Dawn:  June 22, 2020

Zaman Khan, a well-known writer, columnist and rights activist, is the person you are sure to bump into at every rally or public demonstration or seminar that has something significant to do with people's welfare. His continuing involvement with democratic and humanitarian causes is an expression of his passion for public life. His active presence at our socio-cultural landscape demonstrates his firm commitment to improving the quality of socio-political culture.

'Alternative Vision', his latest book published by Badalti Dunya Publications, Islamabad, carries 67 interviews, some short and some long, of public figures, scholars, intellectuals and artists who in various ways have enriched our life. He has divided his voluminous book into segments and placed the interviewees under three categories; art and literature, history and rights/ peace /politics.

In his introduction Mr. I A.Rehman who needs no introduction calls the book 'a treasury of free voices' and writes; 'Zaman Khan does not deny the horrible reality faced by the people across the globe but instead of taking refuge in pessimism or stepping aside in a cynic's robe, he discusses all human concerns with whosoever is accessible to him from within his society or the foreign celebrities he can access'.

In the first segment some of the prominent names we find are Amrita Pritam, Abdullah Husein, Afzal Ahsan Randhawa, Ibrahim Joyo, Intizar Husain, Kishwar Naheed, Shams Ur Rehman Faruqi, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Dr. Manzur Ejaz.

The second segment which focuses on history and related issue is really very impressive as it carries the conversations of some of the heavy weights of the field such as Professor RomilaThapar, K.K. Aziz, Hamza Alvi, Harbans Mukhia, Ishtiaq Ahmed and Sucheta Mahajan.

In the last segment that deals with rights, peace and politics we come across Mirza Muhammad Ibrahim, Asma Jahagir, Sher Muhammad Mari, Namboodripad, Latif Afridi, Harkishan Singh Surjeet, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Begum NasimWali Khan, and Tariq Ali.

Most of the men and women interviewed are left of the centre and stand for people's rights in the globalised contemporary society beset with myriad problems which seem intractable in the face of inequitable politico- economic and socio-cultural structures inherited from the past which hangs around our neck like an albatross. They have diagnoses of our present ills and a blueprint for a future which could be less oppressive and repressive. They in a way represent an alternative vision of society premised on the notions of freedom, creativity and equity. They remind us of our current wretchedness and future potential, and create hope that we are capable of creating conditions which would ensure the freedom and growth not for few but for all irrespective of gender, race, class and creed.

Zaman Khan has done a commendable job by bringing within our hearing what he calls the 'voices of reasons'. The book is a must for your library. Go through it at a leisurely pace and discover what afflicts our world and make your own prognosis.

Samina Asma is no longer a new comer on our poetic scene. She has slowly but steadily emerged as a poet who has something worthwhile to share. Disadvantage of being a woman in our society is known to all which thrives on patriarchy and male privilege. You will have to make an extra effort to be articulate and heard if you are a female because the cacophony of male noise is overpowering. She already has two collections of poetry to her credit. 'Aatan Phera Paae' is her latest book of poems published by Kitab Trinjan, Lahore. Novtej Bharati, a reputable poet, in the blurb says that this book contains 'poems which are not specimens of typically formal poetry as they aren't decked with meter, rhyming, similes and flight of imagination. It is bare poetry, no cosmetics, no heaviness of content. It is difficult to compose such poetry. Spices can make even grass a savoury dish'. He is spot on. Making poetry out of what is mundane and ordinary is always a challenging task. It forces you to discover meanings in what appears meaningless for being worn. Apparent repetition of experience that surrounds everyday life creates continuity of life. As 'you cannot step into the same river twice' so you cannot experience the same things twice similarly. Perhaps that's why small things matter for Samina Asma. She can pause and ponder over voices in the streets, sleeping child, swings, trees, parks and other such phenomena. Her poetic voice is as soft and unpretentious as are her experiences which are not gusts of wind but are rather like a light breeze. Her language is close to speech but she perhaps needs to be a little more careful because at times her causal use of words may look odd. Her simple unassuming tone laced with subdued emotions makes her expression meaningfully pleasant.'Every one wears a disguise/ if it comes off they stand naked/ But one sees the child naked and the sight offends no one / he wears no disguise'. '