KARACHI: As dusk fell over the port city on Sunday, the book readings, discussions and other learned sessions going on in the different rooms and halls of the Beach Luxury Hotel for the last three days were wrapped up. As the carpets were being rolled up, the chairs stacked up and books about to be piled up and packed into boxes to be moved back to bookshops and godowns, the entire crowd tried to fit under a huge tent in the hotel lawns for the closing ceremony of the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF).
It was jam-packed with people who couldn’t find seats occupying the steps and the floor while the rest simply were left with no other choice but to stand and watch. But in doing that many blocked the view of others. Trying not to lose his patience, scholar and writer Rahat Saeed jokingly asked the folks standing in front of him to kindly come and take his place so that he could go and stand where they were standing to give them a seat with a taste of their own medicine. A few “oh”, “arrey” and “sorry, sorry” were followed by a bit of shuffling here and there and again someone else was complaining about someone else standing in front of them. And this never stopped till the end of the programme. Ameena Saiyid thanked everyone for coming with her fantastic team, including Oxford University Press staff and volunteers. There was some sadness felt on the concluding day due to the passing of the respected historian, writer and politician Dr Hamida Khuhro. Ms Saiyid requested for a moment of silence in her memory.
Remembering the KLF’s humble beginnings, Dr Asif Farrukhi asked her if she still remembered how they had started this festival where only three or four thousand people would come. He was sure that they crossed 100,000 visitors last year and are still counting. He remembered how so many scholars who used to frequent the festival over the years had also left like Hamida Khuhro. Last year, they all missed Intizar Hussain and now they have another literary friend leaving them. “But the festival will go on and we will meet again next year, God willing,” he said.
Bobby Sager, an American philanthropist and photographer, presented his keynote address about his observations while travelling for 10 months every year. He said he just reaches out to others to make his days richer. There were photographs taken by the speaker of many people that he encountered whom he made friends with through the simplest gestures to lighten up their spirits. “Bringing a smile to their lips brings up the opportunity to make friends,” he said.
Author Mohammad Hanif, meanwhile, read out a heartfelt piece that he wrote after visiting his friend’s grave in Multan. The friend had died in Kraachi but is buried in Multan. Hanif’s chain of thought ties him up into a deeper depression where he ponders over the futility of life.
And from dejection the audience experienced their spirits rising up again thanks to the rhythm and melody and beautiful choreographed solo classical dance performances by young Suhaee Abro and Shayma Saiyid. These were followed by a concert and dhamaal.
Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2017