By Basir Sultan Kazmi
Here is a story of a single man’s dedication to his language, literature, and culture and his efforts towards finding a space for these in a world that cares less for such riches now.
Shahabuddin Ahmad hails from India and works for Direct Reduction Department, Qatar Steel Company. He is also the founder and Chairman of Bazm-e-Sadaf International, which aspires to break fresh grounds in the domains of Urdu and its literary culture.
Bazme-e-Sadaf International is the name of a mission, a dream, and an interminable journey towards newer goals. Its founder aspires to turn it into a movement and carry it beyond the Gulf.
Bazm-e-Sadaf International has already made certain achievements. It publishes a journal called Rasala Sadaf, and has published twenty books that were recently released at its international seminar in Patna. It has also conducted seminars, held mushairas, and conferred awards and cash prizes. While these activities are set to continue in future as well, the Bazm plans to further publish rare books that have remained inaccessible, offer financial assistance to deserving authors, establish Urdu libraries, and found educational institutions to prepare students for joining mainstream services and seeking a respectable place for themselves in life.
In the following interview with Basir Sultan Kazmi, Shahabuddin Ahmad talks about his accomplishments and future plans.
You bring out a journal, you publish books, you conduct seminars, and organise mushairas. Your plate seems to be quite full. Let us first talk about your journal Sadaf.
My elder brother (Late) Dr Ziyauddin Ahmad Shahid Jamal Quadri had launched Sadaf in 1995. Its publication got discontinued after a few issues. As this journal was designed to reach out to larger sections of readership globally, I thought of reviving it in his memory. Once I initiated the process, I got positive response from all quarters and I re-launched it. It has been received well and its fourth issue is in hands now.
You have held international seminars and mushairas. What has been your experience in organising such events?
These have been huge undertaking. In the inaugural session of Bazm-e-Sadaf in April 2016, we had announced two international awards: one of rupees one lakh for a well-reputed author and another of rupees fifty thousand for an under-fifty author who has received attention on account of his work and holds promise for future. After due deliberation, our international jury selected Canadian poet and playwright Jawaid Danish for Bazm-e-Sadaf International Award and Delhi-based academic Dr Wahid Nazeer for Bazm-e-Sadaf New Generation Award. These awards were conferred in December 2016 in Doha, the Urdu capital of the Gulf.
On this occasion we also held a seminar on diasporic literature in Urdu. This conference included significant presentations from Dr Irtez Karim, Director NCPUL; Prof Safdar Imam Quadri, Director, Bazm-e-Sadaf India; Zuhurul Islam Jawaid from Abu Dhabi; Anwar Zaheer Rahber from Germany; Anjum Barabankvi; Vijay Tiwari; Malikul Aziz Katib; and Tasleem Arif from India. As the last event of this international seminar, we organised a mushaira with poets from India, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Canada, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi.
Have you identified authors for your international awards of 2017?
The meeting of our international jury is going to be held shortly. We will take a decision there and make announcements accordingly.
It appears Bazm-e-Sadaf is working simultaneously in several directions. How do you think that all your plans bear upon your basic objectives, and how do they represent the organisation’s motto?
As of now, we bring out a journal, publish books, hold seminars, organise mushairas, and confer awards. All these serve our broader purpose and they cumulatively create a condition for strengthening Urdu and its literary culture which is the prime motto of Bazm-e-Sadaf. Apart from these, we have more plans in making that too would fall in the larger design of what Bazm-e-Sadaf wishes to deliver.
Apart from promoting literary activities, do also plan to work in the domain of education. How do you plan to do this?
Education gives us a way to develop a meaningful dialogue with the world at large. We all realise the importance of good education and also the need to relate education with value system. It is also required to protect one’s language, literature, and culture. We wish to establish educational institutions where young men and women may get proper education. Such plans, however, need proper resources for their implementation. After proper deliberation, we have concluded that we may realise our dreams if we have our resources in place and a clear road map to take us to our destination. We have already started making preparations to meet this objective.
How do you envisage carrying out such ambitious projects concerning education and training?
We wish to put a proposal in this connection. Considering the size of population, if we prepare ourselves to gift that little amount we spend on a single meal of 365 days in a year to Bazm-e-Sadaf International, a huge amount will be collected. This will not only help establish an educational institution but a full-fledged university. It is imperative that such an ambitious project calls for a meticulous planning. Bazm-e-Sadaf International wishes to initiate this project. It needs endorsement and assistance at larger levels from individuals and organisations interested in the cause of education, training, and preservation of cultural heritage.
For carrying out such a huge project, you must have sought support from individuals. Would you like share your support base?
You are so right. Such a huge project, as I have said earlier, can’t be a single individual’s undertaking. I have my patrons, well-wishers, and co-workers both in and outside the GCC countries. Apart from my own family which consists of my wife Anjum Ara, son Masab Bin Shahab, and daughter Umme Sadiya, we have a strong support base in India and abroad.
Could you tell us something about your own passion for what you are doing and how you found yourself working towards your professed goal?
I consider myself lucky to have been born in a family of Urdu poets and scholars. As you know, Urdu is my mother tongue and I love it. I connect in this language with people in my country and with a huge number of Urdu speakers in the GCC countries also. So, I founded Bazm-e-Sadaf, which is a dream and a mission for me.
I understand that what you are doing is meaningful to different kinds of people in different ways. How do you envisage the role of Bazm-e-Sadaf in such a scenario?
Urdu is a magical language and its literature has wider appeal. It may not be very proper to draw strict lines of distinction among different kinds of people who approach Urdu and Urdu literature for its riches. In fact, Bazm-e-Sadaf is trying to create a global base of all those who are related directly or indirectly to the gifts of this language and its literary wonders. After all, great literatures have always had a universal appeal and we wish to reach out globally to all categories people.
Where do you go from here?
To chasing our dreams and fulfilling our mission.
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