KARACHI: The season of celebrating books and authors in the city began with the fifth edition of Adab Festival at Habitt City on Saturday.

In her welcome address, the founder of the event, Ameena Saiyid, said it’s been 13 years since she, along with the late Dr Asif Farrukhi, started holding literary festivals. She dedicated this year’s edition of Adab Festival to him.

Ms Saiyid said when his co-founder passed away, she didn’t have the heart to organise more similar functions but his friends encouraged her not to stop. “We started the festival because we felt literature was confined to a small space and authors were not given the recognition that they deserved. Organising festivals was the best way to do it. We wanted to make writers rock stars.”

Speaking on the occasion, poetess Kishwar Naheed said she felt lucky to be amongst schoolchildren (who had come to the venue in a decent number).

“When my kids were small and when I used to tell them a story, if a lion or a monkey was repeated in a tale, they’d demand a new story. As their curiosity increased, I translated Asian folk tales into Urdu. The book earned an award. Then I got a project to translate other international tales. It is important for children to read books. It will enable them to know that diligence is required to acquire education. I don’t want to hear from any mother that my child doesn’t know Urdu.”

Poet Iftikhar Arif said at the time [a little more than a decade back] when literary festivals were talking place in the world, especially in our neighbourhood, Ms Saiyid decided to hold similar events in the country. Looking at the youngsters in the arena, he remarked: “It is important to read books. But I must say that children should also read books other than those that are for school curriculum. Parents urge their children to read textbooks, and not other publications. They should provide their children with the opportunities to read other than what’s been prescribed. When schoolchildren and college-going children attend such festivals, it augurs well, and probably their parents will, too, start reading. Children whose parents don’t read are not inclined to reading. Therefore, parents must read. When I was a child, the pocket money that I used to get, I would spend it on buying books.”

The speeches were followed by an award-distribution ceremony in which Dr Fatema Hassan and Omar Shahid Hamid received awards in Urdu and English categories, respectively, for the body of work that they have produced.

The inaugural session was rounded off with a performance by the students of Education Trust Nasra School. They sang Sohni Dharti, Kalam-i-Iqbal, a medley of national songs apart from a delightful performance on the violin by a young boy named Qasim.

Session on women achievers

One of the well-attended post-lunch sessions, moderated by Khursheed Hyder, titled Standing Up for All Women featured a conversation with renowned television personalities Sultana Siddiqui and Mehtab Akbar Rashdi.

Ms Siddiqui said she started working for PTV as a host for Sindhi programmes such as Roshan Tara. “In those days a vacancy for director/producer was announced. I was asked to apply. I applied and got selected. We received training for one year. I think we belonged to the last batch who were properly trained. I think only four individuals got selected including me. Since my own children were small at the time, I used to do short duration shows in the beginning.”

Ms Siddiqui fondly remembered a programme for children, Rang Barang, because it educated and entertained the viewers in equal measure. She claimed to date it was the best show for children. “[Composer] Arshad Mahmud says he composed 100 songs for children on that show. Here, I want to emphasise that hard work is essential to achieve any feat. Love the field that you choose for yourself. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to do a certain job, then try and love it. I wasn’t a threat to anyone until I started doing big shows. When I started producing plays, things became a little difficult for me. There are two kinds of people in the world: one, who look upwards and keep working; two, those who keep pulling other people down.”

Ms Rashdi said you cannot accomplish anything in life without a struggle. Parents have the biggest role to play in that respect. “My brother was born after four sisters. [Before the brother was born] my grandmother used to say to my father that he should get married for a second time in order to have a male child. But my father replied that if he didn’t have a male child, he’d consider his daughters his sons. Every father should do what my father did for his daughters. He was the one who enabled me to tell others how I reached a certain position in my life.”

The festival will conclude on Sunday (today).

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2023

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