, one wonders who is the worst victim. There is no doubt that it is the youth of today. Denied the normal and stable social environment they need for their healthy mental, moral, intellectual and physical growth, the young suffer the most.

An impression has, however, gained ground that only boys are the main losers because when terror strikes they are generally the ones to fall before the bullets. They are believed to be the most exposed to the devastating impact of the instability and insecurity that prevails today. Girls, after all, are said to be protected in the safe sanctuary of their homes. Continue reading Raising daughters: anguish of a mother

Please follow and like us:

High population growth rate, low status of women: Perfect recipe for Demographic Disaster

By Zubeida Mustafa

44-14-07-1989Pakistan is heading for a demographic disaster. And if we need to be reminded of it,, the recently published report of the National Institute of Population Studies (NIPS) in Islamabad should serve the purpose. It very bluntly states the implications of a runaway population growth rate for the socio-economic development of the country.

The State of Population in Pakistan graphically describes the impact of a high population growth rate (2.8 – 3.1 per cent by current guesstimate) on various sectors in the last four decades. It also projects future growth at a constant rate and how it will affect the socio-economic situation in the year 2000. In mid-1987 Pakistan’s population was estimated to be 102 million. At the turn of the century it will be 150 million if it continues to grow at the rate of 2.8 per cent per annum. Continue reading High population growth rate, low status of women: Perfect recipe for Demographic Disaster

Please follow and like us:

A new stirring in rural Sind

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE villages of Sind are experiencing a new awakening. The people — both men and women — in rural areas of the province are developing a keen awareness of their deprivation and backwardness. Gone are the centuries old fatalism, complacency and submissiveness of yore. The people now want a change and more significantly they are prepared to work for it on a selfhelp basis. Continue reading A new stirring in rural Sind

Please follow and like us:

Women’s rights: Greater awareness than before

By Zubeida Mustafa

IS the International Women’s Day on March 8 to be dismissed as one of those occasions for the annual round of rituals and rhetorics which come to nought? The cynics are quick to point out that fiery speeches notwithstnding, the plight of women continues to be as dismal as ever.

True, the struggle for equality of status and the emancipation of women in Pakistan still has a long way to go. Women have not be accorded the basic rights or given the social recognition that are their due as human beings. They have not been integrated in the mainstream of national development. Hence Continue reading Women’s rights: Greater awareness than before

Please follow and like us:

Pakistanis in Canada an isolated community

By Zubeida Mustafa

“A major factor which accounts for the inability of Pakistanis in Canada to adjust to their social environment is their inflexibility and intolerance of anything alien and attitude of moral superiority. Since they have been taught that they must not eat pork or drink wine, Pakistani Muslims are inclined to regard a person who does so as necessarily evil.

But it is wrong to judge people or assess their character on the basis of, their eating habits and lifestyle. This only creates a gap between the immigrants and the locals which makes life more difficult for the Pakistani settlers.” Continue reading Pakistanis in Canada an isolated community

Please follow and like us:

West Germany: Extent of ‘education explosion‘in last 30 years

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE end of the West German economic miracle has affected the prospects of university graduates in the country. Nearly five per cent of them are without jobs and many more have been obliged to take up positions which a person with lower qualifications could have easily filled. Continue reading West Germany: Extent of ‘education explosion‘in last 30 years

Please follow and like us:

Saving habits: cultural factors are decisive

By Zubeida Mustafa

Pakistan’s saving rate betrays its people’s weakness for spending. The nation manages to save only five per cent of its gross domestic product — a figure much lower than in most other Third World countries. The saving rate in India is 20 per cent. It’s 30 per cent in Indonesia and 28 per cent in China and Nigeria.

But in spite of their notoriety for ostentatious living and wasteful habits, it is wrong to think that people in this country do not set aside any of their earnings for the proverbial rainy day. And those who do not manage to save despite their best efforts worry about their inability to save. Continue reading Saving habits: cultural factors are decisive

Please follow and like us:

The author’s coin

By Zubeida Mustafa

A FACT which is not so widely known about Sweden is that it has the highest ratio of book titles published per thousand of the population in a year — nearly one title per thousand people. (West Germany, which is also a prolific publisher, produces one title per 1,500 people).

Although the Swedes are complaining that people no longer read as many books as before, the sales of books have been rising. You just have to visit a library in any Swedish city (there are 2,200 local public libraries all over the country) or a bookshop to see how popular books still are, especially with children.

How do writers fare in a society where 80 million copies of books are sold every year? What is quite clear is that Swedish writers are conscious of their rights and responsibilities and are prepared to struggle for them. Thus, in 1972 the Writers’ Union protested against low payments to writers and its members withdrew all their books from public libraries.

It was their awareness of being isolated from society which led a group of three Swedish Writers to set up the Writers’ Centre in Stockholm in 1967. Within a week, 200 writers — including the leading ones — had responded. Today the Forfattarcentrum (Swedish for Writers’ Centre) has a membership of 800, including two Turks, two Kurds and some Latin Americans. Any person who has written a book that has been published can become a member.

The aim of the centre when it was established was to help writers break out of their social isolation and bring them closer to society Today the centre is very active in providing its members contacts with the public which, on the one hand help them understand people and their problems, and on the other help create an awareness and appreciation in people of writers and their works.

Gun Qvarzell, a staff member at the centre, who is in charge of the programmes, told me about the activities the centre arranges. A poet might be invited to a school to recite his verses and explain his poetry to the children. A university might arrange a workshop in which some writers could be invited to participate. A writer might be a guest at a cultural week. Concerted campaigns by the Writers’ Centre have been instrumental in getting literary circles and libraries set up in hospitals, sanitoria and prisons.

Every day the centre receives at least four or five requests from various institutions for help in arranging a workshop or group discussion with a writer’s participation. Once a couple even telephoned asking the centre to arrange for a poem to be composed on the first birthday of their child. Their request was fulfilled!

The centre undertakes all kinds of projects which promote a happy relationship between the writers and the public. For instance, after office hours the centre’s telephone is fixed on taped poetry recitals by the poets themselves. Anyone can ring up to listen to these.

Gun Qvarzell feels that the centre has achieved its goal in that writers are today closer to society. Writers and poets have had the opportunity to explain their work to people who are ordinarily not in touch with them. This has created public interest in literature and sustained a dialogue between writers and the readers. But Gun is unhappy about what she calls barriers created by bureaucracy between writers and the public.

The Writers’ Centre, which now has four branches, has in its sixteen years of existence done much to improve the lot of the writers too. Thus, it has tried to give new writers a boost by introducing them to the public through its programme of contacts with schools, hospitals, libraries, bookshops, prisons and other institutions.

At its new premises on the island of Skeppsholmen overlooking the Saltsjon (Baltic), the Writers’ Centre has four furnished rooms with a kitchenette. At a very reasonable rate of SEK 600 a month a member can rent a room to work there. It is quite common in Sweden for writers to go into seclusion, away from their family and friends for a few weeks to finish their writing.

At the centre I met Elsa Steffen (aged 83 years) who has written six books. She was working on her seventh and had rented a room for a month to finish her work. She was in bed (obviously working) when I knocked the door at 4.30 in the afternoon. That was something unusual but then that is precisely the idea of moving into a separate apartment from your family — you don’t have to bother about routines and schedules and can get along with your work. Gun Qvarzell, who also edits a quarterly magazine on children’s literature, told me that writers in Sweden have been protesting against the high taxes they have to pay on their incomes. Although few writers can earn a living from their writings, Swedish authors are relatively well off compared with their counterparts in many other countries, mainly because of their trade union type efforts.

Authors’ union

Swedish writers first organised themselves into a union called the Swedish Authors’ Association (Sveriges Forfattar-eforening) in 1893 on the initiative of Verner Von Heidenstam, who later won the Nobel Prize for his poetry. Thereafter the Swedish Union of Authors was set up. Through organised efforts the writers could improve their situation by persuading the government to take important measures.

Two of these I find quite interesting and with the exception of the Scandinavian region, I don’t know of any other country where the writers enjoy similar facilities. Under the terms of standard contract an author in Sweden is entitled to 16-2/3 per cent royalty on the retail price of his book. As soon as a manuscript has been accepted, the publisher must pay a guarantee equal to at least one-third of the royalty on the first edition. This advance is deducted from the payment that subsequently falls due. But it does not have to be repaid by the author, if his book does not sell.

Another fascinating feature of Sweden’s literary life is the Library Loan Compensation which was introduced in 1954. The concept underlying this scheme is that the government must compensate the author for books borrowed from public libraries. The government pays compensation at the rate of 37 ore (100 ore is equal to 1 SEK) per loan. Of this sum, 22 ore goes to the author whose book has been borrowed upto a miximum of 100,000 loans in the form of the “author’s coin”.

After the first stage, a writer, receives only 11 ore per borrowing. This sum progressively decreases with the number of loans. The part of the compensation not paid to the writer goes to the Swedish Author’s Fund. Administered by a board of 14 member (four appointed by the government and the remaining the nominees of the authors), the Fund seeks to create a system of security for writers. Thus 180 qualified authors, translators, and illustrators are guaranteed SEK 48,000 per year, irrespective of the number of loans of their books.

Younger writers are given longterm grants.^Awards, pensions and travel grants are given from the Fund. In 1983-84, the Library Loan Compensation amounted to SEK 40 million. Of this SEK 28 million was transferred to the Fund.

How much can a writer earn under this system? Gun Qvarzell disclosed that Sweden’s leading writer of children’s books, Astrid Lindgren, earned SEK 2 million jn 1983. That is a big amount even by Swedish standards but of course the taxes are heavy

Source: Dawn 6 June 1984

Please follow and like us:

Why are our students not avid readers?

By Zubeida Mustafa

SOME students were once asked why they read books — that is books other than their course books. Their answers were quite varied: to kill time; to increase their knowledge; because they were asked to do so by their teacher; to fulfil their social needs; to develop their personalities. Very few said that they read for pleasure. When young people are not reading books voluntarily or because they derive a sense of satisfaction from it, it is not strange that they are not forming life-long reading habits.

Obviously when a person feels under a compulsion or pressure to read, he will abandon is books as soon as he no longer feels the need for them. While a number of young people are reading books as a duty, there are a number of others who are not reading at all, their prescribed texts excepted.

A National Book Council survey conducted in 1981 found that 20 per cent of the students questioned said that they did not like to read. Even those who read, devoted most of the Continue reading Why are our students not avid readers?

Please follow and like us:

Slow acceptance of a major breakthrough: Computerised calligraphy

By Zubeida Mustafa

IT IS now eighteen months that computerised Urdu nastaliq calligraphy has been in use in the country but it has yet to produce the impact on Urdu printing it could have been expected to. Only one machine is currently being used in Pakistan to bring out an Urdu daily from Lahore.

Why this delay in response? Not that the inventor, Mr Ahmed Mirza Jamil, has not Continue reading Slow acceptance of a major breakthrough: Computerised calligraphy

Please follow and like us: