Like Rick’s from Casablanca, people tend to gravitate towards the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF). To rendezvous with authors, (global & regional), journalists (foreign and local), diplomats, filmmakers, celebrities, publishing giants, analysts & social media pundits. To hail divergent views and forge lifelong connections while sprinting from session to session; at author signings by makeshift book stalls, in the midst of earnest discussions, during lively Q/A’s and at coffee stands.
KLF, which became a part of Karachi’s social scene in 2010, is a portal to a realm where discourse is welcome and diversity is celebrated. Where elitism gets shunned, and cultural bonds are reinforced.
Those who ventured out might have come upon beloved idols sans entourage mingling with the common folk, calmly standing by a pillar if they couldn’t find a seat; Zeb (other half of Haniya) or Tina Sani humming to the beat of something called a Shurti box under the canopy, Shanaz Ramzi by the sea-front bravely recreating recipes from her book on Pakistani cuisine or Gandhi’s gracious grandson engaged in a diplomatic dance after an awkward encounter with an audience member.
The 3 day event (7 – 9th February 2014) held at Beach Luxury Hotel welcomed an estimated 70,000 visitors, despite the strike and the perpetually grim backdrop. It comes once a year and is free. Inside it mirrors a miniaturized global village (of sorts) that uses its literary credentials to pay homage to the arts through energizing conversations, steer free flowing ideas to safe harbour and raise the stature of regional languages.
This year 11 nations were represented, 280 speakers hosted, and 28 books launched. Also, 3 Pakistani books were honored – with the KLF Coca Cola Best Non Fiction (Osama Siddique), KLF Embassy of France Prize (Uzma Aslam Khan) & the KLF Peace Prize (Akber Ahmed). KLF 2014 was sponsored by HBL, and co-sponsored by Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany & the Goethe Institute. The festival, which came to Islamabad in 2013, is the brainchild of Ameena Saiyid OBE, MD OUP (Oxford University Press) & Asif Farrukhi. The next Islamabad Literary Festival will be held in April 2014.
The writer is a freelance journalist who blogs at http://afrahjamal.blogspot.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @Afrahjh