Profile of a writer and human right activist Gohar Taj
By Saleem Aazar
Gohar Taj, a US based author of various books on different issues and a human rights defender who at the first blush looks very shy and modest is indeed of strong nerves and great energy.
Surprisingly she has chosen such vulnerable areas for fighting against social and economic exploitation where ‘angels fear to tread’ as she says she would never compromise her principles. And she would keep up exposing the true ugly face of a male-dominated society working everywhere, she adds.
Gohat Taj who once visited Karachi in regard to the lunch of her Urdu book titled ‘Koi Khawab Dhoondhen’, told this scribe that she been the founder of a group called Greater Awareness Through Education (GATE) and a had a lot of plans on human rights and publication of her book. She also maintained that she would again visit Karachi for the launch of her books in near future.
She holds “our group works under the umbrella of National Health Forum, which is USA based organization and through the GATE we conduct lecture, seminars and discussions on important issues like mental health, living in conflicting culture, art exhibition etc.” Throwing light on the other finction of the GATE, Gohar Taj observes “We also support and back the activists and artistes assisting needy people. For instance we had supported the program of famous activist and dancer Sheema Kermani for the support of Koehi Goth and provision of free hospital for women. We want people to think about the important issue.”
Replying to a question on earning livelihood in America, Gohar said “I do two jobs; one for the high school district and other as a social worker as a therapist for the people who have drug substance addiction.”
She further explained that the school job was to support the education of bilingual students or newly immigrant families’ children.
Responding to a question on her achievements, Gohar Taj says “In my opinion No, nothing; i just worked when I was very young and in Karachi University and then after getting married I stopped almost everything. It is just since past 8 years when I started thinking about myself my own contribution for the society. I did my MS in social work here.”
She continues “My first degree was MSc in Microbiology from Karachi University. Here I did this MSW from Wayne State University. Actually this program and knowledge opened my eyes and I came to know the answers of my WHY, the question of beingness”
Throwing light on the backgrounder of her efforts and energies, Gohar holds “here I felt as if I had my eye surgery done and started seeing and enjoying the colours but these colours where related to pain in human sufferings and then I started writing articles and do lots of research, a tool I got here in true meaning.”
She elaborates “All these suffering hurt me and I condole and try to console myself by writing articles. I do not know how much they are making a difference but it gives me a little peace and I mean it.”
Interestingly Gohar Taj discloses that when she was very young might be of seven year old, she badly wanted to be a journalist. For she used to live in a fantasy loving to do queries and ask questions on life, living and systems, she adds.
She pointed out that at a later stage she used to write articles later for Daily Jang . She recalls “Sultana Meher published my articles and some of the stories but I never got encouragement from my home to do my degree in journalism. I then did my MSc in Microbiology and at that time I used to edit Adhi Dunya with my friend Lali (Lala Rukh Hussain) who was very senior to me but I did any way with her help. she was an amazing friend and person”.
Replying to a question about her conscious struggle, Gohar described
“I also wrote for Parcham and at the time when Lali and Nasreen Zehra were in Jail my name was next in the list of those going to the jail during dictatorial era of Zia regime. I was black listed according to the information of some persons hailing to secret agencies.”
Responding to a question on her education at that time she said “At that time I was in BSc. Any way strike was called off and then after MSc I started teaching at Abudullah Govt college and did this job with passion for nearly 12 years. I raised my 3 kids and left for USA in 1997.”
Sharing her experiences, Gohar says” Since then I am here. I struggled like all immigrants do and learned many lessons . One lesson was to find out myself, my own identity and what do I have to offer to this worked before I leave this world.”
Answering to yet another question on her intellectual friends who backed her, Gohar Taj holds “Yes i have a lot like my friend Dr Shershah proved to be a really mentor to me. Great people always inspire me and that is why I love to interview them, for this is the way of acknowledging their work. I do not think that enough attention or tribute is given to many people who are doing something great. In other societies people write books of such people. I do not think that any one has written a book on people like Anita Ghulam Ali, Dr Shershah Syed, Sheema Kermani, Dr. Adeeb Rizvi and many more.”
She says that she has dedicated one of her Urdu books titled ‘Sub Lal o Gohar Meray’ (published by Sheher Zad) to great Educationist Anita Ghulam Ali.
She complains that ” Our society seems as semi dead and that is why we do not feel who is doing what… I tried to do this through my interviews and articles . One of my book “sub meray lal o Gohar is dedicated to Anita Ghulam ali. She was my dearest and nearest to heart friend. I have also tried to promote the work of Dr Shershah, Sheema Kermani and many others.”
She points out that last year she had written a long biography of great singer Mehdi Hasan but could not be published in the form of a book due to financial constraints.
She comments ” you know everything needs money. We should have money to encourage people to write and promote our artists, writers and poets etc.”
Describing the details of her published works, Gohar Taj says WMy first book was “Walt Disney ke sawana umree” published by Farid publisher and a senior journalist from Pakistan Ahfazur Reham had helped me out to published this book”.
“Ahfaz Sahab took all the responsibility of this book and I did not have to do anything except for writing. This biography was for children ages 12 to may be 18. Then my next book was a translated work dealing with the childhood days of Thomas A Edison and that was published by Hamdard Naunahal Publication.
During the break of her MSW program Gohar kept up writing on mental health, disability and also took many interviews of people who according to her were making a difference in the society. I have interests in many areas that is why after my MSW was completed within 2 years my 3 books came After the completion of her MSW she given out her three books.
She write and compiled a book titled ‘Nafseeyati Masaael Aur Unn Ka Ilaaj’ jointly with Dr Khalid Sohail.
Gohar Taj also published a book ‘titled ‘Khas Log, Khas Qawaneen’ on special persons. She says that to write that book, she had collected the stories of those who despite of physical or mental disability did great work and became famous.
Her future book goining to be published in November, she says tat book titled ‘Hijrat Kay Dukh Sukh’ aims at dealing with the serious problems being faced by the immigrants. Dr Khalid Sohail is co-author of this forthcoming book.
She observes that co-writer, Dr Khalid Sohail himself is a great writer and writes in many areas both in English and Urdu. Besides she is writing one book which bases on the interviews of family members of those who have raised their children with disabilities. Gohar underlines that she generally works in two or three areas side by side. I am writing again with dr. Khalid sohail ..it is based on the interviews of him on different mental health issues.
Talking on her family life, Gohar says ” My husband Arif imam is very supportive to me and allows me to work on my dreams and i am truly thankful to him. We have three children youngest is 21.”
Gohar Taj has also written Urdu short stories highlighting serious social, psychological and economic problems of women and other weak persons of a class based set-up and herstories have been oublished in many prestigious magazines on literature. She holds that her stories had published in ‘Seep’ edited by famous writer and editor, Naseem Durrani. Some od the stories were published in Urdu Magazine ‘Alfaaz. and in Jang Magazine.
Most of the stories by Gohar are written on real characters.