KARACHI: An interesting discussion ‘Risky Imaginings’ found several creative minds ponder over ‘risk’ in one of the lecture halls of the Indus Valley School (IVS) of Art and Architecture here on Thursday.
‘Risk’ is the main theme of volume 4 of Hybrid, IVS’s interdisciplinary journal of art, design and architecture. Its current edition is a collection of fun and diverse essays on South Asian science fiction, Karachi’s transport design, stand-up comedian Richard Pryor, etc.
Nudrat Kamal, a teacher of comparative literature, whose essay ‘Dreaming Futures: The Risks and Rewards of South Asian Futurisms’ is included in the journal, said she tackled the theme of risk using speculation as an angle in finance and science fiction.
“Speculation in finance requires you to narrow down the possibilities. Speculation in science fiction opens you to possibilities. So there are many possibilities. The act of speculation is risky because it requires a leap of faith,” she said, adding that while writing her essay for the journal she looked at what the future could be through the eyes of South Asian writers where certain trends play out as well.
“There are social utopias, feminist utopias that also shift to dystopias with the issues of power, corruption, etc. But there, too, is hope and speculation of our futures,” she said.
Gulraiz Khan, a design strategist by profession, who wrote ‘Karachi is hard to love’ for the journal, said that he was a disgruntled Karachiite. “You live in Karachi because you have to. There is a sense of dystopia here. What makes a city viable is the ability to move in it. If you cannot move around, then you have a stagnant situation. And there are millions of people who cannot move around freely in their city due to its transport issues,” he pointed out, adding that there was a need to move in the city without cars or personal transport.
Palvashay Sethi, another contributor to the journal, who also teaches and writes, said that she used to watch pirated DVDs of Richard Pryor’s stand-up comedy back in 2007 when she as a 17-year-old teenager was introduced to him by her older sister. “I had forgotten him after that but returned to him during the Covid-19 pandemic because I was depressed,” she said while talking about her essay ‘Richard Pryor in Black and Blue’. “You should look him up on YouTube to understand his rhythm and humour,” she added.
IVS faculty member Shahana Rajani said the recent suicide bomb attack at Karachi University made her think “how central the risk is that we all are undertaking during our routine work as professionals.” She praised Nudrat’s essay and how it pushed towards finding hope in darkness. She also said she found Gulraiz’s esssay dark, cynical and heavy, but it rightly portrayed the city’s incredibly cruel infrastructure.
Journalist and filmmaker Hasan Zaidi said he read a lot and found the contributions in Hybrid fun to read. He said he used to read a lot of science fiction and wonder why there was no tradition of science fiction in Pakistan. “There was the Ainak Wala Jinn here which is fantasy, but not science fiction,” he said. That was why he found Nudrat’s essay interesting, he added. “You want to imagine a different world in order to escape your own reality. So if imagination is allowed, why it is not happening in our fiction,” he wondered aloud.
Reading out a portion from Gulraiz’s essay for the audience, Hasan said that it reminded him of a film he had made 22 years ago Raat Chali Hai Jhoom Ke, which was about polarisation.
“It was about living in Karachi but being unfamiliar with many areas such as Korangi, etc.,” he explained this with the example of meeting with someone in his thirties around that time who thought that Frere Hall was a church because he had not seen it before. “In Karachi you can exist in one area and not know the other,” he said. “It is due to some decisions made politically. For example Korangi was created to keep labourers, etc., contained there,” he added.
Earlier, sharing a bit about the journal Hybrid, IVS’s dean and executive director Dr Faiza Mushtaq said that it was a thematic publication aimed at fostering a culture of research and writing.
Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2022
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