‘PAK’ing a literary punch at the Karachi Literary Festival

Devika Khosla

Last updated: Apr 3, 2017

Among Pakistan’s most glittering gems, the port city of Karachi has always been a cultural and traditional hub for the country. With gigs in local cafes, mushairas in ageing havelis, and fashion shows in international hotels being the rule more than the exception, this beautiful historic city has done more for the development of art and literature in Pakistan than any other place in the country. To add to its many attractions, the city now plays host to one of the most intellectually stimulating events in the Indian subcontinent. The Karachi Literary Festival, which started in 2010 by the joint efforts of the British Council and the Oxford University Press, is fast becoming an event to reckon with.

With several very well-known home grown authors to its credit, it was time Pakistani writers and its literary scene came into its own. Predictably, quite like its literary counterpart, the successful Jaipur Literary Festival this side of the LOC, the Karachi festival is beginning to attract large numbers of authors, writers and intellectuals not just from within the country but from India, Bangladesh, France and England. With the likes of popular authors like Mohammed Hanif, William Darymple, Shobha De, Samina Qureshi and writers like Victoria Schofield who has written intensively about the Indian subcontinent participating in lectures, seminars, debates and interviews, the air is suffused with intellectual curiosity and stimulation.

Interestingly, this free for all fest is not just about book launches, signings and readings but also brings to the fore other related events connected to literature. Audiences are often enthralled with breathtaking dramatic presentations of plays in English and Urdu, dance dramas, musical presentations by local bands as well as film screenings. A perfect treat for an avid reader or student of literature and the visual and performing arts, the event brings the best of local and international talent on a common platform to enthrall your senses and leave you with some very thought provoking ideas. The event also celebrates popular authors and playwrights in its own way; for instance the 2012 fest commemorated the bicentennial birth anniversary of English author Charles Dickens with the help of audio theatrical sessions.

With an ever increasing attendance (from 5,000 people in 2010 to nearly 15,000 in 2012) this two day fest is an event to look out for. At the same time, this important harbor in the Arabian Sea and the financial capital of Pakistan, Karachi can also prove to be an extraordinary travel experience. Visit the city and you have the perfect holiday all ready for you. Go there for the love of a story well told, for the larger than life portrayal of your favorite authors, for thoughtful discussions on issues that affect the people of the sub-continent (from feminism to terrorism) and for the sheer experience that is Urdu poetry. Add to it the lure of the old by lanes and rambling palaces of this erstwhile capital of Pakistan and you have planned yourself a perfect treat.