9th Karachi Literature Festival 2018 concludes

F.P. Report

KARACHI: In the opening session of the last day the 9th Karachi Literature Festival, Asif Farrukhi had an interesting conversation with popular TV writer Noorul Huda Shah. Asif Farrukhi asked why Noor stuck to TV, didn’t write a novel, to which she replied, “TV dramas are like a blanket that is difficult to leave.” An audience member asked Noor, “I feel that Sindhi and Urdu speakers need to be unified, like Nelson Mandela united black and white people. How can we unite our people?” to which Noor replied “I seek to eradicate those differences through my work. Urdu and Sindhi are both my languages. In India, Urdu is plagued by problems but it is blossoming in Sindh. In 70 years, one generation is almost gone and the second, third, fourth generation remains. We all have to move forward and embrace each other.”

In the session “Fiction Has the Power to Affect Politics” the speakers Qaisra Shahraz, Kishwar Naheed, Kesho Scott, Claire Chambers, Arfa Syeda Zehra, Sarvat Hasin with moderator Maniza Naqvi discussed important issues.

The session on History from the Margins pulled the crowd with speakers Ali Usman Qasmi, Ali Raza, Bani Abidi and Kamran Asdar Ali.

The book launch “A Cry for Justice: Empirical Insights from Balochistan by Kaiser Bengali” was also a crowd puller where Kaiser Bengali, I.A. Rehman, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi with moderator Hifza Shah discussed different aspects of the book.

At the book launch of “Interior Design of Pakistan” author Maria Aslam sat with Shahid Abdullah, Naheed Mashooqullah and moderator Iftikhar Azam to discuss her book. “With Interior design, we’ve only scratched the surface, people still haven’t understood it, they see it as interior decoration,” said Shahid. Naheed added, “Since I started architecture in ‘93, we’ve come a long way. There was little to no awareness, and now it’s been doing remarkably well.”

In the session “Italy Reads Pakistan Award” Omar Shahid’s The Spinner’s Tale won the Italy Reads Pakistan Award. The author sat in a panel along with Anna Ruffino, Ameena Saiyid and moderator Bina Shah. The winning author said, “To make it believable you have to put yourself in tour characters’ shoes. You have to go in a dark place and it’s not always comfortable. But you want to do it because you want to do justice to your character.” Anna added, “Don’t stop yourself from humanising your characters and showing their dark side because at the end of the day we’re all humans.”

Bushra Ansari, Neelam Basheer, Asma Abbas and Sumbal Shahid sat with moderator Asif Farrukhi in session Chaar Chand: Behnain aur Baatain. Neelam Muneer said “I’m not trying to be preachy, but I have kids too and I’d like to say, don’t keep your children away from art and culture, that’s what softens their hearts.” Anam Zakaria, Sheela Reddy and Nauman Naqvi sat with moderator Kamila Shamsie in the session The Flames of Separation. “You can’t escape Jinnah no matter which side of the border you are on, he continues to fascinate,” says Sheela Reddy. Kamila Shamsie asked Sheela Reddy if it feels transgressive to be Indian and to be spending so much time investigating Jinnah, to which Sheela said yes. Sheela said I remember growing up venerating Gandhi and then I read more, I read his letters and I realised he’s not all I thought he was. And that was disconcerting. About crossing the Wagah border, Sheela said, “You feel some kind of healing taking place when you physically connect with the other.” Nauman Naqvi said, “It would not be in the interest of any indigenous government to divide a country into a kind of apartheid, It is only a hallmark of colonial government.”

In the session “A Writer’s Odyssey” Muneeza Shamsie was in conversation with Amit Chaudhuri. In the session The Punjab Muse, Harris Khalique sat with Amarjit Chandan, who is in Karachi for the first time. “I’ve gained my rozi roti through English, but Punjabi is my passion,” says Amarjit, adding, “I firmly believe poetry can only be written in your mother tongue.” Amit said, “I look upon creative writing courses with suspicion because I myself am not a product of one.”

Arsalan Isa and José Oliver join session “Sandscript – Poetry from Germany”. José said, “In Pakistan, I have seen many smiles. On the German border, if I’m asked if I have anything to declare, I will say, yes, I think I brought back too many smiles from Pakistan and will see what they have to say. They’ll call me a smuggler of smiles.”

At the Book launch of ‘The Impact of Afghan-Soviet War on Pakistan’ author Imrana Begum sat with Asad Sayeed and moderator Sarosh Hashmat Lodhi to discuss her book. The author said, “My book is written on the crucial decade in the 80s when soviet troops entered Afghanistan. Afghanistan has always been a buffer state for Pakistan, but when soviet troops entered it was a buffer no more.” “Pakistan was central to the political economy created by the war effort in Afghanistan. American resources were supplemented by the drug trade. This has enhanced the informal economy in Pakistan. Obviously with American money and drug money there was nothing on the books,” said Asad Sayeed.

In the session “Sneak Preview: Beloved Delhi : A Mughal City and Her Greatest Poets” by Saif Mahmood Arfa Sayeda Zehra sats with Saif Mahmood and Sania Saeed. According to Arfa, “There are lots of poets in our country, but no one can ever be Ghalib.” “The Mughal’s knew one thing, how to give. They have us poets, they gave us themselves.” Arfa, added “I don’t think Urdu belongs to a group, or a country, it’s something the Mughals brought with them.”

At the Book launch of ‘The Quest Continues’ the author Amardeep Singh sat with moderator Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro on his book The Quest Continues: Lost Heritage: The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan. The author said “Partition did not just impact Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians but also atheists.” He added, “Documenting these books for future generations has been the most fulfilling journey.” Amardeep Singh said, “I thank the people of Pakistan, they understood my quest, they embraced me. In a span of 30 days, I had traveled to 36 cities and villages in Pakistan. I call myself an accidental author. I was finance professional and I just stumbled onto this journey. I really wondered, why hadn’t anyone before me done this before?” He said, “Im appealing to the government to save heritage sites, remember that heritage has no religion.”

Author Rina Saeed Khan sat with Rab Nawaz, Babar Khan and Javed Jabbar to discuss the book “From Mountains to Mangroves of Pakistan: Protecting Pakistan’s Natural Heritage”. The author said, “I wrote this book for Pakistan’s youth.” He added that “The Khunjerab National Park used to be wildlife area but the newly renovated Karakoram Highway has increased traffic. Tourists are arriving in bigger numbers and leaving behind garbage, etc.”

The session Generation and Genres: The Drama and Change was acrowd puller. Asif Raza Mir, Samina Ahmed, Zain Ahmed, Mehreen Jabbar, Sarmad Khoosat and Irfan Khoosat sat with moderator Khurshid Hyder to talk about drama and change. Asif Raza Mir said, “Actors don’t get enough time with the script, you just get an outline. And when you finally start grasping the material, you find out that the show needs to go on air soon so you can’t really do your characters justice, we’re not doing teamwork and sitting down with the directors and producers.” Sarmad Khoosat said, “20 years ago, we had all kinds of dramas and genres, now people aren’t experimenting, they continue doing what gets the ratings. We are not evolved enough I feel.”

In the session “Love Thy Neighbour? India-Pak Relations” Mani Shankar Aiyar, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi and Asad Sayeed sat with moderator Khalida Ghaus to talk about relations between India and Pakistan. “It was about 20-25 years ago, that this sentence came to me that there is only one way to resolve India Pakistan issues and that is by uninterrupted and uninterruptible dialogue. And I’m very proud and half very sad that this phrase has been accepted as Pakistani policy but has not been accepted as Indian policy. With an audience in your country and not yet in my country,” said Mani Shankar.

In the session Mazahmati Adab, Harris Khalique, Sheema Kermani, Arfa Sayeda Zehra sat with moderator Mujahid Barelvi.

In the session “Does Indian Poetry in English have a History?: Reasons for Marginality”, Rosinka Chaudhuri sat with moderator Ilona Yusuf. Rosinka said on the importance of literary criticism, “Writing poetry and getting it published into individual volumes or compiled into anthologies is one thing. However, unless we have scholars interpreting and documenting those works of poetry, even poets don’t have a sense of what they’re part of.”

At the book launch “Wavell: Soldier and Statesman by Victoria Schofield”, F.S. Aijazuddin, Victoria Schofield, Isambard Wilkinson sat with moderator Anam Zakaria.

In the session “Dil Dil, Boom Boom, Jazba Junoon: The Impact of Pop Culture on Pakistani Society and the World” Amin Hashwani was in conversation with Salman Ahmad. “Growing up as a teen in America, I was cut off from Pakistani culture, so the first Pakistani hit I heard was Nazia Hassan’s ‘Aap Jaisa Koi’. If I hadn’t seen her I wouldn’t have considered being an artist,” said Salman Ahmed. He further said “We have to decide as a nation, how do we define ourselves. We can’t define ourselves by our nuclear bombs. We should define ourselves with our soft power, our music and humour and fashion and food and film.” Salman Ahmed also announced that Junoon will do a 25 year reunion this year. He also performed live for the audience.

In the session “The Literary Traditions of Sindh” the speakers Jami Chandio, Syed Sardar Shah and moderator Izhar Soomro had a healthy discussion. Jami Chandio said, “Most literary traditions are as dated as the language in which they are written. But unfortunately, we have no documentation of the earliest Sindhi literature. Our first records of Sindhi literature are from the Sumho Dynasty in the mid-11th century after the departure of Arabs from the region.” “With the arrival of English in the subcontinent, Sindhi lit saw an explosion of new ideas and topics, borrowed from English, French and Russian literature,” added Chandio.

At “Sheeshay ka Slipper” performance by given by Zambeel Dramatic Readings on Ibn-e-Said’s Mehwar and Roshniyoun Ka Shehar. Introduction was done by Sayeed Hasan Khan.

At the session “When Money Talks”, Ishrat Husain, Salim Raza, Y Venugopal Reddy sat with moderator Kaiser Bengali.

The book launch “Pakistan Heritage Cuisine: A Food Story by Sayeeda Leghari” was well attened by the audience where Hussain Haroon, Sayeeda Leghari and moderator Niilofur Farrukh had an interesting discussion.

The session on “Aaj ka Urdu Adab” was also well received by the audience where Asghar Nadeem Syed and Anwaar Ahmad and moderator Kishwar Naheed had a healthy discussion.

The book launch “Uljhay Suljhay Anwar” by Imrana Maqsood was the jam packed session of KLF-2018 where Anwar Maqsood, Imrana Maqsood, Hoori Noorani with moderator Asif Noorani entertained the crowd with their witty discussion.

At the book launch “Cityscapes of Violence in Karachi: Publics and Counter publics” by Nichola Khan, author Nichola Khan sat with Arif Hasan, Nida Kirmani, Nadeem F. Paracha and Razeshta Sethna with moderator Kamran Asdar Ali to discuss the book.

Lahore Amateur Theatre Zealots presented the play “Art”: A Play by Yasmina Reza.

At the session “In Entrepreneurship today: Start-ups and Angel Investors” Nadeem Hussain, Amir Adnan and Hareem Bari sat with moderator Vaqar Ahmed. Amir Adnan said “When I was growing up, this word didn’t exist. You’d either be a doctor or engineer, if you weren’t intelligent enough, you did commerce and if things are really bad, you go into the arts.” Nadeem Hussain pointed out that 65% of people are under 25; there simply aren’t enough jobs. We have to look towards entrepreneurship now otherwise we’ll lose our demographic opportunity,” he added.

The book launch of “Moon Rise” by Bilal Hamid was also very interesting where Salman Tarik Kureshi, Bilal Hamid with moderator Raisa Vayani had an interesting discussion.

At the closing ceremony Ameena Saiyid and Asif Farrukhi gave their speeches. Keynote addresses were given by Amit Chaudhuri, Mani Shankar Aiyar, and Anwar Maqsood. This was followed by Folk Dance by Sumaira Ali, Kathak by Shayma Saiyid, Sufi dance by Sumaira Ali and Mani Chao. The evening ended with Qawwali by Saami Brothers.