A celebration of culture

November 21, 2021

The MLF ’21 discussed the revival of literary realism and highlighted risks to real journalism

A celebration of culture

The third two-day Multan Literary Festival (MLF), 2021, featured book reading sessions and engaging discussions on threats to real and free journalism, political ideologies and women’s rights. The literary extravaganza proved an excellent way to connect with like-minded people on some of the most important issues in the country.

With a special focus on literature in the Saraiki language, the MLF is an endeavour of creative writers who consider literature, art, music and poetry associated with the great history and civilisation of Multan as an integral part of local culture. This literary festival is not only the voice of the people of Multan and its environs, but also represents the beauty of the entire Saraiki wasaib.

The Tea House, where the festival took place, was brimming with intelligentsia on both days. The festival had also attracted civil society members and young writers. Creative writers can sometimes be hard to access. Such festivals are therefore a great opportunity to meet and interact with people from the literary and publishing industries.

One thing that stood out in this year’s festival was the involvement of the youth. There were clearly many more young participants than were seen in the festivals held in 2019 and 2020. The prime focus of MLF ’21 was revival of the relationship between potential readers and the books in an era marked by rampant digitalisation.

“The talks and sessions at a lit-fest provide insights from not just the writers but also from publishers and people from the various fields of human activity that are being written about. One doesn’t have to be an avid reader to enjoy the thought provoking discussions,” says Sima Noreen, a writer.

Dr Khawar Nawazish Ali of Bahauddin Zakariya University’s Urdu Department says that these festivals connect the literary people and political workers at one platform. It’s important to remember that these festivals are also not inherently ‘functional’ entities. As cultural objects, they have value to us that goes beyond their direct political or social utility. Assessing the value or the function of cultural objects is a matter of ongoing debate among researchers. This is another reason why literary festivals make for rich objects of study, he adds.

Psychologist Dr Akhtar Ali Syed and his brother Ali Naqvi were the main people behind the MLF ’21. It consisted of fourteen sessions held over two days. These included book readings, discussions on social issues, freedom of press, musical performances and poetry recitations. Authors, journalists and politicians including Javed Hashmi, Sharmila Farooqi, Irshad Amin, Wus’atullah Khan, Wajahat Masood, Muhammad Hanif, Raziuddin Razi, Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed, Dr Akhtar Ali Syed, Hassnain Jamal, Nasir Abbas Nayyar, Gagan Shahid, Ayaz Ahmed, Sana Bucha, Mirza Athar Baig, Rifat Abbas, Prof Dr Khalid Saeed, Gul Naukhez Akhtar, Cyma Malik, Ramish Fatima, Hassan Miraj and Hina Jamshid participated in the festival. Seraiki folk singer Mohan Bhagat sang Seraiki songs and Rahat Bano some ghazals.

In the inaugural session, Prof Dr Anwar Ahmed talked about the value of such literary gatherings. He appreciated the efforts of the organisers and raised some important points regarding the part critical thinking played in breaking intellectual stagnation in a society.

In the next session Hasnain Jamal recited some parts of his book. Journalist Raziuddin Razi conducted the session on Freedom of Press in an Era of Embedded Journalism with journalists Wus’atullah Khan and Wajahat Masood. Presenting his views on the topic, Khan said that true and real journalism is hard to come by these days due to censorship and other restrictions. He pointed out that social media, which has been relatively free from restrictions, has now become the alternative media and emerged as a real threat to the governments that believe in oppressing their people. He said real news was not palatable to the present power structure. Wajahat Masood linked real journalism to real democracy asserting that the one could not exist in isolation from the other.

Sana Bucha moderated a discussion on ideological politics with Wajahat Masood, Javed Hashmi and Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed. Ahmed said politics based on an ideology was the only way forward to save the country. The guests talked about political ideology being a certain set of ideals, principles, doctrines, myths and symbols for a social movement, institution, class, or large group that explained how society should work, offering some political and cultural blueprint for a certain social order.

In one of the sessions, Hina Jamshid read her dissertation on Dr Akhtar Ahsan’s piece Manto’s Fiction Smoke: A Religious Marquee of Artistic Organisation. Nasir Abbas Nayyar recited some thought-provoking passages from his new anthology, Every Man Can Do Anything.

In a session on Frantz Fanon’s anti-colonial thinking, Dr Akhtar Ali Syed had a brilliant dialogue with writers Rifat Abbas, Nasir Abbas Nayyar and Hassan Meraj. This was a very lively conversation about colonialism in the present age and the responses of the indigenous people. Shumaila Hussein moderated the session. The participants were of the view that Fanon had argued that colonialism was not a type of individual actions but the conquest of a national territory and the oppression of a people.

There was one interesting dialogue between young MPAs Ali Haider Gillani and Salman Naeem Sheikh in which Gillani discussed how he was kidnapped and imprisoned by the Taliban.

Folk singer Mohan Bhagat performed Searaiki songs while Rahat Multanikar graed the Sham-i-Ghazal on the first day of MLF ’21. A Haryanvi poetry session was held on the second day.

The writer is The News bureau chief in Multan. He can be reached at trisign69@yahoo.com

A celebration of culture