There was a time when this ‘city of lights’ used to have night-long literary and social activities; but then fear had overwhelmed everything and those nights were lost.
“However, there are still those who wish to bring back the literary and cultural life which was once the hallmark of this city,” said Syed Ibne Hassan who was one of the 300 members of the organising committee of annual International Urdu Mushaira which is being held continuously since 1989 under the auspices of Sakinan-e-Shehr-e-Quaid.
Hundreds of people including literary figures, families with children and groups of young lads have turned up on Thursday to listen to the poets from across the country as well as from different parts of the world. In the premises of China Ground located at the Kashmir Road, a number of foods, tea and book stalls were also set up giving the venue an air of festival.
Perhaps, this diversity had urged Iqbal Ashar, a poet who had arrived from India, to comment: “I can feel a general air of disorder.” He announced from the stage that “the crowd seems unsettled thus not listening to poetry in unison.”
While around 1,000 chairs that were placed at one side of the ground were fully occupied, the venue was still almost half empty till well past midnight.
Standing amid a diversified crowd comprising all ages including fans of poetry, Hassan told that, “we believe that if literary activities keep on happening, they can lessen the socio-political tensions in society.”
The literary event brought together poets who had arrived here on Thursday to present their poetical compositions. Poets Wasim Barelvi, Manzar Bhopali, Rahat Indori, Iqbal Ashar had arrived from India. Jalal Akbarabadi came from Bangladesh to participate in the Mushaira which was presided over by Iftikhar Arif. Rasa Chughtai, Kishwar Naheed, Sahar Ansari, Mohsin Changezi, Anwar Shaoor, Khalida Uzma, A H Khanzada and Khayal Aafaqi were to name the few other distinguished poets from Pakistan who participated in the Mushaira that continued till five in the morning.
Rizwan Siddiqui, Salman Siddiqui and Sardar Khan conducted the proceedings of the Mushaira.
The chief coordinator of the mushaira committee, Azhar Abbas Hashmi, told that the Sakinan-e-Shehr-e-Quaid had been organizing this event since last 22 years despite disturbances in the city and all along around 350 distinguished poets had participated. “The first mushaira was held in 1989 at the National Stadium where the then governor of Sindh, retired Justice Fakhruddin G Ebrahim, was the chief guest,” he said.
“That was the time when law and order situation in Karachi was very bad,” said another among the organizers, Afzal Siddiqui who had all along been responsible for selection of poets since its inception.
He recalled that the old boys association of the Karachi University – Unikarians – had decided that in order to restore normality to the city, literary activities should be arranged on a regular basis. “Mushaira was one way of going about it,” he said, adding that the first mushaira turned out to be a huge success in which literary stalwarts arrived from India. For Siddiqui, the appreciation for the event turned it into a tradition which the organisation is avidly following each year on the night before Pakistan Day. He said that each year, the event was organised under the cooperative scheme in which all those people who contribute money for the event become members of the organizing committee. He also recalled that great names in Urdu poetry from India, like Majrooh Sultanpuri, Khumar Barabankvi, Ali Sardar Jafri, Kaifi Aazmi, Baikal Utsahi, Irfan Siddiqui, Shamim Jaipuri, etc had participated in these mushairas.
The mushaira, however, suffered for want of participation and response by the audience. But the two Indian poets, Manzar Bhopali and Iqbal Ashar, reciting their poetry in melodious voice were able to involve the people and received applause from the crowd. Waseem Barelvi, Rasa Chughtai, Iftikhar Arif, Anwar Shaoor were also listened with calm and respect.