Category Archives: Books

Battle of ideas

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By Zubeida Mustafa

AS it has gathered steam, the Children’s Literature Festival (CLF) — a unique event in Pakistan — has collected around itself a band of devoted supporters sharing the ideals of the founders. A key objective of the festival is to encourage children to read books so that they develop the faculty of critical thinking. Recently Karachi hosted the 11th CLF and on this occasion the question asked was what purpose books would serve in these testing times. Ahmad Shah, the president of the Karachi Arts Council, who generously opened up the KAC’s premises for the children of the city, had the answer.

The basic aim of education should be to change the mindset of people, he said. This can be done by promoting the reading of books — a habit which gives exposure to a variety of opinions and enlightens the readers in the process. Continue reading

4 Comments | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Education, New |

Reading for sharing

Photograph by Marcus Quigmire, sourced from Wikimedia Commons

By Zubeida Mustafa

FEW people now read for pleasure. Therefore, to meet a person who loves to read books can be a fascinating experience. And if there are people who read for pleasure and then drive down miles every Friday evening without fail to participate in discussions on books, then it is time to learn more about them.

I have had the privilege of meeting such bibliophiles — about 20 or 25 of them — who describe themselves as members of the Readers Club. On Jan 10, the club will complete 13 years of its low-profile existence. Two years ago it was registered as a trust to ensure its permanence.

The brainchild of Abbas Husain, the well-known director of the Teachers Development Centre who claims to have reached out to 40,000 teachers in 20 years, and Azmat Khan, a management trainer professional, the Readers’ Club has held over 500 meetings so far. Continue reading

9 Comments | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Education, New, Social Issues |

Zahra Sabri wins Zubeida Mustafa Award

KARACHI, Dec 14: The Dawn Media Group announced the result of the competition for the Zubeida Mustafa Award for Journalistic Excellence on Saturday, with the citation and cash prize going to Zahra Sabri for her article “A Textbook Case”, which was published in the Herald magazine in December last year.

Ms Sabri’s article was amongst the over two dozen investigative news reports and news features submitted for the competition by women writers whose work was published in various accredited, Pakistan-based and English-language publications, said a press release.

The judges were unanimous that Ms Sabri’s work stood out for quality of research, clarity and accessibility of writing, and for being closest to the ideals and ideas for which the figure who inspired the award stands.
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2 Comments | Posted in Books, Education, Media, Social Issues |

Unlocking the mind

Adeel Hashmi at CLF. Picture Courtesy: CLF

By Zubeida Mustafa

AT what age does a child start thinking? Experts believe that children have a mind of their own since they are born. Some even believe that their cognitive abilities are present even when they are in their mother’s womb. That is why they are more at ease with the language they hear their mother speak.

It is a different — though sad — matter that we, as adults, suppress this creative and critical thinking power of children that nature has endowed them with. Since we are comfortable among conformists who do not pose uncomfortable questions we shape our education policies in such a way that children forget how to question. Continue reading

11 Comments | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Culture and the Arts, Education, Social Issues |

Licence to kill?

By Zubeida Mustafa

ANNIVERSARIES are a time for reflection. And if they are also marked with celebration, the idea is to reaffirm the spirit of the event that is being commemorated. That is what Pakistan’s independence day anniversary means to most of us.

There would be barely two million people left in Pakistan who would have any memory of the partition of India. Those who were old enough in 1947 to comprehend what was happening would be even fewer. Soon those who were witness to this momentous event will be gone and partition will live only in history books. Given our distorted historiography our progeny may never learn the truth.

I was too young to understand the wider implications of the political events of 1947. But I could feel the excitement of living in a new country in a state of fear generated by the bloodletting. There was, however, no sense of the ‘other’ who had to be hated and destroyed. The massacre that accompanied the events of 1947 had more of a political dimension than a religious one. Continue reading

12 Comments | Posted in Books, History, Islamisation, Politics |

Writing for children

By Zubeida Mustafa

AN email circular drew my attention to The ABC of It, an exhibition of children’s books that opened in the New York Public Library last week. The NYPL website announced that literature for young readers is important as through them one learns what books are teaching children. It also added that such books reveal a lot about the societies that produced them.

This observation provides food for thought. If I were asked to devise a yardstick to measure how child-friendly a society is, I would base it on the volume, quality, diversity, content and, above all, authorship of the children’s literature it produces. All authors and poets who have made a name for themselves in the literary world by writing for adults have always found time to write for children.
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1 Comment | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Education |

Of days gone by

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By Nikhat Sattar

In 1947, a well known and educated gentleman, Yousuf Dehlvi started a publishing house in Delhi along with his three sons. Shama Publications as it was named, catered to the growing educated class in both India and Pakistan, and had an office in London through which it reached out to readers of Urdu and Hindi in Europe.  Yousuf Dehlvi was a man of letters, highly religious, well connected with politicians and what would now be called the “elite”, as well as a sound business man.

He recognised the  signs of an awakening among writers post independence, and realised too the huge market of readers that could be further stimulated and developed. This was also the time when the film industry was just beginning to produce films having social messages.

Shama Publications brought out three monthlies in Urdu: Shama, a film cum literary magazine that focused on Indian films and film stars and had Urdu short stories and poems from authors many of whom owe the beginning of their career and popularity to the magazine; Bano which targeted the educated woman, but again contained gems of the Urdu short story, and Khilona, for children. Khilona was edited by the youngest son, Ilyas Dehlvi, assisted by his elder brother Idrees Dehlvi. The Hindi magazine was called Sushma. Continue reading

7 Comments | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Guest Contributor, Language |

Language in learning

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By Zubeida Mustafa

THE Children’s Literature Festival is the best thing that could have happened to the children of Pakistan. Six festivals have already been organised since November 2011 — the latest having been held in Islamabad last week.

It was a pleasure to see thousands of children assemble at the Pak-China Friendship Centre in Islamabad surrounded by gaiety, music and storytelling and, above all, books of all genres for young readers. The atmosphere was one of merrymaking. But the underlying mission was a very serious one. The objective of the organisers was captured in the words splashed all over the backdrops in the auditorium and the conference rooms —“Unlocking the power of reading”.

That is what the literary festival has undertaken to accomplish. It is too early to expect a visible change in the reading habits of children. If the tradition continues and the event reaches a large number of people in due course, it is hoped that it will make an impact. Continue reading

5 Comments | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Education, Language |

2013—the year of the snake

By Zubeida Mustafa

Here we enter a new year and I wish all my readers a 2013 that is peaceful, happy, healthy and prosperous. I am a bit late but I know my friends will forgive me for being forgetful. Here are greetings for Christmas. I cherish the message of love and amity this occasion always brings for mankind.

How should one greet the new year? Hope? It may bring new tidings and prove to be a turning point in one’s life. Fear? All the dreadful events taking place in our lives can be scary. A step further, many look forward to predictions – especially of the soothsayers’ variety. But I  am not an avid champion  of horoscopes. They mean nothing riddled as they are with ifs and buts that nullify what is stated. Read this prediction, for example.

“The Chinese horoscope shows us that this 2013 year of the black Snake is going to be an exciting year for many. There will of course be both ups and downs, and for some the ups will be quite high and the downs will be quite low. For everyone, there will be good and bad and highlights and lowlights.” Continue reading

2 Comments | Posted in Books, Media, Social Issues |

Librarians as teachers

By Zubeida Mustafa

AT the Children’s Literature Festival in Quetta last month, the provincial education secretary had promised to make provisions for a library in every government school in Balochistan.

If this actually materialises, the province will certainly have something to boast about. A school without a library is like a body without a soul. Can you expect students to love reading if they are not immersed in a world of books that a library creates? Continue reading

9 Comments | Posted in Books, Children and Youth, Education, Library |