Friday, February 24, 2012
Karachi Lit Fest 2012.Some more from 'Dawn' to dusk!
KLF: An affair to remember
Here we are with the OUP team and Vikram Seth!! Trust me, OUP boasts of brainy beauties, and the marketing team in particular, is outstanding. Well done Ameena, Raheela, Fatima and Soonita.
This report from veteran journo and respected author provides the best overview of KLF. Enjoy!
Posted By Asif Noorani
Now that it has been over 10 days that the Karachi Literature Festival  has ended it would be worthwhile assessing the mega event dispassionately, even though one can’t be totally objective about anything. To begin with, it was organised in what turned out to be the coldest days of February since 1950. You can’t blame the organisers for that. Can you?
Secondly, the third edition of the KLF  had more sessions than the first two and saw many more people attending the two-day event. How many more, I leave that for statisticians to tell you. The speakers and panellists from home and abroad were more too. Expectations were higher and they were by and large fulfilled, which is not to mean that there were no glitches. They are bound to be when due to surfeit of questions from the audiences (often comments masquerading as queries) some sessions spilled over into the following ones.
For the first time (if I am not mistaken) parallel events ran for the kids. There was a stall selling books for them. A spirit of carnival pervaded in that part of Carlton Hotel.
If there were errors of judgement, they will in all probability be taken care of next year. I too made a mistake and promised myself not to repeat it. I was supposed to introduce Shobhaa De and didn’t realise that the jam-packed audience was there not to hear about her, but they wanted to listen to her. Period.
Dressed in a resplendent bright silk sari, Shobhaa was an audiovisual appeal. She also proved that she was as articulate in her speech as she happened to be in her writings. She was chased by the media and she enjoyed every moment of it. She is an old hand at handling them.
If there was one person who was the darling of the audience then it was none other than the novelist-poet Vikram Seth . He was quick on the uptake. Those, like me, who couldn’t attend his session, got a chance to listen to the highly gifted writer and speaker on a subsequent evening at the head office of the co-hosts, Oxford University Press.
The Indians were more in numbers than participants from any other country, in much the same way as the Pakistanis had been in greater number at the Asian Advertising Congress across the border last year. Keeping a low profile were the charming couple from Calcutta. Kishore Bhimani got more applause than other foreigners in the session titled ‘Writing about Pakistan from a foreign perspective’. His wife, Rita who has written books on public relations and is in great demand as an anchor back home, facilitated many sessions with her innate charm.
Anatole Lieven , whose book on Pakistan, is arguably the finest and fairest volume written in recent years, was listened to in rapt attention. By the same token, London-based Yasmin Khan, the author of an invaluable book on Partition, and Alok Bhalla, a noted Indian scholar, spoke a lot of sense in the session ‘Looking back at Partition’. I had the good fortune of being one of the panellists and my sole point was that any attempt to undo partition would mean a lot more mayhem and bloodshed. In the interest of more than two billion people of the two countries, it was necessary that we emulated the example of the US and Canada, two friendly neighbours.
I ended my 10 minute allotted time by saying that personally I benefited from the division. Had it not been so my wife would have stayed behind in Meerut and a couple of decades later married her second or third cousin, while I would have remained in Bombay, where I may have taken a Bollywood starlet to the altar. A year or two later she would have found a filthy rich man and would have walked out of my house, and my heart, of course.
The list of some big names from home and abroad, who graced the festival is long and can be seen at the KLF’s website .
One last point, it is quite surprising to hear some people insist that the venue be changed to suit those who have no transport of their own. At a time when you see two-wheelers parked outside the houses in lower middle class localities it would be rare to find such people. Also, please remember that Carlton Hotel is not light years away from any part of Karachi.
One of my friends is an ardent supporter of Expo Centre in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, which is fine for book fairs but not for literature festivals, where not one but four rooms, much smaller than the Expo Centre’s halls, are needed. What is more, those halls have no seating arrangements. By the way, Expo Centre is prohibitively expensive for what is essentially a non-commercial event.
Having attended several conventions and conferences abroad, I have noticed that events like the KLF are either held in hotels or are at walking distances from places where the delegates are lodged.
One nut has been writing here, there and everywhere that the literature festival should be held at the Goethe-Institut. He can’t be serious. The German cultural centre should first expand its premises 20 times to even be considered for such an event. Secondly, people will have to leave their cars and motorbikes at home for there is no parking space outside Goethe-Institut. The generous chief minister won’t allow the hospitality of his huge and heavily guarded house next door. These days all VVIP are mortally afraid of cars laden with explosives.
The writer, who jointly authored the bestselling ‘Tales of Two Cities’ with Kuldip Nayar and more recently compiled and created ‘Mehdi Hasan: The Man and his Music’ writes and lectures on music, literature and culture. He also reviews books and pens travelogues and humorous pieces, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org