11th Karachi Literature Festival

The Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) is now in its 11th year, and welcomed thousands of people through its security scanners last weekend at the Beach Luxury Hotel. This year, the Literature Festival once again invited several dozen established writers, poets and actors to attend. KLF has been variously claimed to perform communicative, educative and social functions: it engages the public in literary, social and political discussions, thereby encouraging participation in the arts and promoting associated civic benefits.

Stage and Teleplay Shaping Society

Having never been to one, I decided to become acquainted with KLF, Pakistan’s largest free literary festival. As I reached there, I was looking forward to attend the most awaited session of the evening; “Stage and Teleplay Shaping Society.” The session was being moderated by Ahmed Shah, the president of ACP, and the vast and proficient panel comprised of Pakistani writers and actors including; Sanam Saeed, Haseena Moin, Bee Gul, Khaled Anam and Khaif Ghaznavi.

Shah asked the singer, actor and producer, Khalid Anam, if he is satisfied with the teleplays and dramas broadcasting these days? “To take part in this rat race of the highest ratings, the directors and producers want controversial dramas which have all that saas-bahu conflict involved,” Anam answered. He was of the opinion that some things shouldn’t be up for sale and dramas and shows are one of those things as they bring revolution.

While Sanam Saeed was of the view that there is an agenda behind showing women weak in the dramas these days so “un k par na nikal aen,” to which Shah agreed and said that dramas during Haseena Moin’s days always portrayed women as headstrong and equally contributing members of the society. In this context, Moin shared one experience with a producer who wanted to show a woman getting slapped in his drama. Moin objected to this to which he replied, “Aurat ko aik thappar parta hai toh humari ratings kaha se kaha chali jati hain.” Hearing the sorry state of women in our country, Bee Gul added, “Our society is not ready to see the negative side to a woman as there is already a lot happening against women in this society.” This session indeed held the most riveting discussion. In the industrialised world, television has now become ubiquitous pastime activity, which takes up more of our time than any other activity, except for work and sleep. TV influences our views about religion, politics, and all the cultures and norms. Often we see that television media conveys and reflects such values which are in conflict with the values that an educational curriculum reflects. For example, keeping in view the current situation, our society demands peace, nevertheless, it shows violence through different programmes.

As for the literary part of the Festival, I do not have much to say, because there is little mileage in reporting an event which ran so smoothly. The events were stimulating, intelligent, good-humoured, and, astonishingly, entirely free of tedium. We can only hope that this magical and important event for the promulgation of world literature will continue to grow in the years to come. There is great hope in me that such a festival will grow in the right direction, and will help revitalise the great source of literature, and help to make Pakistan a bustling and productive country.
– Alina Qamar

The Atlantic Muse by the Arabian Sea: Poetry in English

If poetry is the language of dreams, it was nice to hear a bunch of Pakistani dreamers in English at this year’s KLF aptly titled English poetry recital; “The Atlantic Muse by the Arabian Sea”. Some very committed buyers of dreams, a.k.a poetry aficionados, turned up to listen to their favourite poets, undaunted by the virus scare that enveloped “Karachity.”

The event was opened by the recitation of two fresh female voices: Fatima Ijaz and Arfa Ezazi. Both seemed equally at ease at the big stage as their multi-layered verses struck a solemn chord with the audience. If the latter two poets were muses of ‘tomorrow and tomorrow’, Peerzada Salman the veteran literary reviewer, was very much the poet of today, with his apt description of the millennial angst “we are bored”. Tehmina Ahmed’s poetry, which was showcased next, was of a more perennial nature- including an elegy for lovers: “lovers are dying, always”. Some poets like Farida Faizullah started fairly innocuously but built up a crescendo treat for the senses that the audience chimed in with applause.

“The wound that I am stuck with, so bleeds,

that I have no argument, that leads”

No poetry recital in the country (or internationally for that matter), whether in English or Urdu, seems complete without a recitation from Haris Khalique. Following his usual crisp recital including some patent political allusions which startled many, Illona Yousuf beamed onto the stage to etch her prose poems onto listeners’ minds. Sadaf Halai as the penultimate reciter made many tired audience members sit up and take note of her powerful wordplay.

“What is honey if not honey?

What is sugar if not sweet?”

However, the climax of the evening turned out to be an anti-climax as the star of the show, Adrian Hussain, failed to turn up. He was recited by the famous artist Moeen Farooqui, who despite an initial hesitance delivered some very finely crafted gems by the great master to the delighted crowd. Finally the host, the octogenarian Salman Tarek Kureshi recited a few of his own poems; the last one to a great reception. Kudos to the latter, and the KLF organisers for reminding us through this recital that English is a very Pakistani language to dream in.
– Contributions from Ahmed A Zaidi