Passing through the main market in Jaranwala, Faisalabad, Munawwar would be taken for a cobbler occupying a street corner as they do. You would be forgiven for missing his meticulously arranged array of five books on poetry. What business for poetry on a shoe-mender’s tool box?
Yet, for this part-time Punjabi language poet, prose is as important a skill for his soul as the dexterity of his fingers is for putting food on his table.
But Munawwar’s multitasking, juggling shoe mending and poetry has started attracting crowds at his makeshift shop.
Born in 1969, Munawwar lost his father when he was still a toddler. He did not receive basic education but was passionate enough to learn to read and write by the time he was 13.
Struggling with the travails of daily life, mostly spending his time in soles, rather than in his soul, Munawwar managed to save enough money to publish his first book in 2004, titled ‘Sooch Samandar’.
“I spend the whole day mending shoes at my shop, and hawk newspapers to shops in the morning. Together I earn around Rs300 a day,” narrates Munawwar. “From this sum, I set aside Rs10 daily for publication of my books.”
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This has allowed the unassuming cobbler to save enough money to publish five books featuring his captivating poetry.
Talking about his poetry, Munawwar says he mostly writes about the problems of the people he meets day in and day out, addressing the living conditions of those residing on the outskirts of the city.
While his perch may be a corner in a Jaranwala market, his books have garnered him some fame, winning awards by a few literary institutions including the Pakistan Writers Guild and Punjabi Sewak. He also holds membership of Royal Literary Academy, and Naqeebi Caravan Adab.
“I want to become the voice of lower-classes and try to convey what cannot be said directly through my poetry,” he says, elaborating on his writing style.
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Munawwar further says that since our society is divided into classes, people belonging to the lower strata have to face discrimination and there is no one who can talk or write about this.
“There is greatness in working hard. I don’t feel embarrassed while mending people’s shoes but I wish that people in our society start reading books so that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the developed nations of the world,” he says.
The article originally appeared on Faisalabad Sujag