Till past year, literature festivals ended up among the the handful of public functions in Karachi that offered locals with a actual physical space in which to notice and have interaction in literary, artistic and intellectual dialogue. In Karachi, this sort of conversations are commonly minimal to the print and electronic realms, which include social media, which brings with it the baggage of toxicity. Litfests delivered a respite from this.

With the pandemic, having said that, things transformed. Riding on Covid-19’s coattails, the cyber realm improved its sway over our life and reclaimed the communal working experience of attending a literary gathering. The 12th Karachi Literature Pageant (KLF), held from March 26 to March 28, was, thus, a digital celebration. With the third, and arguably deadliest, wave of the virus tightening its grip on the region, we had no choice but to stay at residence and face the pc.

In 1 of the most appealing periods, titled ‘A Fire in My Head’, Nigerian poet and writer Ben Okri, in an job interview conducted by Maheen Usmani, stated that folks as nicely as nations had 7 levels of tales that ran their lives. For the sake of simplicity, he had distilled these down to two: the community tale and the solution tale.

The general public tale is the 1 that we venture to the globe, the things we say when we discuss to other individuals about ourselves. “The top secret tales are a great deal far more mysterious,” he stated. “They are the deep tales of our psyches. And I believe, from my prolonged observation, that it is the top secret tales that truly drive our life.” He said that typically we are unaware of these narratives and internalise them. “We reside life of incredible unawareness of the deepest matters that push us.”

The 12th Karachi Literature Festival was a electronic event with audiences pressured to take portion only from their households. But it nonetheless provided plenty of diverse and intellectually partaking classes with the literati

Okri frequently applies this analogy to people today who want to grow to be writers, or artists, or these who want to get started a small business and make just about every obvious endeavor to do so, but in no way in fact get down to performing it. “People categorical a person thing, but their lives shape yet another,” he mentioned.

Poet Salman Tarik Kureshi wrote in and asked, “Then, do poets plumb our key stories?” to which Okri replied that they did and cited Dante Alighieri’s Inferno as an example. “You could not get a far more damning doc about the psyche of a nation. Goethe’s Faust revealed many odd, unpleasant issues about the psyche and spirit of Germany that only grew to become very clear much afterwards.” He included that, when they have been printed, these works ended up extremely controversial and ran contrary to the mainstream narrative.

In the panel dialogue ‘South Asian English Literature: New Directions’, Mehvash Amin, a poet and editor-in-main of The Aleph Overview, stated that she had of late observed a loosening and fluidity in the framework of poetry, as effectively as the inclusion of Urdu phrases in English poems. The latter, she explained, was a sort of decolonisation.

She lauded the emergence of graphic literature in Pakistan, even nevertheless it was not really prevalent, and referred to the graphic poem ‘Reliquary’, by Indian poet and artist Ishita Basu Mallik, which was published in The Aleph Review.

Bangladeshi writer and translator Khademul Islam spoke of a new sort of road poetry that had emerged in Bangladesh all through the pandemic. He explained it as “raucous and graphic” and lacking in political protest or the slamming of institutions.

“In simple fact, the only establishment that it slammed was the poetry establishment alone,” he mentioned. The poetry was orally transmitted in the scholar cafes of Chittagong and other parts exterior Dhaka, in regional dialects. In spite of its vulgarity, it supplied a beneficial working day-to-working day account of the pandemic, as a result of the use of road idioms and was “vital, refreshing and great.”

In the session ‘To Examine or to Watch? Guides as opposed to Films’, moderated by tv writer Beegul, actor Beo Zafar said that a “tsunami of effortless viewing is staying hurled at us” and that her personal desire experienced usually been for the composed word. She reported that even before the online and Netflix, not absolutely everyone was studying books some have been just reading comics, publications or newspapers. Looking through publications, on the other hand, essential really serious focus and a precise urge to do so.

Creator of criminal offense fiction and policeman Omar Shahid Hamid added that there was no escaping the affect of visual media on our life, but that he would have to facet with publications about movies. Hamid, whose novel The Celebration Worker is staying adapted into a Netflix series, stated that an creator have to by no means interfere in the film adaptation approach and need to enable the screenwriters and administrators do their detail. He noticed two contradictory trends throughout the world now: on the just one hand, there was larger accessibility, many thanks to technological know-how, though on the other, the capacity of societies to get offence experienced also increased.

Farid Panjwani, dean of the Institute for Instructional Progress at the Aga Khan College, in the panel discussion ‘Anti-colonialism: South Asian Pasts and Presents’, explained that education in Pakistan was mainly established by the divide that existed among English, Urdu and regional languages. He argued that our schooling encouraged us to establish the kind of creativeness that harboured a colonial state of mind and that phrases these types of as “sir” — utilised excessively even when talking in Urdu — ended up examples of colonial terms.

In light-weight of the existing discussion in Pakistan of a one countrywide curriculum, Panjwani mentioned that he experienced observed the historical past curriculum of lessons 6 to 8 and discovered that students weren’t remaining taught how background is built and how open-ended points are prior to they steadily get narrowed down by situations. “We have a routine of glorifying our colonial historical past and disregarding the violence,” he explained, incorporating, “we have a extensive way to go in beating the shackles of colonialism.” He lamented the point that schools were not exposing pupils to literature or poetry that was groundbreaking and progressive.

As is always the scenario with litfests in Pakistan, the political element inevitably creeps in. At the start out of the session ‘Progressive Politics in a Populist Period’, British community intellectual, activist and writer, Tariq Ali, stated: “I have to admit, I really do not significantly care for these festivals, due to the fact there is a ton of vainness associated in them. But because we are being permitted to go over politics, it is handy to do.”

Ali pointed out that the figures of financial progress in Bangladesh are, on practically each and every degree, previously mentioned all those of Pakistan, inspite of the simple fact that both of those nations around the world are run by equivalent types of people and facial area related complications. Why is it, then, that they are carrying out better than us? Just one purpose for this, he mentioned, is “the overall political and moral individual bankruptcy of our elite, which life in secluded areas of the place, in cities, and which has made two Pakistans” — a little 1 for a modest minority (on their own) and a single for the rest. The other cause is that “quite a great deal, even though not all, of our senior officers in the armed expert services are just as corrupt as the politicians.” He mentioned that if it requires a populist movement to enhance issues, then he would be in aid of it.

Historian and political activist Ammar Ali Jan stated, “Hollywood imagines dystopia, but we are dwelling by means of it this is dystopia.” He had, previously that working day, attended a protest at Chungi Amar Sidhu in Lahore, where a man’s corpse had been fished out of a drain so deep that the physique lay there unidentified for 15 times. He claimed that, in contrast to this, the elite housing societies existing along with these kinds of slums were a diverse world, with their residents, at least mentally, dwelling in the United States. “This type of apartheid that you see in Pakistan, is unsustainable,” he argued.

In the panel discussion ‘The Air We Breathe: Pakistan’s Vulnerability to Local weather Change’, environmental scientist Tabitha Spence explained that, even though the fast unfolding local weather disaster was putting us on the precipice of disaster, we experienced been sluggish in slicing down on greenhouse gasoline emissions. She lamented that the once-a-year conferences of the United Nations Framework Convention on Weather Modify had been filled with company lobbyists, who mostly decided what was on the desk for dialogue.

At the start of his poetry collection titled Baagh-i-Gul-i-Surkh [The Garden of Red Flowers], Iftikhar Arif was asked by moderator Mubeen Mirza no matter if he ever wondered how his latest do the job would be received in an age where much less people had been examining Urdu poetry. Arif replied that he experienced specified it small considered as a poet, his task was to create, regardless of no matter if it would be acquired or not. Nonetheless, it was a challenging prospect, he admitted, and that what he uncovered alternatively terrifying was the act of getting his do the job published, despite the fact that it is so easy to do so these days.

Arif reported that his poetry did not follow any individual topic and that he wrote on a large vary of topics, including his family members, his religion and his point out of brain. The session was held at a bodily venue and the viewers, not able to contain by themselves, insisted that he examine a number of verses from his new collection, which he did to a broad spherical of applause and gesticulation (“Wah wah!”, “Kya kehna!):

Mehek rahay hein jo yeh phool, lab-balab meri jaan,
Jo tum nahin ho tau phir kaun hai sabab meri jaan
Udaasiyon bhari shaamein jahaan se aati hain,
Vahien se aaee hai ye sa’at-i-tarab meri jaan

[The flowers are brimming with fragrance, my love,
If you are not the cause of it, then who else is, my love
The melancholy-filled evenings come from the same source
As the companionship and happiness, my love]

The writer is a journalist. His writings can be accessed at www.alibhutto.com and he tweets @_alibhutto

Posted in Dawn, Books & Authors, April 4th, 2021