KARACHI: The allure of journey by train has its roots in literature; the setting has its own charm and mystique that lends well to development of stories.
The Second Floor (T2F) opened its doors for literati to experience some of the well-known fiction revolving around train journeys. ‘Rail Kahani’ took the audience on a ride of the pre-partition to present day Pakistan using stories as a navigational device. The event, which was organised by Zambeel Dramatic Readings, was held over the weekend.
“Since its beginnings, the railway network traversing the Subcontinent has carried millions of people from one place to another, generating narratives in both the personal and collective imagination,” read the event’s press statement.
The themes of nation building, memory, myth, superstition, human interaction and societal perceptions were brought out with much craft by the performers which included Mahvash Faruqi, Saife Hasan, Asma Mundrawala and Fawad Khan.
The event started with a narration of Katta Hua Dabba [Isolated Bogie] by Intizar Hussain. Read out by Hasan and Khan, the story is about an uneventful evening when two friends share their travel stories.
Another story, Dhoka by Mubashir Ali Zaidi, revolves around the thoughts of a man who recounts how he waved at a woman during one of his journeys but the woman did not recognise him. The abrupt meeting ends in disarray with two locomotives moving away from each other. The impact of Khan’s narration of the protagonist’s monologue stayed with the audience till the end.
Another story by Hussain, titled Reserved Seat, revolved around Bari Bhau who dreamt about dead people from her own past. However, her dream turns into a nightmare with her young grandson dying in the shooting incident. Mundrawala and Faruqi narrated this classic tale in depth, with somber feedback from the crowd. Faruqi’s facial expressions while narrating the incidents of dreams lent great credibility to the tale.
Mudrawala and Faruqi again besieged the audience with their narration of Ismat Chugtai’s Aik Shauhar ki Khatir [All for a Husband]. The story is about the incidents which occur in women compartment of train revealing perceptions about women in pre-partition Subcontinent. Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi’s Thal was also narrated during the event. Beautifully written and eloquently retold, the T2F audience was abuzz with the young and old alike for these narrations.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2016.