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Here are excerpts of two stories about Karachi Literature Festival:
1. The Independent:
Karachi and Lahore literary festivals are proving a lifeline for the ‘other Pakistan’. The literary and intellectual scene is helping to provide a narrative arc for the country. At one session at the Karachi literary festival last Saturday a minute’s silence was held for the Hazara community and the victims of the militants.
In the morning Mohammed Hanif launched his short book The Baloch who is not Missing & others who are. How would you feel, he asked the audience, if your son or daughter did not return from their lessons? “If your child is late and he and his teachers do not answer their phones for two hours, what state will you be in?”
A raft of Karachi novelists present at the festival, in addition to Kamila Shamsie and H M Naqvi, included 89-year-old Intizar Hussain whose Basti has just been shortlisted for the 2013 International Man Booker prize. The book has received a rapturous review by Pankaj Mishra: “This brilliant novel from one of South Asia’s greatest living writers, should finally end the scandal of his relative obscurity in the West”.
In a session entitled ‘The dynamics of Karachi’, one of Pakistan’s leading architects Arif Hasan and French researcher Laurent Gayer found ways to constructively pin-point the city. Kamila Shamsie’s twitter feed mapped this session: the ethnic divide is understandable; it is linked to land, but the religious divide is not understandable, it is being promoted.
In recent years no city has done more to map the narrative arc of Pakistan to international audiences in English through its writers. At the first literary festival in over 20 years, Bapsi Sidhwa, Tariq Ali, Mohsin Hamid, Mohammed Hanif, Ali Sethi, Daniyal Mueenuddin and Nadeem Aslam will be talking about literature and the view from the north.
2. NPR Radio:
Any literary event would risk being irrelevant in a place as troubled as Karachi. Yet this festival was intensely relevant. The most prominent Pakistani novelists to emerge in recent years have made their country's crisis central to their art.
In a panel discussion, novelist Mohsin Hamid said he couldn't imagine separating politics and fiction. His The Reluctant Fundamentalist depicted a man's drift toward extremism; his forthcoming novel is called How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. Other sessions included Mohammed Hanif, who fills his darkly comic novels with power-mad generals and corrupt cops like those he covered as a journalist. Hanif was at the festival to introduce his new nonfiction work: profiles of Pakistanis who have disappeared as the government tries to crush an insurgency in the province of Baluchistan. His gut-punch of a book begins with a 4-year-old being shown the bullet-riddled body of his father.
Discussions at the festival were as intense as the writing. Organizers arranged an onstage talk with Cameron Munter, who until recently was the U.S. Ambassador, the representative of Pakistan's profoundly unpopular ally. Even people at this Western-leaning event had doubts about American policies, and a standing-room-only crowd hurled raw questions at the ambassador. "You're not serious" about nurturing Pakistan's democracy, a woman in the audience declared. It's true that America has collaborated with military rulers, and has struggled to support the elected government in power today.
Here's a Dawn story on Karachi Flower Show 2013:
Flowers bloom and nature smiles at the annual Karachi Flower Show, which will continue till Feb 27. Seasonal flowers, herbs and ornamental plants were beautifully displayed at the show. Nursery owners, organic farmers, gardeners, bonsai planters and fertilizer suppliers put their expertise and products for the promotion of gardening and farming.
Serious gardeners, nature lovers, horticulturists and ordinary people attended the flower exhibition to view the variety of cactuses, herbs, bamboos, flowers and gardening related items which were on sale and on display at the show. While Innovative green projects were also on display by school children.
People were also interested in growing vegetables at their home gardens or in planters and pots.
Here's a Time magazine article on literature flourishing in "troubled Pakistan":
Salman Rushdie was recently asked for his opinion on contemporary Indian fiction. The celebrated novelist surveyed the landscape for his interviewer, offering nods of approval to what is now a well-established range of Indian writing in English. But it wasn’t as attractive as what was happening across the border. “I actually think,” Rushdie said, “that the Pakistani stuff is more interesting.”
Thirty years ago, Rushdie published Shame, still considered one of the finest novels on Pakistan, and one that narrowly missed out on the Booker Prize. For much of that time, there was only the occasional novel written in English from Pakistan. Now, as Rushdie noted, there’s “the sense of a sudden explosion.”
As the world’s attention has been drawn to Pakistan’s problems with Islamist militancy in recent years, a flurry of exciting new voices have stepped forward to share with their readers a more intimate and rounded look at the country and its people — winning many plaudits along the way. Mohsin Hamid was recently described by the New York Times as, “one of his generation’s most inventive and gifted writers.” Nadeem Aslam’s latest novel, The Blind Man’s Garden, was praised in the Guardian as a product of “grace, intelligence and rare authenticity.”
This past month, Pakistani novelists writing in English also had the opportunity to meet readers from their own country at two different literary festivals in the largest cities of Karachi and Lahore. “For a while now we’ve had issues with public events,” says novelist and journalist Mohammed Hanif. “I guess weddings are the only things that really happen in public now. Music concerts have mostly disappeared. Other festivals are less well attended.” The literary festivals in Karachi and Lahore, adds Hanif, offer a rare occasion for “people to get out of their houses and go and talk about books.”
The two cities, with a combined population approaching 30 million, are also suffused in a rich cultural history. It would be difficult to pull off similar events in relatively soulless cities like Dubai, Singapore, or even Islamabad. “There is the requisite infrastructure here, engaged audiences, and a critical mass of novelists and poets that reside in each city,” says novelist H.M. Naqvi, the prize-winning author of Home Boy. “I expected large audiences. I expected energy.”
Strikingly, the festivals attracted thousands of young school and college students who had eagerly consumed the books and were brimming with questions for their authors. In Karachi, Hamid met a young man who handed over a missive composed by himself and two other friends. The trio, from the southern Punjabi town of Rahim Yar Khan, had pooled money together for one of them to make the several-hour-long bus journey to Karachi. The letter carried seriously worded instructions for the novelist. “We loved the sex-and-drugs scenes in Moth Smoke,” they wrote to Hamid, referring to his first novel. “We want to read more of this stuff.”
Here's an ET story on hairstyling in Pakistan:
KARACHI: Meet Mark Hampton. He’s 28 years old, blonde, boyish and you can’t tell that he’s a maverick with hair; the youngest global ambassador, in fact, of a world-renowned hair brand like Toni&Guy.
However, get Mark to talk about hair and he transforms from the charming young British lad to hairstylist extraordinaire. He’ll talk about partings, detangling and blow-drying the ‘crazy bits’ of hair until it sweeps you into a world where hair can be coerced into wacky, glamorous hairstyles with just the right maneuvers. Oh, and you need to use the right Toni&Guy products, of course — Mark wouldn’t be a great ambassador if he didn’t advise you upon the various products of the brand he endorses.
To do them justice, the Toni&Guy ‘Hair Meet Wardrobe’ (HMW) line of products that has just launched in Pakistan actually does seem to be a lot of fun — there’s a ‘Classic Shine Gloss Serum’ that’s supposed to make hair glossy and shiny and a ‘Sea Salt Texturising Spray’ for creating the tousled beach hair look, among others. It was for the launch of this line that Mark landed in Karachi, to assert the Toni&Guy concept of dressing from “the head down”, where hair complements wardrobe and vice versa.
It may not have been the best time to visit Karachi — even though Mark was here just for two days — but he took the general unrest in the city in his stride. We meet with the threat of a city shutdown hanging over our heads and he good-naturedly shrugs. “I usually don’t bother much with current affairs,” he tells me. I can’t help but notice, though, that he has toned his appearance down — he’s dressed neatly, in a sensible full sleeved shirt that covers his tattooed arms. “Work keeps me busy and I am too wrapped up in my fashion bubble to stress out over what’s going on outside,” he says.
And what a bubble it is! Mark has been working for 11 years now and he’s trained under well-known stylist Guido Palau, assisting him in shows for Valentino and Alexander McQueen among others. More recently, he’s created hair for the Autumn/Winter 2013 shows at London Fashion Week (LFW) for the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Matthew Williamson in his capacity as a lead stylist from Toni&Guy. He plays stylist to the rich and the famous, his current favourite being Grammy-award winner Calvin Harris, who he says is very “down to earth and easygoing”. Mark’s been to the Oscars, travels constantly and has a hectic, high-flying life that he absolutely loves!...
Here's a Daily Telegraph story on new "Glee Club" TV serial in Pakistan:
The cast and crew of Taan – "musical note" in Urdu - say they hope it will unite the country in front of the television as families sing along to their favourite hits.
Set in a music academy, the 26-part serial tells the story of the budding singers and musicians as they try to become stars.
Nabeel Sarwar, the show's producer, said it would not shy from tackling Pakistan's big issues but would also offer an upbeat alternative to the despair and misery peddled by most TV channels.
"I thought what are the two things that Pakistanis all unite around – the cricket team that doesn't perform or the music that does perform," he said.
Pakistan's divisions have dominated the headlines so far this year. The country's Shia minority has been targeted in a series of bomb attacks, and Taan is being filmed in Lahore, where a mob torched 100 Christian homes on March 10.
Mr Sarwar said the show would tap into the dreams of Pakistani teenagers and feature some of their parents' favourite songs.
About 100 Pakistani hits have been rerecorded for the series, to be performed in energetic dance routines or as atmospheric ballads. They range from the devotional Sufi songs of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to the soft rock of Junoon, once described as Pakistan's answer to U2.
Filming has already begun and Mr Sarwar is in talks to sell the show to Pakistan's state-run terrestrial channel.
"I want a hit show that the whole country loves, that they bop along to, that they buy the soundtrack to, that they feel united behind, so that they feel at one with everyone when they watch this because there's something for everyone," said Mr Sarwar.
The show revolves around the fictional Hayaat Haveli musical academy in Lahore.
At its heart is a tension between a traditional music teacher and his younger rival, who trains budding pop stars, representing different faces of Pakistan.
Among their pupils are the offspring of well-heeled bureaucrats and a talentless wannabe who dreams of becoming a Bollywood actress.
But some of Taan's plotlines differ from the coming-of-age tales and happy endings of Glee or Fame. Instead they attempt to engage with the darker side of Pakistan.
One of the characters, Annie Masih is described as losing all her family in the 2009 attack on a Christian enclave in the town on Gojra, a real episode in which seven people were burned alive.
Another storyline involves Fariduddin, a member of the Pakistan Taliban intent on blowing up the academy before he is eventually seduced by music.
Hassan Niazi, who plays Zaki, the pop music teacher, said those issues would not distract from the main attraction of the show – the songs.
"Music is the only thing that can unite this country," he said during a break in filming.
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