KARACHI, Feb 17: As the fourth Karachi Literature Festival drew to its conclusion on Sunday evening, many learned individuals attending the extraordinary gathering at the Beach Luxury Hotel shared their impressions.
“I have attended all the KLF editions and this one is the biggest so far. Still I feel a bit disappointed as the discussions, though on diverse subjects, were not what one would have expected. I found them to be rather shallow,” said Prof Shahida Kazi.
“It is the first time for me to have attended the festival and I am impressed to see so many people spending so much money on books,” said writer and actor Kamal Ahmed Rizvi.
Dr Jaffar Ahmed, who also held some six sessions, said that he was happy to be a part of the festival that showed a different Karachi from what people may make it out to be. “KLF introduced us to the real Karachi. It helped us forget about mafias, gang wars and extremism and get reacquainted with the beauty and life of this city. Hope all who specially came here to attend the KLF would take back the message not to give up on Karachi just yet,” he said.
Writer and advertising executive Javed Jabbar said: “In times when there is so much violence and destruction, the exuberance of ideas on different subjects is an affirmation that the people of Karachi can energize new ideas on developments on intellectual pathways.”
“This is so positive for Karachi. The environment is so good and you get to meet so many people,” gushed Parveen Rahman of the Orangi Pilot Project.
Sindhi writer and professor Amar Sindhu said that she was glad to see so many foreigners attending the KLF, too. “It will help clear the distorted image of Karachi abroad. Now people will know Karachi for its literature festival than anything else,” she announced.
Journalist and human rights activist Hilda Saeed said that she was happy to see such a well-attended festival but the venue she felt fell a little behind in catering to everyone's needs. “We need a large convention centre for such a huge gathering. Also there is no sensitivity towards handicapped people here as cars are not allowed inside and there are no wheelchairs for some people who may need them,” she said.
Novelist, short-story writer and critic, Intizar Hussain, on the other hand, said that he was surprised to see how such a grand-scale programme spanning three days ran as smoothly as it did. “I commend the organisers on their planning of the event,” he said.
A visitor to the city from Canada after 25 years, Iffat Kazim, said that she was also very impressed. “I bought so many books here and it turned out to be a great bargain for me as I'm usually spending around $20 for one title back in Canada,” she beamed.
Adrianne Loftus Parkins, who is director of the Asia House Festival on Asian literature in London, the only Pan-Asia literature festival in the UK, had flown in from London to attend the KLF in order to familiarise herself with Pakistani writers. “I enjoyed learning about your authors and what they are writing about. The people here are also incredibly hospitable and made my stay very comfortable,” she reported.
Finally, American television anchor and author of the book Instant City: Life & Death in Karachi, Steve Inskeep, said that having visited Karachi off and on since 2002, he was no stranger to the city although it was the first time for him to be attending the KLF. “It is a tremendous event … great location, great crowd. If the people on the stage are knowledgeable about their subjects, so are the people in the audience who asked very good questions. I admired the voices here,” he said while adding that the festival also reminded him of the cover of his book. “There are two people going about their normal business on a motorcycle while the city burns in the background on my book cover. There may be all kinds of violence taking place in Karachi but the well-attended festival tells me that the citizens here have learned to lead a normal life despite all that,” he concluded.
“The festival is expanding and becoming more intense each year. It is a great opportunity for people to get to listen to the authors of the books they read in order to learn more. My only problem this time was that I could just be at one place at one time and there were so many sessions taking place simultaneously which I also wanted to attend,” said writer Babar Ayaz.