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The resurrection of Umru Ayar

April 15, 2013

—Image/invite by Kachee Goliyan

Human beings have a tendency to keep reaching for the past. We love nostalgia flavoured things. We’re always saying how good it was before now and quoting all these intelligent dead people, like Aristotle and Nietzsche. Maybe it is that the past is never uncertain, there’s no new betrayal and all the wounds have either healed or are at least scabbing.

Umru Ayar is an eastern literary treasure and is something that my dad quotes now and again. An orphan adopted by whomsoever possessed the creative license to mould him into a sellable story. A slave to individual imagination, he has been illustrated as a turban wearing, beard wielding, middle aged man as well as a Peter Pan-esque character, only in his late twenties, with rather fashionable facial hair.

Ramish Safa discusses Umru Ayar at T2F, Karachi.
Ramish Safa discusses Umru Ayar at T2F, Karachi.

Kachee Goliyan has been talked about since around 2011 when they started cropping up with free issues of their comics. In two years they’ve amassed over a hundred thousand fans on Facebook and have the modest ambitions of becoming for Pakistan what Marvel Comics is for America. Their newest project, Umru Ayar: The Awakening is a series of comic books that unravels the adventures and adversities of the protagonist and relives, for those that know of the legend, all the stories that they have loved when they were younger. The unconventional but largely necessary social aspect of this project is the fact that the comics are available in English and Urdu and every copy you buy awards a free copy to an underprivileged child. Additionally the English copies cost a hundred rupees more than the Urdu ones for a twofold objective, to increase comic book culture in Pakistan and to encourage the Urdu readership amongst our progressively westernised upper classes. For a team that is so socially conscious and pragmatic they have sadly been left unsponsored, Mateen Ansari [their marketing analyst] said.

The comic itself is, I assume, deliberately been made out to be a tease as it probably only outlines less than five per cent of what the actual story will be. However, the graphics are dark and red seems to be an obvious favourite tone for the artists. Upon reading the comic I felt it was slightly misogynist as the only two references to women were negative. I asked Saad Hassam [the artist] what that was all about and he laughed and said ‘she’s a sorcerer! When have you ever known the supernatural to be good?’ to which I reminded him of Disney. His explanation was that Marvel, DC, Disney and the Grimms Brothers all had their own realms. Kachee Goliyan will be no different and in their realm, there will be good and there will be evil, and they will be portrayed as such and as for the misogyny, well Umru will meet some very good women in the near future, ‘abhi toh Umru ko khud nahi pata uss ke saath kia game honay ja raha hai.’ Well, I definitely look forward to that.

Umru Ayar successfully appeals to children and adults alike at T2F, Karachi.
Umru Ayar successfully appeals to children and adults alike at T2F, Karachi.

Ramish Safa who is behind the series is probably an activist by day and a comic book writer by night. He was behind the Pappu project which shows a mascot defeating his adverse surroundings through education and hard work. Again, this is aimed at raising awareness towards the atrocities that children are experiencing in terms of health, education, domestic and street abuse and child labour. Inspired by the Tintin comics and Iron Man, Ramish said that his ultimate aim is to see Kachee Goliyan become a publishing house that helps young, unnoticed artists take the stage. Speaking of his brainchild, Umru Ayar, he said that it is mainly for those of us who don’t have a hero or who have been left without one.

It is comforting to see those with affluence and influence sharing it so readily and so passionately but as Horace Mann said "Until you have done something for humanity you should be ashamed to die."