Not every nineteen year old has the audacity to get hit by a tragedy and move on like nothing ever happened. Hamza Khurram not only took on such a tragedy but channeled all the resulting negative energy into creating a platform that would help people face such similar challenges.

Hamza, started to narrate his story publically in seminars almost three years ago that changed not only him as a person but also the people around him. He and his team of ten students started Dastaan-e-Zindagi; a platform that would eventually change lives, one seminar at a time.

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Hamza Khurram, the founder of Dastaan-e-Zindagi; an experience definitely worth re-living.

Tell a little bit about yourself and your organization

My name is Hamza Khurram. I am 19 years old and currently doing my bachelors from The Lahore School of Economics. A couple of years ago, my team and I took an initiative of compiling transcendence music, fusing it with Sufi stories. Dastaan-e-Zindagi came into being in 2014 as a profit organization but once we started hunting for the stories around us, it took us to a level where it was impossible to earn ‘profit’ on people who were actually struggling with their lives!

What led to the creation of Dastaan-e-Zindagi at such a young age?

Warren Buffet in an interview once said that he purchased shares at just 11 years of age and he believed he was still late! I don’t really know how, but the same happened with me. I firmly believe that my team and I should have taken the initiative of forming Dastaan-e-Zindagi much earlier. What turned my life around, however, was a tragedy that struck me to the very core of my being and changed me forever. Very few people know that this organization was originally and only created in the remembrance of my elder sister, Ayesha, who embraced martyrdom in the Quetta bomb blasts. I, however, do not like to talk about this with people since the very thought of it makes me weak. 'Dastaan', for me, is as my mother often says: “Main apni behen ke janazay pe roya nahi tha, magar dastaan wo aansu hain jo bahir aatay hain”

Why did the team come up with the name Dastaan-e-Zindagi?

Basically, 'Dastaan-e-Zindagi' is a product that would never have been possible without the constant help and guidance of my mentor, Umair Jalianwala, who named the organization after his very own Dastaan-e-Ishq. Dastaan-e-Zindagi is the very extraction of Dastaan-e-Ishq.

Elaborate the role of Umair Jalianwala in your life

I consider Umair Jalianwala as my mentor, my leader and my elder brother. He is, indeed, the best teacher I have come across. The little knowledge I have is only because of Umair Bhai. I have seen such teachers in my life who are reluctant even to share their PowerPoint slides with their students but this man once said to me “Give what you want more of”; “Main logon ko iss liye ilm nae bant’ta taakeh mera naam banay, balkay issliye bant’ta hoon taakeh mujhe aur milay”.

Where did you have your first ever talk and how was the experience?

I had my first talk in Roots Faisalabad which in fact, was a reality check for me, after which I really got to know that training is not an easy task! It demands years and years of practice.

What was the response after the first talk?

I remember distinctly that the room was filled with 20 people out of which 18 laughed at us. But by the time we had our second session in Angels International School, the entire hall was filled and all the 450 students bid my team farewell with a standing ovation. It was a fascinating experience!

How many people originally started this project? And currently how many people are registered? What is the procedure of registering for Dastaan?

I remember when I shared the idea of starting a motivational session in a place like Faisalabad where people are not really interested in such things, my friends made fun of me but I soon realized its practicality when all of my friends quoted Dastaan-e-Zindagi as part of their extra-curricular project in their university applications and thus, a team of 10 people started this organization. Before every session we open upa floor for speakers as well as the management body to register online. This is followed by an online Skype interview. By the grace of Allah Almighty, we have around 800 students enrolled as of today!

Talk about the accomplishments and main aims of the organization

I remember that before we held our second session, we had to write the name of our organization with cardboard letters but when we looked at our allocated budget, we were already out of cash! This is when I realized the importance of a team. The members of my entire team saved 500 rupees each and cut the card board into letters themselves. It is with pride that I say that Alhamdulillah, our team has never asked for help and that is our biggest accomplishment! In our most recent session, our members delivered the tickets themselves, visiting one home after another; a procedure that took almost eight days.

When and where is your next seminar?

Our team has been invited once again by the Angels International College on January 6, 2017.

Discuss the importance of Sufi-music and how do you relate it in your talks?

Music is what Dastaan-e-Zindagi actually is! The power of the Sufi Kalaam coupled with the transcendence music of Coke-Studio when fused together turned out to be phenomenal and consequently, the response was unbelievable! We try to translate and relate them with the inspiring stories of personalities like Steve Jobs, Muhammad Ali, Abdul Sattar Edhi, Pablo Picasso and Mahathir Muhammad amongst others.

What changes do you see in yourself since you started public speaking? Would you recommend it to the youth of today?

My thoughts are much more refined now. Public speaking has evolved my personality to a great extent. I have started reading books I once never wanted to look at! Public speaking is strongly recommended to the youth of today, especially to the gems who have a story to tell the world but lack just the confidence of facing an audience. The worlds is in dire need of hearing these hidden stories.

According to you, why is the youth of today in need of motivation? Are they generally depressed?

Instead of motivation, I believe that the youth needs to spend more time with themselves. Generally, the adults are always engaged socially along with the youngsters who are also always busy with their cellphones; but my question to them is, “where is that fifteen minute slot per day which is just for you? You and your thoughts?” Indeed, motivation lies inside us, we do not need anyone to bring it out. All we need is to do is reflect!

You are into poetry. Recite one of your favorite phrases from an original poem.

The following verses are of an original poem, Karbala Ki Yaad Main

“Kabhi dawaat-e-tableegh to kabhi jism ka matam karta hun
Kabhi sajda Sunni ka toh kabhi sajda Shia kiya, bas khuda ke liye kerta hun

Sochnay ko fikay, samajhnay ko mai Islam hun
Na main mazhab, na main ehsaas! Main khuda se momin ka kalaam hun!”