Lahore based poet Afshan Shafi, after her recent success with the launch of her ‘Quiet Women’ – has launched her online literary magazine this April. Aided by journalist Amar Alam, who has studied English at Boston University and served as an editor at a national newspaper and at Libas International Magazine, is her partner in this new venture called ‘Pandemonium publications.’
Pandemonium publications will be launching soon with its first print chapbook, take us through the journey and what inspired you.
Amar Alam: The inspiration came from our own lives. This has been the most difficult thing we’ve ever done and I think the reason for that is that it’s so deeply personal. We’re both writers with BA’s in English literature, trying to find out place and our people in a city where there is no cohesive
unified publishing industry. There are so many people doing groundbreaking new things in lit (in all languages) but there is no cohesion. And for a real literary industry to emerge, creators, editors and publishers have to come together and work together. So we’re trying to create that sort of platform and be a unifying force. It’s a labour of love for us and we’re trying to create an inclusive, collaborative, safe space for writers and artists. And we have projects planned for every step of the creative process. From idea to first draft to publishing. ‘Trigger’ is the title for our first chapbook , a fitting tribute to the things that affect our collective and personal sensibilities.
We heard the idea of Pandemonium came out of from a writer’s workshop that you conducted. What was this workshop?
Afshan Shafi: We sent out a open call for submissions on numerous press channels a couple of months before we started. We received responses from O level students as well as people who were curious about the process of writing , itself. Most of our participants were not strictly writers and
were employed in disparate fields like psychiatry, law as well as visual arts. Each workshop was centered around either a literary technique or movement for example mimesis or echo poetry. We held a three hour workshop each weekend for around six months ending in January 2019. It was so exciting to see how all these people of widely divergent ages and professional backgrounds came together and really gave themselves over to the artistic process.
Explain how the ‘automatic writing’ works in a workshop, given the nature of the raw and personal writing process.
Afshan Shafi: Automatic writing is a technique which, historically, was heavily used by the surrealists to unlock the symbolism of the unconscious. We used to begin each session with around ten minutes of writing down whatever came into our minds , without any kind of conscious censorship. In automatism, every image, every observation must be written down as it emerges in the mind. We then used to read out each of our writings in front of the class. As expected, what came out was usually writing that exposed personal vulnerabilities. It was a new experience for most and some
participants would flare up or feel wounded and judged. With time people realized that being creative meant to continuously toe that tightrope between exposure and craft. There is so much power in talking about things that matter to us a community, or just as people.
Excerpt from ‘Trigger‘ – Ekphrasis by Meher Hasan
Cupid’s arrow is aimed at the voyeur
so he falls in love with the lovers.
He watches as they copulate
Undress each other with their words
Smiling with their eyes
Feet tangled, red toe to pink toe.
He’s never found love
He is a mere shadow
The skeleton of a skeleton
His toes are brown,
not toes made for love, but toes made to watch.
He is frowning with his eyes,
He squints at their skin,
It is only a matter of time, he thinks,
when they come together,
and the arrow smacks him right
in his cold, unblinking heart.
Meher Hasan is a student at LUMS and is a writer and part time model
What is the significance behind the name Pandemonium ?
Afshan Shafi: Strictly speaking ‘Pandemonium’ is defined as a place where ‘all demons live’. Coined by the poet John Milton in his classic text ‘ Paradise Lost’ , it has since been adapted for the modern age. For us it is a kind of good chaos, where we speak about the ‘demons’ that all of us harbor. We
aim to help people view their unconscious and the differences of their person with a bit more kindness and creativity.
Where do you see Pandemonium publications going in the future? Please tell us more about the online version that is currently under construction.
Amar Alam: We are a literary venture and not a journalistic one. That’s an important distinction. And as such we won’t be serializing anything. ‘Trigger’ is one of a kind. It’s a proceeding of our first workshop, which was the flint that started the fire. And we do want to keep print alive, so it was
important for us to start with a print proceeding. So while we will have new content on the website all the time, from a combination of submissions, commissions and our physical and digital workshops. We will also be putting out independent chapbooks and possibly other types of collections in the future. Anthologies have to have a flow, so they will be theme based and independent, rather than like a topical weekly or monthly magazine. Trigger is something that drove us to do all this. We didn’t approach the workshop as a content factory but the work and the raw intensity of people bearing their souls to each other was simply crying out to be immortalized.
Transforming Mind and Body
Losing weight can seem like an enormous task, so how does on begin this journey to transform their mind and body? We sat face to face with blogger Hadiyya Aazer and asked her what motivated to take on the task to transform her lifestyle.
Whats inspired you to begin this transformation journey?
I have been overweight my entire life. When I turned 30 last year, it hit me that if I dont control it now, my health issues could become a serious problem. What can I say, I decided to change my habits and put my hundred percent into evolving my lifestyle.
Where have you been training?
My personal trainer is Haseeb Mirza at Evolution fitness. He is amazing and has a certain rhythm in the gym. He has been a great supporter and motivator through all of this.
What does your usual workout routine look like?
It is a mix of weight training, cardio and Abs, which is necessary for me. It is essential to work according to your bodies needs and stamina and create a tailor made workout to assure its effectiveness.
What kind of a diet do you follow?
My diet is eating in small portions after every 2 hours. All in all 5 controlled meals over the day.
What is your goal ?
I am aiming to reach 65kgs soon!
What advice would you give to someone struggling with weight issues?
Don’t give up! Will power is key and once you’ve decided to take the necessary steps, nothing can stop you. Take it step by step, but eat healthy and work out. Ive lost almost 40 kg in a years time, slow and steady wins the race!
How does it feel losing so many dress sizes?
One can only imagine fantastic! I have never imagined myself wearing jeans and dresses. It feels so good to wear clothes that I’d never imagined I could.
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Your one-stop guide to fitness in Pakistan
There is no arguing that Pakistan has been hit with a wave of fitness culture in the past few years and staying healthy has become a top priority in todays world. With our ever evolving lifestyles, it is essential to always stay up to date with changing trends, eat clean and make sure our bodies are in shape. With the emergence of diets like the ‘Keto’ and multiple focused fitness centers, it has become somewhat of a task to figure out what’s effective for you.
Pakistani writer Sarah Kamal Muggo recently wrote her first book, Fitness Fun, Nutrition and Lifestyle in Pakistan! This book is a great resource for people looking to improve their health by making sound lifestyle choices.
This book is a carefully vetted compilation of exercise tips, fitness goals and nutrition advice. It’s a God sent for those who don’t have a grip over how our body responds to different environments, especially in Pakistan where there is a scarcity of authentic information!
It will take you through interviews with top fitness trainers from around Pakistan as they talk about health routines and dietary advice.It won’t ask you to starve yourself, rather teach you that a regulated diet and healthy training is the only road to a fit body and mind.
This first of its kind book will be launching TODAY in Lahore – 19th April at Sukh Chayn in Lahore at 4 pm. To catch Sarah face to face, don’t forget to drop by!
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