Tilism-e Hoshruba by Ustad Allah Bakhsh (1935)

Invitation to Become a Friend of Hoshruba

Dear friend:

I hope that you are very well.

I am writing to approach you for a potential contribution to help preserve and widely disseminate a magnificent part of our collective literary, cultural and civilizational achievement – the Urdu dastan Tilism-e-Hoshruba.

Tilism-e-Hoshruba is the crowning achievement of Urdu historical epic and fantasy literature, a remarkable amalgamation of Persian, Arabic and Hindustani cultures and languages, and the most prominent and popular portion of the Dastan-e-Amir Hamza which is regarded as the longest epic written in any language.

I am sure we all grew up with and have very fond memories of many a pleasurable afternoon spent reading the wonderful children’s version of Tilism-e Hoshruba and the exploits of Amir Hamza, Amar Ayyar and their friends, set in a world that combines the most glorious of what this region’s history and imaginative prowess has had to offer. This dastan is a great repository of culture, languages, traditions and normative values and in recent years has garnered wide international attention through English translations as well as live performances.

It is a great pity that no modern, annotated and well-produced edition of Tilism-e Hoshruba currently exists which means that we deprive present and future generations and scholars of this invaluable treasure. At a time narrow self-identities and insularity plague people all over the world, it is all the more important to celebrate something that is based on the plurality of languages and cultures from our part of the world.

I made an effort to reach out to public institutions set up for promotion of traditional and local literature, as well as large private publishers but there is unfortunately a marked lack of interest in classical literature. This is of course naïve and short-sighted given the great success elsewhere of similar projects such as the Murty Classical Library of India and the Library of Arabic Literature which cater to classical literature from this part of the world. Elsewhere people and nations are waking up to, drawing sustenance from, and taking pride in past literary and cultural achievements, and making them available for a global audience. The apathy is also ill-advised given that Tilism-e Hoshruba has now become familiar to an international readership through English translations as well as live performances.

I approached my friend and eminent writer, translator, and aficionado of dastans and qissas Musharraf Ali Farooqi, and together we came to the conclusion that it is perfectly realistic to be able to publish Tilism-e Hoshruba in a modern, attractive and accessible edition by identifying a set of supporters from our own circles who are known to be committed to any endeavors for literary, artistic and cultural preservation and promotion. Thus the idea of Friends of Hoshruba germinated.

Through contributions of a select group of connoisseurs and promoters of literature and the arts, we hope to raise the requisite funds for starting and completing Project Hoshruba. The work itself involves careful selection of the original text of this epic, its editing, annotation and thereafter printing in modern, attractive and accessible editions. The idea is to also make them widely available through subsidized mass market editions. Musharraf not only has extensive prior experience germane to this project but also knows the right people with the requisite skills to put together the necessary project team to complete it. He has kindly agreed to take this on as the Director of Project Hoshruba.

We will also be reaching out to, benefiting from the expertise of, and seeking endorsement and support from some the best known scholars of classical and dastan literature for the project.

Friends of Hoshruba are not only requested to make the suggested contribution – and by all means more if they are so generous (each contribution of the requested amount will entitle an additional name to be denoted as a Friend of Hoshruba) – but to also share your guidance, advice and suggestions to promote it before and after the volumes start appearing. As a small token of appreciation the names of all the Friends of Hoshruba shall appear on the Project Hoshruba website and in all twenty-four volumes that are anticipated to be published over a five year period. Further, and we will also be presenting them a complimentary copy all twenty-four volumes in hard cover as they come out.

Friends of Hoshruba will be the mainstay of the project in terms of its financing and promotion, and we shall maintain that arrangement. In addition, many friends have approached us who want to help in various non-monetary ways, as well as through smaller financial contributions. Since Project Hoshruba is not just about the books but also about galvanizing larger interest in and discourse around classical literature and helping forge a community interested in such literature and reading, we welcome everyone, and we shall also be accepting their contributions with appreciation and gratitude.

I have already committed to becoming a Friend of Hoshruba and sent in my contribution. I would really appreciate a positive response from you as well.

The publication proposal of Project Hoshruba, requested contribution and mode of payment, and a brief bio of the project director are provided. I am very happy to address any additional questions that you may have.

Dr. Osama Siddique

BA (Punjab); MBA (LUMS); BA (Hons), MA (Oxon); LLM, SJD (Harvard)

Rhodes Scholar for Pakistan – 1992 | Member of the New York Bar | Member of the Punjab Bar

Inaugural Henry J. Steiner Visiting Professor in Human Rights – Harvard Law School

Senior Faculty – Institute for Global Law & Policy (IGLP) – Harvard Law School

Associate Fellow – Institute of Development & Economic Alternatives (IDEAS)

Executive Director – Law & Policy Research Network (LPRN)