40 rs and a dream part II

I have in my last entry in these memoirs written about my success and how I came about it in some detail. Let me now reveal to you dear readers the secret behind the success of “Sabrung Digest”. Yes there was a lot of hard worked involved in it and many sleepless nights, but I would have never become the publisher/writer I did without the use of the art of serial story telling.

A serial story is a tale which is told in parts, installment by installment so that the reader is hooked into it and keeps up with it in the upcoming digests as it unfolds. To me the great pioneer in the art of serial fiction writing was none other than a Baidad Lakhnavi who used to write for “ The Aalami digest” and was associated with the Amrohvi family as well. When I started Subrung, I was determined to have this same gentleman write a fiction series for me, however at that time Baidad sahib was incarcerated in a sanatorium due to the ailment of tuberculosis, which I somehow think was more because of the hospitality of the place then the sickness itself.

In any case I spoke to Baidad sahab and found that Raees Amrohvi was leaning on him not to write for Sabrung to the tune of 50 rs a month, which off course made me up the ante and so it went on till I had in the end offered Baidad 200 rs a month to write for me. That to only by word of mouth for which I had to appoint a friend Farooq mufti to go his resting place and record as Baidad dictated his tale. Suffice to say that after two installments I suffered a major setback as Baidad went astray again and refused to write the story any further. The story being one based on Hindu myths and the practice of the dark arts called Sohna Ghat Ka Pujari. It was at this time that Anwar Siddiqui took up the mantle of this story and wrote on from where Baidad had left off, obviously a lot of editing was required in this effort and this meant that I and the writer would sit together and do a reading on the 13th for the story to be published in the upcoming serial of the digest on the 30th. Thus you can imagine the effort that went into just one serial work of fiction. It was by this effort that the art of syndicated serial fiction writing was established in Pakistan

“ Inca” was the next serial story that was written by Anwar Siddiqui and it involved a native American deity and her possession which was achieved by a very long and arduous meditation which would give the controller of the deity hereto untold of supernatural prowess.. People normally think that fame was the same as it is nowadays fickle and ever-changing. However in those days the fame off a story would spread slowly as it got established, “Inca” for example ran for a duration of 3.75 years. The other great serials I helped bring to light were “Aqabilah” and “Ghulam Roohein” both increasingly difficult to write for Anwar sahib whom had a little less knowledge of Arabic tones required for the former and knowledge of Sufism required for the latter, thus I had to practically rewrite what he had written every time to the extent that the work became more of an amalgamation then a creation of the writer only.

Obviously with serials like these the power and fame of my digest grew with each passing installment, but it was during these times that I faced difficulties not just of the personal self but also external factors. A religious movement was gathering steam in Pakistan, the effects and the end results of which are apparent before us even today. Movements towards a stricter version of religion often come without the accompanying witch hunts and the publishers of digests such as mine also became victims of these witch hunts. To the extent that columns were written against me in many newspapers specially “Nawa E Waqt” describing me as a creator and propagator of Hinduism and its myths in the society. A spreader of evil as they put it.

Now after the success of my first endeavor I was as all entrepreneurs are, gearing up for my second and thus had tendered an application for permission to start a woman’s digest to the government. This had fallen on deaf ears and thus when in a function of the C.P.N.E (council of Pakistan newspaper editors) Zia Sahab met me and invited me to a discussion at the Army house (his residence) the following afternoon I was much pleased. The next day when I entered the army house on time, I met Agha Shahi and Siddiq Saliq who ushered me into the General’s presence.  Zia ul haq then asked me to speak openly on matters of publishing to which I replied with a request to set a standardized script/font for the urdu language by the government to make it possible for it to be entered into type. He did not understand my request and thought it would make a lot of “Khatib’s” (copiers by hand) irrelevant and jobless. At this moment I was wondering how to approach the subject of my application for the new digest but haltingly I did anyhow to which the general enquired about the religious leanings of Sabrung.

Obviously being a liberal man and one who wrote on the dark arts as well as Sufis tic leanings was not something which the general admired and after a quick lecture on “how I should not use faces of women for the cover of sabrung” I was sent off and on my way. The very next day the wheels of establishment turned and after a request for copies of my work by the ministry of communication the newsprint quota of “Sabrung digest” vanished in thin air. In this period one had to either apply for or get paper/newsprint to publish on from the government or buy it from the black market on exorbitant prices. Which I did for five years as I had no other choice. Eventually after that long period the quota was returned to me as perhaps it was somewhere decided that I was not going away.

Vision is not something which is often appreciated by many, perhaps I had suggested something ahead of my times but later on Jamil Yousuf of elite publishers with the help of 40 khatibs compiled not just an urdu dictionary but laid the foundation for the framework of the “urdu type script/font” even in use today.

Never to be disheartened I fought on and with the next story I would write ensured that neither mine or Sabrung’s name would be forgotten in the history of publishing in Pakistan. Magnomonius as I must sound right now, these were not titles given to me by myself but rather by the fans and followers of the love story known as “Baazigar” This serial proved that people in this country not just appreciated religion and myths but were also passionate at heart and admired a story which was based on romantic notions. Baazigar became so famous that people remember it even till this day and it was here that Sabrung hit its peak previously described. It was also at this time when the rigors of being so passionately involved in the formulation and success of this digest began to set in and work started to suffer. However long the delay’s though the quality of my digest never waned and I became known to be the place to get recognition as a writer. Even Shaukat Siddiqui the writer of the legendry “Jangloos” series which later became a tv drama started in the pages of Sabrung.

Life by now had dealt me many a difficult hand and in my next entry I shall tell you what transpired from then to the present, for now the story teller must bid you adieu for the tale grows longer than my patience to tell it.


As published in “The Friday Times” on 2/4/2010

These are the memoirs of “Shakil Adilzada” a great writer and legend in Pakistan’s publishing world recorded by me.


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