KARACHI: The third edition of the Khushwant Singh Literature Festival will be sadly different this year from the two earlier events for it will be the first to be held after the demise of the eminent historian, scholar, writer, novelist, columnist and what not in March this year.
The festival will be held from October 10 to 12 at Kasauli, the enchanting hill station in Himachal Pradesh, where Khushwant, ensconced in Raj Villa, did most of his writings. It was his summer home where the prolific writer penned most of his widely syndicated columns that were published in 20 periodicals in 17 languages. Some of his widely acclaimed books were also written in Kasauli.
This year the list of literary luminaries includes S.F. Aijazuddin from Lahore and Asif Noorani from Karachi.
Keeping Aijazuddin company would be his illustrious wife Shahnaz, who is known for translating the classic Tilism-e-Hoshruba into a 900-plus-page volume. The magnum was published by Penguin India five years ago.
One may like to recall that it was Aijazuddin who brought a portion of Khushwant’s ashes for plastering, as per the will of his late friend, on the walls of his school in Hadoli (Pakistani Punjab).
The other participant from Pakistan, senior journalist and writer Asif Noorani, mooted the idea of conferring Nishan-e-Imtiaz, the highest civilian award of this country, on Khushwant Singh.
If the award is posthumously given to him, he will be the third Indian to be bestowed with the honour. There would be few people to have done as much as the great Sardar to serve as a bridge between Pakistan and India. No wonder he was called the last Pakistani on the Indian soil.
For the first KSLF, held two years ago in October, Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s daughter Salima Hashmi crossed the Wagah-Attari border to be driven up to the stately and well-maintained Kasauli Club, the permanent venue of the event.
Last year, Aitizaz Ahsan and Jugnu Mohsin were invited to participate in the festival.
At the event, Asif Noorani will be sharing the stage with two distinguished panellists, India’s former Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid and our own scholar, art historian and widely read columnist S.F. Aijazuddin. Eminent Indian journalist Rajdeep Sardesai will moderate the discussion on Khushwant Singh, the bridge between India and Pakistan.
Asma Jehangir was another invitee but for reasons best known to her she sent her regrets. So did William Dalrymple, whose name was announced earlier but the finalised programme doesn’t feature his name. Gulzar, the accomplished poet, writer and filmmaker, did not accept the invitation because he had a prior commitment to attend the convocation of the University of Assam.
Normally at literary festivals, one is spoilt for choice because three or four events are held simultaneously. On the other hand, the Kasauli festival will just have one at a time.
Shobhaa De, who proved to be a major draw at literary festivals in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, will be in more than one panel. Her latest collection of short stories Small Betrayal will be launched at the festival and so will Manju Kapur’s compilation of interesting essays Shaping the World: Women writers on themselves.
A familiar figure to Pakistanis will be Mahmood Farooqui, who will speak on the disappearance and the revival of Dastangoi, the Urdu tradition of storytelling. This year’s theme is also storytelling.
Aakar Patel, a well known journalist who writes columns for Indian dailies and one Pakistani newspaper, will be speaking on Manto’s India and Manto’s Pakistan.