A monthly meeting of members of Howrah Writers’ Association.
Picture by Gopal Senapati
They believe in that old adage of pen being mightier than the sword. Literature, they say, helps in understanding human emotions better and can help fight social evils. They are members of Howrah Writers’ Association that was formed in 1966 by Urdu poet, Qaiser Shameem along with his friends and students.
“When I had formed Writers’ Association in 1966, it had 15 Urdu writers. Later, however, Hindi and Bengali writers joined. It became Howrah Writers’ Association when it was registered,” said Shameem. His intention was to form a bridge between writers of different languages. “I am a member of several literary groups, but I feel that this association comprises people who are serious about literature. The forum is a good place for exchange of ideas and that can happen through readings and discussions,” said Gouranga Sengupta, who writes short stories, essays and poetry in Bengali.
The main activity of the association is holding monthly literary meetings of members. There they discuss literature and read new works of the writers. “We do not allow old or published literature at our meetings. We always want serious writers in our association,” said Shameem. Although they mainly work in Howrah, members come from other places as well. There are those who come from Hooghly, Calcutta and the 24 Parganas. Although the association has just started an office in Shibpur, the room is too small to accommodate all the members, so monthly meetings are held in classrooms of local primary schools.
At present, there are 70 members and every year, two or three young members are inducted into the association. An admission fee of Rs 100 is charged from new members and a monthly subscription of Rs 20 is taken from each one. Those who take life membership, must pay Rs 2,000.
Members of the association get a lot of support while writing. Abhishek Verma, a budding Hindi poet and member of Howrah Writers’ Association said, “I had joined the association eight years back to learn Urdu. It helped me while writing poetry. Shameem Sir was my guide and he would correct me when I was wrong.”
Although the association cannot provide financial support, members try to help out in other ways. “We help them publish their works. If a writer wants to compile his works and publish it, we find a publisher and try to do all the follow up,” said Shameem.
Urdu poet, Mushtaq Anjum, a resident of Shibpur, is a member of the association since 1980. He writes poetry and short stories and also does a lot of translation from other languages to Urdu. “A lot of cultural exchange takes place through the association. In addition, senior members also guide juniors on how to write,” said Anjum.
Those writers, whose works are published, are felicitated by the members on the foundation day of Howrah Writers’ Association. “The foundation day is September 16 and we felicitate three writers from three languages on that day,” said Shameem.
A posthumous award and veteran member award is also given on that day. Although they are trying to expand, the biggest constraint is funds. “The association runs on members’ donations and subscriptions,” said Shameem. They have an office in a tiny room in Ghoshbagan in Shibpur. “We wanted to start a library. But for that we need space and more funds,” said Shameem.