City Notebook – Dramatic Readings at Bedil Library

You get to see certain type of people at certain type of events in Karachi. You start to recognize them as you frequent events happening across the city. The people at Dramatic Readings are distinct in their outlook. They are there to listen to Urdu Short Stories. But they are not serious Urdu readers and you won’t find them at Urdu Conference. They have discovered Manto and Ismat Chughtai and realizing that there is more to Yousfi than plain humor. Their first choice might be Jane Austen or Alice Munro but they regret not knowing Qurratulain Hyder better.

Karachi Public Library Project organized a dramatic reading by Zambeel at Bedal Library. The event also featured screening of a short film by Madiha Aijaz. Bedal Library is situated on 2nd floor of a community hall near Char Minar roundabout in Bahadurabad. I found Munaza Gulzar, co-founder of Karachi Public Library Project at the entrance of the hall where session was to be conducted. We had customary formalities. She has been working to revive Public Library spaces to play a greater role in social engagement. They have been conducting similar sessions around the city and the response has been encouraging.

The session was opened by a young lady who was reading scripted intro from her cell phone, possibly in roman Urdu. She got stuck at few occasions and pronounced few words incorrectly, most awkward moment at which she got stuck at pronouncing Asma Mundrawala’s name. This however is not a bad sign. While the schooling system in Karachi has ensured that children get their English right, it has been left to parents and individuals themselves to learn Urdu. It is great not only to see them trying but investing time in facilitating others.

Zambeel Dramatics has played a pivotal role in reviving interest in Urdu short stories in the city. I remember seeing them back in 2011 when they had only started. They were good. They are great now. Zambeel chose four comic short stories by writers like Ismat Chugtai, Ibn-Insha etc. The audience were there on Zambeel’s appeal and they were not disappointed.

Madiha Aijaz’s short film is celebration of Librarians and other staff who have saved these institutions from disappearing from Karachi’s social scene. Its a fantastic documentation of people and settings which already appear to be from a bygone era.

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Categories: City Notebook

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