About two months ago I had the fortune of, or rather lost a fortune in, attending the Karachi Literature Festival. Flights from Lahore are expensive, and the cost of commuting can run high since everything conspires to be an hour’s drive from where you are. But it was a wonderful experience, I got to listen to learned and erudite people, most of them were my taxi drivers, but still.
It’s good to have these things where people can interact with other people who know how to read. Where else does that happen in Pakistan?
The literature was largely cordoned off in a tiny hall over at the west wing of the hotel, if the compass on my phone was anything to go by. Many fine native language authors were squeezed in there, on a tiny stage, befitting the respect and admiration they enjoy in popular culture.
The big halls were occupied by people who wrote about important things, like politics and social issues, because writing about them has done wonders so far. They were chaired by people with big fat heads and voices shrill from overuse. I avoided these and spent the two days listening to the soothing low tenors of people who didn’t have anything important to tell me; just a desire to talk about the things they loved.
The one panel discussion I did happen to attend on social issues, concerned minorities. Well, it didn’t really concern minorities considering that none were involved, but I guess it’s the thought that counts. I also briefly sifted through some of the other political talks only to satisfy myself that they weren’t worth it.
In one, someone got up and asked why there aren’t more think tanks in this country. I think, probably, because they aren’t as effective as those other tanks, you know, the one’s that shoot giant holes in people. Nothing solves problems like blowing things up.
Anyway, I took pictures. Would anyone like to see pictures? If you don’t respond with a yes I’m going to put them up anyway, okay?
Don’t worry, they won’t just be stills of people gaping awkwardly mid-sentence. I took photos of the city too.