When I first took pen in my hand for writing a book, everyone in the house frowned. The reason was obvious. I was treading on a much beaten path which had been trod on by many a stalwart. The market was flooded with books but without readership. Moreover, it was not thought to be my cup of tea given my background, taste and age. But I stuck to my guns and resolved of trying the deep troubled waters of a writer and see myself how difficult but exciting the task of writing a book was.
Such an adventure and passion is, however, a safety valve for giving vent to one’s interests and feelings, which otherwise remain a burden. The sooner this burden is shed away, the better it is. The bottom-line is that writing a book gives us much relief and relaxation from depression and calms downs our nerves. It hardly matters what others think about it.
Writers are a world apart in themselves from the rest of others. They write for the sake of writing. The human mind is always flooded with ideas. The pen and paper moderate these ideas, give them a direction and preserve them for posterity. The writers of yore did the same for us and made themselves immortal, serving as a lighthouse for generations to come. It is for us now to follow their footprints and contribute our bit in that direction.
Authors and authorship have made a quantum jump and undergone a sea change in face of stiff competition from information technology, social networking and the computer boom. This is a great facilitator also, though. Newer and newer concepts of printing, composing, editing, publishing, designing, marketing, planning and advertising are emerging and have made the task very easy. But the basic aim of exchanging ideas and imparting knowledge remains the same. May be in the future, artificial intelligence, robotics and telepathy-like innovations, digging deep into minds, may throw up new ideas and something different may emerge. It is, however, a far-fetched fantasy and the concept of book writing will not be redundant so soon.
In the good old days writers were regarded as the noblest and highly respected lot in the society. In many ways, they continue to be so even now. Such was the respect and regard for writers and poets that our Prophet (PBUH) sat down and asked poet Hazrat Hussam-bin-Saabit (RU) to sit on the podium to narrate his poetic renditions. During pagan times in Arabia, the works of the best poets were hung on the gates of Kaba to bestow on them a place of great honour.
Back home, our kings used to give big jaagirs, stipends and golden gowns to poets and writers and were given a place of great honour in the court. They were conferred the highest titles and honorary degrees of scholarship. Poetic couplets were sent as gifts to relatives and friends as valuable presents on festive occasions.
Such was not the case always. There were some incidents to the contrary also. Some writers and poets suffered at the hands of rulers due to rivalry and court intrigues. One such instance was that of King Mehmood and poet Firdousi. Once King Mehmood asked poet Firdousi to write a poetic narrative of past kings and promised that he will be rewarded at the rate of one Ashrafi per verse. Firdousi did this and named his voluminous book as Shahnama, the story of kings. When he demanded his promised reward from the king, the king backtracked and did not pay him anything. Firdousi was in shock and he wrote another treatise in poetry, criticising the king. This book was however not published but some verses reached the public by word of mouth. Some of such verses are reproduced below:
Abaa Shah Mehmood Aali Tabaar
Na ou bar sehustonaou bar Chahaar
Agar Shah Ra Shah booday Padar
Ba sar Bar nihademara Taaj-u-Zar
Agar madare Shah baanobuday
Mara Seem-u-zar Ta bazaano Buday
The king did send him some money afterwards; but before it could reach Firdousi, he had already died.
There is another fabled story about a famous writer living in a remote village in the upper reaches of mountains by the side of a river. There being no takers for his masterpieces, he thought of a novel idea of disposing of his works. He compiled his writings with hard work, burning the midnight oil for the whole week, but at the end of the week he would throw his valuable literary pages one by one into the running water of the river. Once when a city research scholar tried to get access to his works, before he reached there, the writer had already thrown his manuscripts in the river.
It is the need of the hour that our writers, poets, literary giants are given proper support and encouragement in marketing their works, so that book writing does not take a backseat and the authors are given a dignified deal, not forcing them to be the salesmen of their own works.
The writer is a retired telecom engineer and author of the book, ‘Footprints in the Sand’