Alveena Raza – Reclaiming Urdu Adab in Dubai
Currently living in Dubai, Alveena Raza is the head of Careers and Employability Services at Middlesex University by day and brings together Urdu enthusiasts on one platform, either online or offline, by night. Alveena was born and brought up in Dubai but came back to Pakistan during her Bachelors to get a degree in Psychology from Punjab University. Later on she did Masters in Literature and linguistics from Kinnaird College University Lahore. It seems like in addition to a lot of hard work and a go-getter attitude, it took a few happy accidents to get her where she is now.
In 2006 when Alveena came back to Dubai after a short detour in South Africa, she was able to secure a job with a company that saw in her a lot of potential despite not having any formal training and gave her the opportunity to use her skills in their training and development programs. Her first project was with Etihad Airways where she worked for 2 years giving the ground staff training on customer service. However, in 2009, while she was on the lookout for further opportunities Alveena was hired by Middlesex University to develop the Careers and Employability department.
“I started the Careers and Employability from scratch, there was nothing in the department when I arrived, I built this department, developed all the process and created everything form scratch. Its been 6 years, everything is settled, we’ve been very successful Alhamdollilah!”
She took the challenge head on and is now heading the department, where she conducts skill development workshops to prepare her graduates and students for the workplace in addition to providing career counselling services to the students. The highlight of her work at Middlesex University are the Career Fairs she organizes for her students. However it is her efforts and skills in organizing and promoting events focused around Urdu literature and poetry that have been a refreshing break from her normal routine.
Coincidentally the journey started when Taimur Rehman, an accomplished Urdu orator who has an inspiring passion for the language and also happened to be a student mentor at Middlesex University, got together with Alveena to organize an event in Dubai called Jashn-e-Urdu. It was during the promotion of the event that she met people very enthusiastic about Urdu and who were very excited about an event that celebrated the beauty of the language through poetry, prose and dramatic readings.
“They had so much passion for the language that they came from all over dubai and beyond. This is something that is missing over here and people are craving for a place or an event where they can listen to proper urdu and learn something as a way of connecting with their roots.”
Consequently, Alveena revived an inactive Facebook page called ‘Pakistani Community Dubai’ and changed its name to ‘Urdu Adab UAE’ providing like-minded individuals in the UAE an online platform to share their love of the Urdu language. She later on volunteered to become coordinator for Joy of Urdu events in Dubai, an initiative started by Zarminae Ansari that connects Urdu readers and reciters in different parts of the world. Now due to her efforts, a growing community of Urdu lovers get together almost every month reading the works of Faiz, Ibn e Insha and other renowned writers.
They discuss these writers during the first half of a scheduled meet up and then share their own works or favorite pieces of literature in the second half. These meetups are truly a special event bringing together people of all ages and from different backgrounds united by a shared love of the Urdu language. Young readers are motivated to dive deeper into Urdu’s rich literary works and traditions and older readers are valued for their priceless knowledge of the nuances and treasures the language holds. No wonder these events make for magical evenings.
“For the first couple of events I felt like I was alone. I’d feel drained. I would also have that moments where I’d think to myself that this is it I give up, people aren’t even responding, why should I do this. But I didn’t. I had a feeling where I just didn’t want to fail in this effort.”
Alveena didn’t know many people that she could invite so she started tapping into her online network, asking friends, friends of friends, her contacts on Facebook pages etc. It took a lot of networking but people did show up and the event was a success giving Alveena much needed motivation. Now she has a morale boosting support system from the people who have been coming to the Urdu sessions from day one and have supported her efforts throughout to organization such Poetic Strokes and QissaGo, organizations doing similar work with ambitions to promote Urdu literature among theIAE community.
An exciting development in Alveena’s journey has been her recent work with Pakistan Association Dubai who have not only offered space in their beautiful library for more Urdu Adab events but also given Alveena the charge of the Urdu literature section of the library. Alveena is no stranger to Pakistan Association Dubai, wining an Autism Awareness Award in 2015 for her with parents of special needs children with the association.
The Urdu Adab UAE community is a small but constantly growing group of people that are lovers of the Urdu language and are consistently encouraging, supportive and gracious towards each other. Everyone involved has found a safe space to express their literary passion and prowess getting a much needed relief from the stresses of day to day life away from Pakistan. Alveena has found a deep love for Urdu literature herself, reading and brushing up on her knowledge of Urdu, with even her six year old daughter reading out aloud in Urdu to impress her mother. She feels honored and grateful when she sees that people in these sessions leave with pride for something of their own, seeing immense value in their beautiful language and feeling a profound appreciation for their homeland and where they come from.
“There was no monetary incentive in any of these events. I do all this because I’m happy doing this. This is something that is bringing joy to me and is good for my soul. And this is why I had to do this because whenever people come together, connect with each other and connect with their roots, I feel happy.”
Interview & Written by Sameen Mohsin