A child asks his father why the darkness encircles him. He asks for guidance as he has lost his path. The frightened child says: "Father, I can't sleep well."
As Zafar Shehzad Zafari recited a child's unease, he left an entire room full of poets speechless. "This is the pain of Lyari and its people," he explained. "They think about it all the time."
The continuous bloodshed and unrest in Lyari has forced its literati to think like a child. It gets their brains working and their pens writing. They can't help but write when people in other parts of the city or country experience the violence that they have been going through for the last six years.
The audience gathered around Zafari requested him to recite his Balochi ghazal, Tu mani halla just kane che kane [What will you do by asking me how I am doing].
Zafari is in his 40s and has a great command over Urdu and Balochi. As he sat with other poets and short story writers at an event organised by Shahjahan Lovers Society at Noorani Hall, Nawa Lane, on Thursday, he held his most treasured possession in his hands - a diary. It was full of his poems which he recited one by one. He looked up at his audience, pushed his spectacles back with a finger and asked: "When will this tyranny come to an end."
According to Shaif Hussain, a short story writer, some people carry on with their trade despite the fear. "A layman doesn't say anything. It doesn't matter what the oppressor is doing, he will say nothing," he said before sharing a short story he had written with the audience on war and peace.
The story was about two women - War and Peace. Both beautiful and full of spirit but their eyes told a different tale.
The unrest, according to poet Mussawar Ali, doesn't start or end in Lyari. "It is the failure of the entire system. We, poets and writers, are very sensitive," he said. "It hurts us when others are in pain and when the innocent are suffering."
Suno ke roshnyon ka sheher bohat tareek hai [Listen, the city of lights is very dark], recited the poet.
The hall echoed with praise as he kept on reciting, mujh ko aisa Lyari nahin chahiye jis mein jungle ka qanoon chalta rahe [I don't want a Lyari where the law of the jungle prevails].
Saqib Hussain, a shy young poet, believes that if everyone starts thinking like poets then there would be no unrest anywhere in the world. "I am living in a city without peace," he said. "The rule of law won't be restored till the state enforces it with honesty."
"It is also our identity," said Mussawar as poets and writers shared their work in Urdu, Balochi and Sindhi. "Literary gatherings used to take place in Lyari quite regularly even before the 'gangsters' came to power."
Haji Nasim, a writer, suggested that the youth needed to read history and explore what had happened to other nations in the past.
"History creates awareness in a man," he said. "There won't be any peace till the belly is empty."
Poet Tasawar Ali read aloud from his diary as well. His poem criticised rulers who he claimed were always asleep while the thieves were always awake. He believes that someone has stolen the peace from Karachi and replaced it with fear and loathing. "Who wants peace?" he asked. "Everyone loves it except for a few. Let us hope for a better tomorrow. Let us hope for a little bit of happiness."
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2014.
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