Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pakistan Diary – Reading Chick Lit in Karachi

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Karachi Literature Festival

The Delhi Walla in the fatherland.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Pakistanis love reading Chick Lit as much as Delhiites. The Delhi Walla discovered it while attending the two-day Karachi Literature Festival. Held on on March 21-21, it was organised by Pakistan's Oxford University Press (OUP) in collaboration with the British Council.

In the festival, rather than seeking appointments with novelists and critics, I was more interested in finding out the reading taste of young Pakistanis. So, between the sessions, I caught up with youngsters who said that they feel deeply for novels such as the Twilight series.

“I love India’s Shobaa De,” said Falak Abbas, a college student, referring to a bestselling Bombay-based novelist. “She is old and yet looks so sexy and her books are so easy to read.”

On the second day, I met Karim Aman, a Master's student of Karachi’s Aga Khan University who has studied Ms De more closely. “When Shobhaa De writes a novel, she brings in certain words which are pregnant with cultural symbols to which ordinary Indians can relate to,” he said. “For instance, she doesn’t translate ‘mirchi’ as ‘pepper’. However, Pakistani writing in English is still evolving. We still are tempted to translate ‘surahi’ into ‘pot’.”

Pakistani writing in English is making waves in the global literary circuit. Bestselling novels such as The Reluctant Fundamentalist and A Case of Exploding Mangoes are read widely by Pakistanis who take their reading seriously. But the country has no home-grown trash writers. For instance, Pakistan has no Chetan Bhagat, the wildly popular Indian novelist whose quickies are lapped up by the non-reading youngsters.

Quite a few Karachiites were frank in confessing that while they had come to the festival to look at famous authors such as Bapsi Sidhwa and Mohammed Hanif, they don’t care much for reading. “My girlfriend’s Facebook status never says that she is reading a book,” jokes Saquib Shaikh, an engineering student. “Our generation doesn’t read. We don’t like books. Even our university lectures are saved on the laptop.”

That said, romantic shairis are popular in Pakistan. Famous verses of great poets such as Ahmed Faraz, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Sahrar Ansari are routinely forwarded as text messages. “Sometimes, we save their entire collected works on our iPhones,” says Sultan Abbas Rajput, a business student.

One of the first sessions in the festival was dedicated to a creative writing workshop. Noor Ussana, a literature student and an aspiring poet, had specially come to attend it. “There is currently so much negativity in Pakistan and the world,” she said, referring to the unending terror attacks in her country. “To escape, one draws peace from nature and that’s why I want to write on the secluded world of forests and flowers.”

When a college student named Fatima Ansari, who had come to attend the festival, discovered that The Delhi Walla is from India, she said, “You must tell your countrymen that Karachi is as normal as any other city. We have no caves. Yes, there is instability and our parents get worried for us when we go out but we know how to have fun.”

Indeed, the popular weekend time out in Karachi is having nightlong parties on the city’s beaches. “French Beach is most prized,” says Saquib. “And when there’s a beach, there’s also booze.” Eh, why care for the books?

Read more in The Delhi Walla's Pakistan Diary

Pakistan Diary - T2F, Karachi's Coolest Café

Pakistan Diary – At Home in Lahore

Pakistan Diary – The Dancing Girl of Lahore

Pakistan Diary – The Karachi Kartography

Pakistan Diary – Jinnah's Mausoleum, Karachi

Pakistan Diary – Is Karachi Safe?

Pakistan Diary – The First Karachi Literature Festival

Pakistan Diary – The First Evening in Karachi

First day in the fest

Karachi Literature Festival

Novelist Mohammed Hanif signing copies of his novel

Karachi Literature Festival

Shh

Karachi Literature Festival

All ears

Karachi Literature Festival

Author Sadia Shepherd

Karachi Literature Festival

Columnist Irfan Husain

In Search of Lost Time

Engrossed

In Search of Lost Time

Friday Times editor Raza Rumi with OUP's Ameena Saiyid

Karachi Literature Festival

Lost in the literature

Karachi Literature Festival

The rest is lit

Karachi Literature Festival

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are you from India or from Paindabad?

Anonymous said...

There should be platforms for young writers to express their talent in creative writing - Online Magazines, Writer's Associations etc.

mao said...

I love the frank comments you got from attendees. And the marigolds are beautiful centerpieces. Good job!

The Frontal loBe said...

your diary reflects neighborliness! very well written :)

Nimesh Das Guru said...

“She is old and yet looks so sexy and her books are so "easy to read"

"easy to read" is interesting...

ndguru@gmail.com