NaNoWriMo Pakistan Experience
NaNoWriMo / December 12, 2015

I came to know about NaNoWriMo few years ago through social media. The idea of writing a novel of 50k words in a month seemed, at the same time, daunting and exciting. Daunting because taking out time to write an essay of 2000 words is an effort in itself, requiring careful flow of ideas and proper planning of objectives to achieve from the write-up. It was not the case with NaNoWriMo, because writing 50,000 words novel in 30 days just did not seem possible. But it was exciting at the same time, the sheer joy of writing that story that has been brewing in your mind for a long time. So, in the year 2014, I tried my hand at NaNoWriMo’s challenge and began working on a sci-fi novel set in Karachi. I was excited, and scared, and was determined to see it through. It did not last long. I could not continue beyond 5,000 words. This probably is not for me, I thought. I am one of those who need a long time to write such a large piece. And the story remained there, on my laptop, untouched, for nearly a year. And I was reminded of it by Desi Writers Lounge…

DWL Karachi Meetup June 2015
Book Club Meetup / June 10, 2015

Desi Writers Lounge met on 5th June 2015 for its monthly meetup at Liberty Books. The book under discussion was Bina Shah’s “Season of the Martyrs”, a recent addition to Pakistani fiction that deals (for the first time) the events of Benazir Bhutto’s return to Pakistan and her subsequent assassination. A couple of new faces joined the meetup as Farheen took the lead to initiate the discussion, briefly talking about the various characters introduced by the author and how parallels have been drawn between the present and the past of Sindh. The Sufi aspect of the book was discussed, concentrating on stories like those of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, and the life of the main protagonist Ali Sikander as he experiences his disdain of politics with Benazir’s return. Some argued that Ali’s life made little sense as there was too much going on for him. Being in media and having a Hindu girlfriend, many aspects of his life seemed unrealistic. Some parts of the story such as Ali’s experiences of US Consulate and French Beach drew criticism, all the while praising for prose that described the story. Jalal was of the opinion that despite excellent prose, the story has too…

“The Harvest of Hope” – A Tribute to Sabeen
Literary Events / May 26, 2015

Desi Writers Lounge hosted a resistance poetry session at Alliance Francaise Karachi on Monday, 25th May. Organized in the conference hall, the session started with Farheen Zehra reciting Faiz’s poem “Ye Fasl Umeeedon Ki Humdum” and introducing the purpose of this session to the audience. The first performance was by Ali Azfar, with Ali Raza Soomro on guitar, who gave  the audience a history of Urdu resistance poetry. Sharing words from renowned poets starting from Bahadur Shah Zafar, he recounted the impact of the poetry on the people and how these words interacted as well as changed with time as the British were replaced by bureaucracy and military governments. Adnan Jaffar and Tariq Raja came next to recite and perform poetry from Habib Jalib, Josh Malih Abadi and Sahir Ludhianvi. They mimicked a style appropriate to the verses, sitting in casual style for Jalib’s work and straightening up for Josh Malih Abadi. Farheen came next to read Afzal Ahmed’s poem “Hamein Bahut Sare Phool Chahiyen” (we need a whole lot of flowers), an azad nazm from one of his recent publications (the poet himself was attending the event). The poem highlighted different aspects and brutalities of life in our society that…

Conversation with Aamer Hussein
Author Meetup / March 24, 2015

Aamer Hussein reading an excerpt from The Swan’s Wife Aamer Hussein, famed author of short stories in English and (more recently) Urdu, sat down for literary conversation with Desi Writers Lounge at Liberty Books (BBQ Tonight Branch). Starting slightly late due to traffic jams, the event saw moderate attendance as new writers as well as established novelists listened with rapt attention to Aamer as Farheen, Karachi representative of DWL, moderated the session. Aamer Hussein shared several pearls of wisdom as he talked about his skill as multilingual who can read Italian, French, English, Urdu and Persian while devouring English translations of various notable works written in Arabic, Russian, Japanese and many other European and East Asian languages. Taught at an early age to read and write in English and later Persian, Aamer experimented with his writing styles until he published his first work at the age of 32 and picked up French and Italian languages in the meantime, significantly expanding his literary horizon. His more recent work has been in Urdu language where he published quite a few short stories that found their way on paper specifically because he attempted to write them in Urdu … they were stuck with…

DWL Karachi Meetup March 2015
Book Club Meetup / March 14, 2015

DWL MeetupPhoto Credit: Batool Curmally Karachi chapter of Desi Writers Lounge met at Liberty Books BBQ Tonight outlet on Friday, 13th March, to discuss Laurent Gayer’s book Karachi: Ordered Disorder and the Struggle for the City. With nearly a dozen people in attendance, it was a lively discussion on Karachi city for primarily two reasons: 1) Desi Writers Lounge had organized a public talk about the book with the author himself on 2nd March 2015 at T2F, allowing most members to not only recall it vividly but also connect the dots after reading the book. 2) The recent raid on Nine-Zero by Rangers made the discussion of the book even more illuminating, combining modern situation with historical facts and figures. DWL MeetupPhoto Credit: Batool Curmally With some new faces and several people already done reading the book, Farheen initiated the discussion with the question about author’s grasp on the city realities and how much of it he successfully explained through his book. Most agreed that the sheer level of fact-based research into the history of Karachi and how those realities affect its political situation in modern times is undeniably accurate. At no point does the author labels Karachi as a violent city but…

Conversation with Laurent Gayer
Author Meetup, Speaker Session / March 2, 2015

Laurent Gayer, author of Karachi: Ordered Disorder and the Struggle for the City, came to T2F for a session about Karachi city and its violence. The event was co-hosted by Desi Writers Lounge and T2F and moderator for the session was Sabin Agha, renowned journalist who has covered the difficult years of Karachi and currently works for the BBC. The session started at 7 pm and by then nearly 80% seats were occupied; soon additional chairs were required to for the latecomers. Farheen Zehra, Karachi representative of Desi Writers Lounge, made the introductions and Sabin continued the conversation from there. Most of the discussion centered around the content of the book itself, therefore much of the information can be gained by reading the book. The important points, however, are summed up as follows: – Up until the 1950s and 1960s, Pakistan had a strong student movement. Since Laurent experienced student movement himself in France, he was fascinated to know how they died in Pakistan … so much so that people don’t even know about the history of the leftist student groups that shook up governments and even brought them down on knees at occasions to fulfill demands. A whole chapter…

Book Launch – “Magic Within” by Manal Shakir
Book Launch / February 28, 2015

Manal Shakir with her debut novel “Magic Within” Liberty Books today hosted book launch of Manal Shakir’s debut novel, Magic Within. The event was planned out in the traditional manner with space for about 50 audience members and a moderator to set the direction for the launch. Farheen Zehra, Karachi representative of Desi Writers Lounge, played the role of moderator for the launch. The event started at 6:15 pm and after introductions the theme and story of the book came under discussion. Manal excitedly told about her inspiration for the story and how she missed Karachi when she moved to USA after marriage. The story took about 4 years to complete and it was a slow process where she took regular breaks, returning to the story and re-editing the draft as it progressed. It’s a story about Karachi (not named outright) and a circus, of family relations and marriages where the protagonists Adnan and Reena (husband and wife) live the way Karachittes do. Their stories, interspersed with the way a circus functions, have all the glitter and gold in front but darker realities behind the scenes … marriage that goes very, very wrong but doesn’t appear that way from outside….

In Conversation with Author Laurent Gayer
Author Meetup / February 27, 2015

Laurent Gayer, the author of the book Karachi: Ordered Disorder and the Struggle for the City, will be in conversation with Sabin Agha at The Second Floor (T2F) on 2nd of March, 2015. The event is being held in collaboration with Desi Writers Lounge. Some details about the event: Desi Writers’ Lounge and T2f cordially invite you to an evening with Laurent Gayer, author of Karachi: Ordered Disorder and the Struggle for the City. Laurent Gayer will be in conversation with Sabin Agha about urban violence in South Asia, how it affects the life of multiethnic communities in metro cities and how the new wave of terrorism is changing the nature and scope of urban violence. Laurent Gayer is a research fellow at the Centre national de la recherché scientifique (CNRS), currently posted to the Centre d’etudes et de recherché internationals (CERI- Sciences Po), Paris. His major publications include Armed Militias of South Asia:Fundamentalists, Maoists and Separatists, and Muslims in Indian Cities: Trajectories of Marginalisation. Sabin Agha is a journalist, documentary film producer and a media trainer. She has been a broadcast journalist for the past 14 years, covering the beats of politics and crime. As a freelance documentary film producer,…

Manal Shakir launching “Magic Within”
Upcoming / February 26, 2015

Manal Shakir is launching her book “Magic Within” on 28th February, 2015 at Liberty Books BBQ Tonight branch. Following is the invite on Liberty Book’s official Facebook page: