Punjab Research Group

Starved of literary gatherings

Posted in Articles by Pippa on September 5, 2009

August 27, 2009  http://www.thenews.com.pk/

Lahore has always been a hub of cultural and literary activities and has produced a lot many men of letter. Most of these activities have traditionally been revolved around cafes and restaurants that served intellectuals, writers and artistes with endless cups of tea and coffee and provided them with an opportunity to discuss subjects and matters close to their hearts and minds.

The colonial Lahore was full of restaurants and cafes with most of them locating along The Mall. One such place was the India Coffee House established by two Sikh brothers. Immediately after the Partition, the name India was dropped from the title and it was renamed as Pak Tea House. The Pak Tea House was located opposite to the Coffee House and Cheney’s lunch home on The Mall near Anarkali Bazaar. These two places used to have intellectual gatherings. Cheney’s lunch home was popular with people from different walks of life. University teachers and students were also frequent visitors.

The Pak Tea House had had a different status altogether. It was a hub of literary gatherings. Non-residents of Lahore used to call it their information centre that served them round the clock. Giants like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sa’adat Hassan Manto, Muneer Niazi, Ahmad Faraz, Mira Ji and Kamal Rizvi frequented the .Pak Tea House which became unofficial headquarters of an eclectic bunch of writers, artistes, musicians and the Halqa e Arbab e Zauq.

The celebrated fiction writer, Intizar Hussain, who had been a regular visitor to the tea house since 1949 till its closure, believed it was a cultural institution known all over the sub-continent.

No other literary institution of the country, including the Academy of Letters had credibility equal to the Pak Tea House,” he said. He said people freely expressed their political views in the Pak Tea House even in the repressive days of the military regimes of Generals Ayub Khan and Zia ul Haq. Literary interaction as well as literary programmes was the core of Pak Tea House.

It was recognized as a National Level Centre as people from all fields and schools of thought visited it.

This centre had played an important role in the promotion of literary people in Pakistan but during Sarajuddin’s era the Pak Tea House had faced a couple of disputes as it was a part of the YMCA so the authorities demanded its evacuation and took this case to a court of law. All literary figures and people had protested and the court very fairly announced that poets and writers were the soul of a society and were spiritual guardians and the Pak Tea House was known as a centre of knowledge and depicted the culture of Lahore so this place could not be used for any other purpose. After Sarajuddin’s death, his son Zahid Hasan owned the place. Because of financial constraints and his heart surgery, he wanted to open a garments or tire shop. However, the YMCA authorities again demanded evacuation of the tea house and the court didn’t give any decision at that time and the matter was still pending.

The Pak Tea House, having served against all odds for well over 50 years to countless poets and writers of all shades and political stripes, finally yielded to the irreversible forces of commodity culture raging. After the tea house places like Aadbi Baithak in Alhamra and Chaupaal in Nasser Bagh failed to serve the purpose. Many senior writers and poets had died, some have gone abroad. Sarfaraz Syed, a senior journalist and writer who was once a member of the committee of the Pak Tea House said that cities were recognized and respected because of their culture and literature.

For him, thePak Tea House and places like it were a source of intimation, information, education, knowledge and wisdom. —SAKEENA IBAD

(The writer is an intern from the Lahore College for Women University)

Punjabi Khoj Garh

Posted in Academic associations, News/Information by Pippa on July 14, 2009

Punjabi Khojgarh is centre of research, publication and advocacy on the history, culture, literature, music, and art of the Punjab. It was established on the 10th March 2001 under the initiative of celebrated poet and historian Mr Iqbal Qasier . It is maintained by the Punjabi Khojgarh Trust and individuals who work voluntarily to maintain and upkeep the Centre. They have lauched a new blog:


Photos of Khojgarh and from a recent conference on Guru Nanak which drew guests and speakers from around the globe including India.

Library at Khojgarh Iqbal Qaiser

Conference on Guru Nanak at PKG Conference on Guru Nanak at PKG

Conference on Guru Nanak at PKG Conference on Guru Nanak at PKG

The Punjab and its Diaspora: Representations and Identities

Posted in New Publications, Research by Pippa on April 12, 2009

Attention to Punjab has tended to be bifurcated along the lines created by Partition, with scholars of India and Pakistan focusing on their own part of the region. However, this book breaks down such divisions to consider the area on both sides of the border.  In doing this, the contributing scholars (who include the poets Amarjit Chandan and Daljit Nagra, historian Grainne Goodwin, religious studies scholar Jasjit Singh, and literary critic Nukhbah T. Langah) draw upon the two Punjabs’ shared but differentiated legacies of British colonialism, traumatic experiences of partition, relative economic vitality, dominance in their regions, and centrality to (re)inventions and imaginings of the postcolonial Indian and Pakistani nation-states. Given many of the contributors’ location in Britain and elsewhere, non-resident Punjabis are another key area of concern.


In an effort to enhance understandings of Punjabi literature, history, and anthropology, the volume discusses representations of the Punjab and its diaspora in research from different disciplines. It examines the protean nature of Punjabi identities and the cultural, religious and linguistic diversity of the region/s. The collection represents a genuinely interdisciplinary attempt to theorize the Punjab and many of the major languages and dialects spoken there are represented (including Punjabi, Siraiki, and English).


Possible paper topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Partition and its legacies
  • Rural, urban, and suburban Punjab
  • The politics of language in the Punjab (interventions into Potohari and Hindko are particularly welcome)
  • Punjabi Islam and Sufism
  • Punjabi cultural identities and practices
  • Political flashpoints in the region
  • Artistic, filmic, literary, and musical representations
  • Political relations between the two Punjabs
  • The Punjabi diaspora

Please send an abstracts of not more than 200 words and a few sentences of biodata (via Word attachment) to Claire Chambers: c.chambers@leedsmet.ac.uk by the deadline of  21 April 2009.  The volume’s emphasis is on representations and identities, and your abstract needs to address one or both of these issues.

Saadat Hasan Manto 1912-1955

Posted in Articles, Partition by Pippa on November 17, 2008
Saadat Hasan Manto by Kanwal Dhaliwal
Saadat Hasan Manto by Kanwal Dhaliwal

Saadat Hasan Manto was born in Sambrala, East Punjab, in 1912 and died in Lahore in 1955, not quite 43 years old. Much of his working life was spent in Bombay, the setting of many of his stories, where he earned a living as a journalist and screenwriter. Over a literary career spanning a quarter of a century, he wrote for the radio, translated several works from Russian writers, whom he admired, and by the time he died he had produced 22 collections and written well over 200 short stories. It is Manto’s short stories that have continued to enhance his reputation as one of the world’s great masters of this craft.


Manto always remained the outsider and was content with that, something he wore as a badge of honour. He once wrote that he pronounced a thousand curses on that society which put a halo proclaiming “of blessed memory” around a man’s head after his death. He said if such a thing was done to him, his rotting bones would find no peace in the grave. Manto’s prayer has not been answered and with time, his reputation has grown.


 Manto’s subjects were often outsiders and outcasts, in particular prostitutes and street traders, procurers and gangsters. He wrote about the absurdity and inhumanity of the religious divide and the hypocrisy of the so-called respectable classes. He always wrote about society’s rejects, viewing the world through their eyes. The despised and downtrodden people that he wrote about emerge through his stories with more dignity than the established order has ever thought them capable of possessing. Manto chronicled the holocaust of the Partition of India not with teary-eyed sentimentality but with compassion, managing to extract in the process, as he put it, gems of a rare hue from the sea of blood in which he had plunged himself to get at the truth. What makes Manto great is his humanism, his feeling for the human condition and his belief that that in the heart of even the vilest man, the light of decency and fellow feeling is never quite extinguished. Manto wrote his own epitaph: “Here lies Saadat Hasan Manto. With him lie buried all the arts and mysteries of short story writing. Under tons of earth he lies, wondering if he is a greater short story writer than God.”


Ironically, his headstone bears no such inscription, but it does bear a couplet of Ghalib, Manto’s favourite poet about whom he once said: The truth is that after Ghalib no one has the right to write poetry.


_ Khalid Hasan


For further information on Kanwal Dhaliwal: http://www.art-d-kanwal.com/

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The Center for Comparative Immigration Studies University of California, San Diego

Posted in News/Information, Research Fellowships, Vacancies by Pippa on November 11, 2008
Visiting Research Fellowships
Academic Year, 2009-10
Application Deadline: January 15, 2009
CCIS will offer a limited number of Visiting Research Fellowships at both the predoctoral and postdoctoral levels for the 2009-10 academic year. These awards are to support advanced research and writing on any aspect of international migration and refugee flows, in any of the social sciences, history, law, and comparative literature. Due to funding constraints, CCIS is able to award fellowships only to scholars who have a current or former affiliation with a University of California campus (as a graduate student, faculty member, or researcher). Self-funded Guest Scholars are not required to have a UC affiliation. Fellowships must be held in residence at UCSD (commuting from outside of San Diego is not permissible).
For further details: http://www.ccis-ucsd.org/programs/fellowships.htm

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