Lahore Literature Festival – Outside the Sessions

It rains because the earth is dry, barren and ready to soak. LLF happens because the minds are tired, unoccupied, and are ready to engage.

LLF 2015 was one of the most awaited events of 2015 for art, literature, social lovers.

Some might say that Literature has become an expensive hobby as purchasing books is equal to burning a hole in your pocket. Though the invention of E-book does lessen the burden; but a book lover wouldn’t mind spending the few extra pennies, if in this brand-laden world we can wear overly expensive clothes why not treat the mind with a delicious book?

And when you think of literature Al-Hamra isn’t far off, Al-Hamra is a beautiful arty place; it is the harem of art in Lahore.

Just as the first day was grey and magnificent with the pitter-patter of rain; The 5 halls were crowded with spares on the queue for the next sessions. Almost 400 people attended the 3-day event.

LLF isn’t solely about literature; it’s the celebration of Punjabi-ness, socialisation, art, and people. People gather on the grounds of Al-Hamra to mingle, know, talk, gossip, it is full of people who can join in a complete stranger group and discuss whatever they want. There are no stupid ideas or thoughts. Everything is shared, responded to, laughed at and enjoyed.

The best part about LLF is the grey heads. Grey hair resonates with knowledge, wisdom and of course experience. These are the people I think we need to interact with the most, the power of the extra years they have ahead of us is what we should steal and respect. They were available in abundance and they were willing, be it Ayesha Jalal, Aitzaz Ahsan,  Rahul Singh, Intizar Husain, M. Asaduddin, Kishwar Naheed with Asif Farrukhi etc etc

LLF 2015 was about unity, between cultures, art, science, people, knowledge, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh the WORLD! There were people from all walks of life; LLF 2015 was grand!

Above all LLF was and is about socialising, what you can gain through the simple act of talking is beyond words and the confidence to voice your thoughts needs mending now.

Sadly, People were present physically but mentally they had their smartphones on. Thanks to the free wifi and 3G system people were busy taking selfies, checking in and updating the idea of getting to know and meet new people lost its charm in this parade.

LLF had giants of media, literature present Fahd Husain ,  Fasih Ahmed, Arif Nizami,  Shaimaa Khalil (BBC) and much more were easy to access and talk to. Any other day of the week you wouldn’t be given such an easy way in but this was LLF and the benefits one could have with just mere sharing of words would have been great. But the young ones lacked the courage. They were scared or maybe didn’t know enough about them to approach them.

Socializing has become an art, it isn’t easy for the youth to go up to any stranger and just strike a conversation. There is this stigma now that if we talk whatever comes out may not be perfect. We need not be perfect, perfection is a notion that we need to be grasping for always and never reach. If we grab it at some point what else would we yearn for?

All that said, we also need to be updated and be well versed with the current situation of the country, of the media, of the literature world, of poetry. Having fun and gaining knowledge have become separate tasks. Knowledge has generally become education and enjoyment is everything non-educational? Do I blame our education system for this or the government or the households? That would lead to a separate debate.

The kids there were there though their schools/ colleges on an educational trip mostly and took the event as a task or trip.

On the other hand, LLF being an open to all event also brings in people from all walks of life, some there just to enjoy the free show, some to experience the elite, educated environment, some to actually gain something.

In Pakistan, the English speaking and understanding crowd is a niche. The Punjab loving crowd would be more. There were some 70+ sessions would of which about 2-3 Punjabi sessions, 5 Urdu, 1 Siraiki

Many would have thought LLF would promote Punjab culture and history, though it did in its way. In every session, they would appreciate Punjab and its culture but in the end of the day, it was about promoting other cultures and books and styles. Diversity was the keynote.

Why don’t they spread the targeted market? We all know that if we do we can always face destruction. “Too many cooks spoil the broth” is true in Pakistan. The niche audience is the best it has. We need to make more of it by allowing you to thin and talk freely if we act stupid today we will be wiser tomorrow.

LLF need not set the bar higher next year. What happened in 2015 was greater and better we need to get used to this and be able to handle it so that we can get to the next step.