Among humans there are innumerable ways of looking at the world and experiencing it. There is a way all adults are familiar with; the child’s way. But they nevertheless find it extremely difficult to be in a child’s shoe once they grow up. The main reason is that they outgrow verve that defines the life of childhood.

A child’s life is generally governed by fundamental principles of pain and pleasure but his/her reaction to stimulus is wonder driven. And sense of wonder is invariably a hallmark of all creative people. Sense of wonder coupled with imaginative faculty is responsible for great artistic and literary creations which we as species are proud of. So those who have lost their sense of wonder have in fact lost their ability to interact with children. And that’s one reason why most of the writers including great ones rarely dare to create literature for children.

Children gifted with sense of wonder are envy of poets as they can hear what an adult can’t, they can see what an adult can’t, and above all they can imagine what an adult can’t. Thus writing for children is an art a few can master. Writers writing for children anyway are not large in number in most of the languages. Such people creating children literature in Punjabi language can literally be counted on the fingers of one hand, at least at this side of the border despite the fact that Punjabi has rich folklore meant for children with its stories, rhymes, riddles, songs and lullabies.

Ashraf Sohail is one such socially and culturally conscious person who has done tremendous service in promoting children literature in mother language. He brings out a monthly children magazine titled “Pakheru [Bird]”and has been able, despite meagre resources, to sustain it over the years through the hard work of his team comprising G.S Deip, Ali Akmal Tasuwwar, Atif Husain Shah, Abdul Ghaffur Khan and Sohail Qaiser Hashmi.

Junaid Akram, a well-known writer of Punjabi language, rightly says: “I can say it with justifiable pride that how Ashraf Sohail all alone launched a campaign for the promotion of children literature and how he has stood his ground in the field for the last 24 years will be remembered for a long time to come”.

The latest annual edition of Pakheru is dedicated to novels. The magazine apart from publishing translations of foreign novels has been serialising the novels meant for children. The current issue carries five novels authored by Jasbeer Bhullar, Dr. Iftekhar Khokhar, Ali Akmal Tasuwwar, Tarseem and M.Y Qaiser. The texts are supported by relevant drawings and sketches.

“Pakheru” is a kind of stuff we need more and more for our young [SF1] ones. The editorial team deserves all the accolades.

“Punjabi Adab” is a quarterly magazine of Pakistan Punjabi Adabi Board, Lahore, the oldest literary body dedicated to promoting Punjabi language and literature. The board is managed by its independent members elected from all across Punjab. “Punjabi Adab” under the editorship of Ms Parveen Malik, a well-known fiction writer, has brought out its latest exclusive issue on Baba Guru Nanak whose 550th birth anniversary has recently been celebrated throughout the world. The issue has two sections. The first section has articles on the personality, verses, and worldview of the Guru in the context of historical conditions and their relevance for contemporary times. The authors include Qazi Javed, Professor Prem Parkash Singh, Iqbal Qaiser, Dr. Razzaq Shahid, Professor Wazir Singh and this scribe. Diverse aspects of Guru’s unusually rich personality and complex philosophic and socio-political vision have been explored and analysed. This is what is urgently needed in our hate filled world rattled by the strong communal undertow.

The second section of the magazine has a selection of Guru Nanak’s verses which are in fact from the booklet the board first published years ago. The selection carries foreword by late Asif Khan and an illuminating introduction by late Shafqat Tanveer Mirza titled “Aakhia Baba Nanak ne”. These verses are eternally relevant for those who dream to have a transformed world that belong to all and is shared by all. Don’t miss out on this.

“Wanjhli [The Flute}” is a book series, a thinly concealed substitute of quarterly literary journal, edited by Tauqeer Chugtai who is a well-known poet and writer based in Karachi. Chugtai is originally from Chhachh area of Attock district in Punjab. He started publishing the series in 1988 which carried the writings from both parts of Punjab in an effort to build what one may call literary bridges. The latest issue of “Wanjhli” as usual has serious contents. An analytical article on the role of mother language reveals the conundrum Punjabis from West Punjab in particular face in an incisive manner.

Another article by Tauqeer Chugtai on late poet Sankhokh Singh Santokh, written with a feeling, is evocative and paints the emotional struggle of a poet who is a member of diaspora but lives in two different worlds; his adopted country and ancestral homeland. The issue offers a good assortment of short stories. The authors include well-known fiction writers such as Ali Anwar Ahmed, Zubair Ahmed, Karamat Mogul, Mudassar Basheer, Usman Siddiqi, Ali and Tripta K Singh.

One also finds the translation of one of Rabindranath Tagore’s short stories. Tauqeer Chugtai’s concerted effort introduces us to diverse literary landscapes that appear in the contemporary writings. —

Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2020