The fourth session of “Bola Chali” series by My Voice Unheard took place at Daftarkhawan, Lahore on Saturday March 3rd, 2018. The discussion started with the introduction of My Voice Unheard and “Bola Chali” series by the co-Founders Hammad Anwar & Anum Nawaz. They explained their motivation behind My Voice Unheard and how Bola Chali overlaps it in many ways. My Voice Unheard is a digital media project that envisions highlighting stories from all spheres of life to create consciousness towards a counter- narrative around Pakistani lives. Inspired by the tradition of story-telling My Voice Unheard incorporates passing down and preserving traditions at the same time acknowledging the efforts that every individual invests in their lives. “Bola Chali” ventures to explore the wisdom of a common Pakistani, by creating a space that spotlights personal struggles, accomplishments, success and disappointments alike.

“Bola Chali” is designed around a hybrid version of story-telling and oral history. Each session is intended to focus on the personal journey of struggle of the narrator, amidst, sharing an incomparable voyage to identity formation. Each session is premeditated by a moderator who establishes personal connection with the narrator, supports for a detailed expression of self and acts as a liaison between the audience and the narrator thus, transforming a simple narration into a personal experience and journey for everyone. 

Ayyaz Ahmad , who is the Director of Business Development for Sang-e-Meel Publications, a publishing house that has published titles such as Raja Gidh, Aag ka Darya, Udaas Naslein, Basti and many more. Ayyaz became an Acumen fellow in 2017 and has a bachelor’s degree in Political Economy from Williams College, studied Social Policy at the London School of Economics and holds an MBA at the University of Cambridge.

The event focused on having a conversation about his experience as one of the leading publishing houses of the subcontinent and highlighting a publisher’s perspective. Mr. Ayyaz talked about growing up in an environment where prominent writers like Abdullah Hussain, Mustansar Hussain Tarar, Qau“Bola Chali” with Ayyaz Ahmadrat ul Ain Haider and others were frequent visitors, at times to celebrate events like Basant or just simply for the Sunday breakfast.

The organization was started by his grandfather with one basic mission: every good piece of work should be published and be accessible to the public and society at large. His personal interest in Urdu literature grew after he took it as a project during his MBA and later on joined the organization upon his return. It has been a learning curve for him as well he believes that Urdu is suffering more of a “branding” problem than one of quality. New writers and authors are coming up with amazing quality writings but the increase in the numbers of readers is not as fast as it should be.

Talking about general process of selecting a book for publication, he shared that existing portfolio plays a very important role in this regard. But it is not a compulsion as their approach is to judge the quality and benefit of the work as they have published books by many first-time writers as well. Mr. Ayyaz also emphasized about the need of more contributors in the field of translation work, regional languages and children literature.   

Mr. Hammad emphasized the need of highlighting such narratives as an example of resilience which creates an image that is not associated with Pakistani’s all over the world. There is a dire need to feature these unheard voices and stories to build sustaining partnerships even across Pakistan. He shared that My Voice Unheard will continue to bring forward such stories as they have done in last two years. They have covered over 250 such stories ranging from different social initiatives to entrepreneurs and from Pakistani’s in US, Canada, UAE and UK who are all creating a narrative that defies the stereotypical image of Pakistani Muslims.

“Bola Chali’s” event was attended by people from different walks of life which included journalists, writers, student, veterans and professionals. The audience appreciated the efforts by organizers and wished them well for their future projects.  The event ended with a few words from the guests in the audience and followed by a networking session where the guests interacted with audiences.