Siraj-ud-Din Ali Khan Arzu started writing at a very young age, and so have the students studying in the department established after his name at Habib University, Karachi. The proof is in the form of a newly published book titled “Arzu Anthology of Student Voices", comprising of stories, poems and Ghazals, launched by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy in the February of this very year and edited by Dr Sabyn Javeri.

Arzu Centre's focus being on all the regional languages makes the book an unbiased effort, accessible to and understandable by all, for it incorporates stories and poems written in Urdu, Punjabi and English and also translations of literary works penned in the languages mentioned. As a result, “Arzu Anthology of Student Voices", or one must say, the voices go beyond the guilt of being colonized, the inferiority complex while speaking Urdu and the fear of being called an illiterate at using Punjabi, and embrace all the language options with a confidence of true literati and without considering it a national schizophrenia. One finds in the book, not only patterned stories, but stories with endings to ponder upon as well, not only poems written in free verse or Azad Nazam but in the form of perfect rhymes and Ghazals as well, making us realize that if we take a step towards writing, we won't be having the option of choosing multiple languages only, but also of choosing multiple styles and genres.

All these amalgamations do not, however, make the writings seem split in terms of culture. The originality in all the writings and the unanimity among them is brought about by the writings' content which is so deeply rooted in the culture of Pakistan that multiple languages and various genres act but as frameworks, and within those frameworks, we come across the common problems we are facing as one nation.

The young students do not shy away from acquainting us with the bitter fact that rape in our culture is considered justified from the times of the initial wars we fought, and has made its way into marriages as well, which even if forced, turns out to be a pleasure for the man who can make love without consent. They do not shy away from telling us that we are still conservative, for we kill our journalists who raise their voices, beat our wives if they disagree with us, abuse them if they are not ready to serve us, still prefer sons over daughters, hesitating allow our women to drive and cannot let a woman cross a road easily without any fear of being harassed. There exist other themes as well, such as love, trust, loyalty, robberies, harassment by females, religious exploitation, wrong guidance at the age of puberty, insensitivity, depression and laziness, all very much contemporary and relatable.

While some of the topics have been subtly handled, some have been addressed in quite a rebellious manner, making the writings modern in every way. What comes as surprising is that all this handling of contemporary issues has been done by young students who have proven that they can have a say in the current affairs now, and an authentic one. The stories might be considered fictitious only because of the imaginative characters, but the feelings the characters go through and the mishaps they encounter are genuine and realistic. Similarly, the poems have a revolutionary touch to them as a result of dark times.

To put in a nutshell, “Arzu Anthology of Student Voices" is a rich book; the richness being of voices, hence the richness of narratives, styles and techniques, the richness being of ideas and themes, and the richness being of languages. We need more and more books of similar kind which will not only encourage young and aspiring writers to start penning down their ideas, but will acquaint us with the voices which have been neglected uptil now but might have a lot to express like the students of Karachi.