hello hello! I WILL WRITE THIS ENTIRE POST TODAY. I WILL DO IT. I CAN DO IT.
What you see above is the program. The events with red lines are the ones I attended.
I will label them all, and then I will move on to writing a bit about each.
Firstly, this year's KLF was not as good as last year's KLF for example, or the one before that. I think this is probably because this year we didn't have Hamid or Hanif or Shamsie (KS!) talk about their new/upcoming books waghaira (though yes, Hanif did talk about Alice Bhatti but it's already been released) so I guess that reduced for me the hype/excitement factor. Other than that, some of this year's moderators were downright TERRIBLE. More on that later, but I will testify to this: IT IS POSSIBLE TO RUIN AN EVENT EVEN WITH THE MOST AMAZING OF PANELS/AUTHOR(S) WITH A BAD MODERATOR. NOW I KNOW AND NOW I HOPE AMEENA KNOWS TOO.
Ameena, though. I love Ameena. She's awesome. KLF is awesome. I'm just sad that the moderators had to ruin entire sessions.
However, KLF this year did have its highlights. I think the best session was the last one I went to! Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy yaar...just...what can I say? She's as awesome and cool as I thought she'd be.
A close second would be the second-last session i.e. Mediaspeak: How the Media Talks to Us with Mujahid Barelvi, Shaheen Salahuddin, Jasmeen Manzoor, Kamran Shahid and with Ayesha Siddiqa as Moderator. Can I just say that Ayesha Siddiqa kicks ass? Because she totally does.
The worst session was undoubtedly the Vikram Seth session which was moderated by possibly the worst moderator I have ever seen (and hopefully the worst I will ever see), Shaista Sirajuddin.
The second worst session was Women Writing Women. It was bad because...it lacked direction, really. I guess it's bad moderating again. I came to this session because I wanted something interesting and all I got were really dumb questions. It was just unappetizing and rather basic.
Now, onto the breakdown!
Session 1: Manto and Partition Stories Ayesha Jalal Moderator: M R Kazimi
Ah! Orange is a nice change, no? Anyway, Manto! Well, I don't know much about Manto which is why I went to this session. Ayesha Jalal I believe read from her book and showed us some pictures of Manto and of Bombay and of people he knew. I didn't know that he knew a lot of people from Bollywood e.g. Ashok Kumar, or that he worked with All India Radio or that he reluctantly accepted Pakistan. I didn't know about his love for Bombay. I think that the session from the point of view of someone who has only read probably two (translated) works of Manto it was a pretty good session.
I wish I had more of Manto's translated work. It's really quite interesting and I like his choice of subject matter and his style and everything, really.
There's this voice in my head (probably my mother's) saying Read Manto in Urdu! but I can't. Urdu is...and I'm not just being burger here, but just another language for me. I do speak it, but I don't speak good urdu. I don't particularly like urdu because all I've ever got from teachers is moralizing b.s. and so from day one I've essentially felt urdu to be a language in which I can't be open or free. I guess Manto broke that mould. But to see how he broke it, and to see it in urdu, is hard for me. I will constantly be translating it anyway.
ANYHOW digression aside, interesting session. Made me want to buy the book.
Session 2: Women Writing Women: A Conversation with Maniza Naqvi, Bina Shah, Nafisa Haji. Moderator: Marilyn Wyatt.
Question! Who made Marilyn the moderator? Is it because she has a degree in comparative literature? Is it to appease the US consulate which co-sponsored the event? Whatever the reason, it was just a bad moderation. I wish she'd have opened it up wider than just the Oh you're a woman and you write and Oh you're a Pakistani Woman and you write (seriously?) to I don't know, a slightly more sophisticated dialogue? A discourse? Why wasn't Muneeza Shamsie moderating this? Muneeza Shamsie is awesome and she knows more than just to ask gora people type questions. The panel didn't gel very well and it was just kinda awkward. A saving grace was perhaps Marilyn's haircut which is quite cool. And so is her degree. But please yaar. Don't moderate unless you can.
Session 3: A Conversation with Anatol Lieven Moderators: Ayesha Siddiqa, Ghazi Salahuddin, Mohsin Hamid
You guys, I've decided that after Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and of course and forever, KS, I want to bestfriendship with Ayesha Siddiqa.
You see, I went in not really knowing who Anatol Lieven is. Anyhow, in a few minutes I found out that he's written a book called Pakistan: A Hard Country most recently in which he says Pakistan is not a failed state. Anyhow, so he talked about his book for a bit and about how The West (I capitalize ironically) sees/perceives Pakistan and about how it really is, blah blah blah. I thought this was cute. Of course I also didn't really care about his book because honestly mere kya matlab ki kitab hai? It doesn't matter to me if Pakistan is hard or soft in the context what some random journalist thinks. Anyway, so then when he's done Ayesha Siddiqa asks him three questions. And with these three questions she basically (and there is no other way to say this) tears him a new one. I don't remember the exact questions she asked him. When the video is up, go see it. She made him trip on his own words and get on the defensive. It was just...wow. I liked that she didn't take b.s. and that she actually asked him why he was for example pro-military sounding and why he used the word 'liberal' in a derogatory manner. And his answers, to say the least, were unsatisfactory.
Anyhow, after Ayesha the other two moderators put questions to him and I suppose Hamid was amused and trying to be nice after the debacle.
Session 4: Indus Journeys: A Conversation with William Dalrymple Moderator: Kamila Shamsie
Kamila Shamsie is a good moderator because she is awesome and knows what to touch on. Also, she is charming and funny! She knows that the audience prefers entertainment to dull academic talk*. This was lost on some moderators (cough Shaista cough).
Again, I don't know William Darlymple's work. But he's cute, a good reader, and a good writer (though not necessarily in that order if you're ranking merit!). A lot of people were like OMGOMOMG about him and now I get it because, well, he read out from some of his work and he talked about his work and I really liked the way he's so very focused in the way he writes.
Session 5: Miracle Man Book Launch and Conversation with Mohammed Hanif, Author of Our Lady of Alice Bhatti Moderator: Bina Shah
Before ending up at Miracle Man which I'm not sure about with regard to whether it's been released or not, I attended about five minutes of Today’s Pakistan: An Economic and Political Perspective Asad Sayeed, Ishrat Husain , Anatol Lieven, Maleeha Lodhi Moderator: Ghazi Salahuddin I left because it sounded just like every single talk on Pakistani economics ever! Anyway, I ended up getting to the Hanif event late and I missed the reading from Miracle Man. The rest of the event was pretty much like his event at T2F last year when Alice Bhatti was launched. Sad because Hanif can be so, so entertaining.
Session 5: Afghanistan and Pakistan: Conflict, Extremism & the Taliban Ahmed Rashid, William Dalrymple, Navid Kermani, Maleeha Lodhi Moderator: Rasul Bakhsh Rais
I don't remember much of this, to be honest.
It just occured to me that perhaps another reason KLF wasn't as great this year was because I had such few WOW I'VE NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT! moments this time around. The talks weren't as interesting as last time.
Hm. So yes, yesterday was not the best of KLF days. But today was much better! I will write about today tomorrow because honestly I AM ABOUT TO WIPE OUT and I have, funnily enough, general homework. Seriously. My sir clearly does not know anything about priorities because he should give anyone who bothers to go to KLF full marks. Did you know I saw a grand total of three people from my school at KLF? True story. I did see many lyceumites though. Maybe one of these days I'll be at lyceum going all I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school... I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy... except they'll be all like She doesn't even go here! You know? Does anyone know how I feel? I think I'm going into today's Vikram Seth zone again which I'd rather never go into again. Yaar yaar.
* And honestly, I speak this as a literature lover+student. Why would you want to turn a conversation into an academic paper? If you want to do it, do it in private and write a paper. Don't do it in front of a few hundred people who are there to enjoy.