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One Karachi, many Karachis

February 22, 2014


‘Delirium in Karachi’ invited three new authors whose writings on Karachi have spread a wave of interest among many.

H.M Naqvi, Karachi based author of ‘Home Boy’ moderated the session, while guests included Omar Shahid Hamid, whose noir The Prisoner has established itself in the market, along with Bilal Tanweer’s ‘The Scatter Here is Too Great’. New author Saba Imtiaz was also on the panel, whose book titled ‘Karachi You’re Killing Me’, has only recently been released.

The authors discussed that to distill a great city such as Karachi with such a large population is not possible. While Saba Imtiaz said that the city could be ‘represented’ in several ways because different authors had different backgrounds, Bilal Tanweer said he did not completely agree as he was generally uncomfortable with representation. Instead he explained that his book tries to do justice to the wide range of experiences. He said it was not a reasonable ambition to distill Karachi like that but for him it was more about form than anything else.

The novel, he said, had been written in fractured form. Talking about narratives, Tanweer said that narratives were not substitutes rather they are a simplification of reality, and specifically referred to Omar Shahid Hamid’s book.

Omar said he had been inspired by many crime novels including Vikramchandra’s ‘Sacred Games’ and Mario Puzo’s ‘Godfather’. He said the special aspect of these books was that they created a world, whether it was Mumbai underworld or the world of a Sicilian Family. He said his book was inspired greatly by his experiences in the police and his close acquaintance with SP Chaudhry Aslam, who was recently killed in Karachi. “Most events in the book are from experience that is why it was an easier book to write,” he said. “You can explore lots of avenues with fiction. In reality you gloss over the bad parts that people wouldn’t like. In fiction you take a microscope and get to work.”

Tanweer said that not much had been written about Karachi, even though some authors like Kamila Shamsie were well known, while Lahore’s history and imagery had been recorded since millennia. He said that though Karachi had been imagined through certain specific stories, overall there were very few narratives about the city.

Saba Imtiaz said she had attempted to write the novel as a journalist, and tried to recount some of her experiences in it. However, it was not entirely about Karachi, it was about any big city and the character’s experiences in it.