No holding back
KARACHI, Feb 16: Lack of parking space, diminishing interest in books, illness, advancing years or being too young … none of the factors could hold back people from attending the fourth Karachi Literature Festival at the Beach Luxury Hotel on Saturday.
If anything, day two, with everyone’s programme books marked out to know precisely where they wanted to go and which session they wanted to attend, seemed even more busy and crowded than the inaugural day.
In between the sessions, the visitors went through the books on sale at the various bookstalls, socialised, ate or ran after their children.
“We attended last year’s literature festival, too,” said Fatima Arif, an A-Level student from Karachi Grammar School, as she looked at the books in one of the stalls. “This time it is slightly better organised,” she observed.
“The sessions, too, are more punctual,” added her friend and class-fellow, Maria Said.
Arif mentioned that she found the sessions more focused on politics, humanitarian issues, etc. An elderly lady using an orthopaedic quadruped walking stick to lean on as she visited each and every stall to carefully go through the titles was interrupted by her daughter, calling her on the cell to know where exactly she was. “My daughter is somewhere around. She’ll find me as I find the latest titles by our Pakistani authors,” she said, while speaking to Dawn. Introducing herself as Khalida Saadat, a retired teacher, she said she was looking for books for her entire household, including her 92-year-old mother. “My husband is also at some other engagement but even a joint-replacement surgery cannot keep me away from books,” she smiled.
“Books will always be your best friends,” said Hudiba Iqbal to her friend, Maira Khan, as the latter seemed a little bored or tired. “We are old university friends working in different professions now. We came here to attend a session on ‘Political Parties and the 2013 Elections’ by Dr Farhan Hanif Siddiqi and Dr Jaffar Ahmed. Dr Siddiqi used to be our favourite teacher at university,” explained Ms Iqbal.
Among the many booksellers, one immaculately-dressed gentleman in a jacket and rainbow-coloured muffler stood out. It was Kamal Ahmed Rizvi promoting his book about the famous duo, Allan and Nanna, of Alif-Noon. The book, along with a DVD of old programmes, was in Urdu and when asked by an interested customer, who couldn’t read Urdu very well, if there was going to be an English translation, too, the actor and intellectual said that he should think about learning how to read Urdu.
“There is no plan for an English translation but there may be one in French sometime later,” he said. And when the customer said that he didn’t know French either, Mr Rizvi suggested that he learn that language as well.
As literature can only serve as food for the soul and not the stomach, there were as many food stalls as there were bookstalls. Steaming hot chicken biryani was the hot favourite after the pakoras and burgers.
Meanwhile, there was also a Children’s Literature Festival under way on another portion of the massive hotel lawns. There were story-telling sessions, puppet shows and drawing and painting to keep the young ones busy. So that’s where those long lines of school children in different school uniforms were headed. Many parents looking to attend one session or the other also left their kids there until it was time to go home but the little ones refused to leave.
Some older students were interested in other sessions. “I liked what Asma Jahangir had to say during the ‘Rights and Wrongs: Human Rights in Pakistan’ talk with I.A. Rehman, Hamid Khan and Ali Dayan Hasan,” said Komal Ali, a student of The Educators Darussalam campus.
And just like a love of books was the reason behind drawing so many to the festival, not sharing that love also didn’t keep many others away. Media, too, was present in force, whether they had any interest in literature or not or knew who was who or not. Famous feminist writer and poet Attiya Dawood laughed and stood aside when some TV channel crew requested her teenage daughter, Suhaee Abro, who is into classical dance and acting, for an interview while ignoring the literary person. Another example was of a blogger from Islamabad, who will not appreciate being named here, who only came down to attend the festival to be seen among the educated lot and get her picture taken with as many literary figures as she could catch hold of to pose with her. “Make sure you get the books behind us in the frame,” she blurted instructions to whoever she found to take the pictures. So, for whatever reason, KLF is the place to be this weekend.