'We are Pakistani, and we love India'
A month-old online literary platform in Pakistan is hoping to offer space for local writers and thereby, open up the country’s stories for the rest of the world to see and soak in
Q. What was the core purpose to start an online platform like ChaiChalk?
The need for ChaiChalk emerged when we realised that Pakistani talent had been travelling to international venues, and this was partly due to the lack of opportunities, nationally. Specifically, there was a problem with the publication industry in the country. Notable writers were being published outside the country. A Pakistani, writing about Pakistan,
for Pakistan, being published in another country was just not sitting well with us. So, ChaiChalk was born; a versatile platform developed solely to provide a home to Pakistani literature. ChaiChalk strives to raise social awareness, show another side of Pakistan, and importantly, produce and promote relevant content. Pakistan is a blur; made of diverse people, stories and circumstances. With no way to map this diversity and put it to good use, our country’s narrative is always in and out of focus.
Ours is a tiny but strong effort by privileged and innovative students at LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences) to bring the focus back on to Pakistan — the real Pakistan. We aim to do away with the blurred lines haunting our country. To do this, our plan is to be an academic and social organisation, which aims to provide connections, which unify this diverse country by creating zones of compliment and overlap. We would do so as to promote empathy and tolerance within the society, and promote the true image of Pakistan.
A student participated in the #ProfileForPeace campaign to spread the universal message of tolerance. This campaign aimed at reducing the assumed hostilities between India and Pakistan
Q. How has social media helped ties between India and Pakistan?
With smartphones, and cheaper Internet connectivity available to hundreds of millions of people on both sides of the border, it is difficult to see the artificial boundary at Wagah Border being slowly given lesser importance. Social media and the Internet has blurred the line between states. While it is up to officials on both sides, the universal message of peace, harmony, and tolerance can be disseminated via social media. #ProfileForPeace was this, and it couldn’t have been possible without social media. It remains, debatably, one of the greatest evolutionary developments of the 21st century as it has united people across the world.
A vigil arranged by ChaiChalk to stand in solidarity with the people affected by the suicide attack in Jacobabad during a religious procession
Q. We have read of the success of the #girlsatdhabas movement. Do you feel that such initiatives will help to change the image of Pakistan?
Pakistan is a beautiful country — from the breathtaking Hunza Valley, to the colourful energy of Karachi. However, this beautiful land has seen its fair share of pain with all that has happened in the past decade. Yet, its people are undeterred, determined to make their country proud. Initiatives like Girls at Dhabas, RastaBadlo and TurrLahore are movements that we are proud of as citizens of this country. By raising awareness, people are solving their problems. Instead of blaming institutions, they are looking at ways to improve scenarios. Lahore has become a thriving hub for startups, especially tech/social startups that are helping change the national image. These bright, young minds are directly influencing the global standing of our country. We need more of this.
A ChaiChalk representative readies the bus used in a relief drive to raise funds for quake victims
Q. Do you plan to recreate an India chapter of ChaiChalk?
Our motto is ‘Made in Pakistan’. If we create a chapter for India, it would require a comprehensive thought process and intensive planning. Due to an abundance of projects in the pipeline, we have not yet thought deeply about expanding into India.
As one of our posts says, ‘We are Pakistani, and we love India.’ We are always open to collaborations, and contributions from India.
Over sixty people gathered to hold a minute of silence, followed by prayers, for those affected by the Jacobabad attack that occurred on October 24, 2015
ChaiChalk team at LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences) campus. Their IT and art teams work 24x7 to create a vibrant, interactive website
Founder, ChaiChalk, Asad Shabbir and Kiran Masood, both juniors at LUMS, studying Management Sciences
Q. What is the road ahead for Chaichalk?
We are currently working on some very exciting projects, which include getting directly involved in the publication industry. However, we will also be focusing on using social media on driving social value by promoting literature, raising social awareness, and contextualizing internationally acclaimed media practices to Pakistan.
Log on to: chaichalk.com
The cool girls of Pakistan
With their social media project, Girls At Dhabas, five young women from across the border are treading into traditionally male bastions, like the dhabas, and egging women to occupy more public spaces in Pakistan. Karachi-based Sadia Khatri, one of the brains behind this project, shares more (Click here to read)