By: Muhammad Hammad Bilal and Heer Cheema
In the discerning words of Mr. H.M Naqvi: “Cities are not wrought from just brick and mortar, but are informed by stories”. This idea underscores the crux of the “Rendering the Metropolis on the Page” talk that took place on 2nd October 2018. The session was as much a thought- provoking look at literature that defines cities, which in turn define literature, as it was a genial discussion between two literary enthusiasts. Mr. Bilal Tanweer and Mr. H.M Naqvi’s rapport lent itself to transforming A-10 into a receptive hub of ideas.
Comfortably seated, books in hand, Mr. Tanweer, Assistant Professor of Literature at LUMS, and Mr. Naqvi, award-winning author and Visiting Professor at HSS, treated the audience to readings from their works: “Love in Chakiwara and (Other Misadventures)” and “The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack”. They take an inquisitive and considered perspective on South Asian literature, and crucially, pose questions around how characters in stories can affect our perception of the real world. Mr. Tanweer’s light satire was neatly contrasted by Mr. Naqvi’s deadpan sense of humour, both eliciting a number of laughs and applause. Naqvi’s Abdullah is in despair, leading a “fallow existence” in a Karachi that has a “meager sense of self” – this link is not a coincidence. Neither is Mr. Bilal Tanweer’s use of Karachi as a setting in his debut novel, “The Scatter Here Is Too Great”.
These true observers confront the realities of their city: the slums, the dilapidation, the history, the winter, the heat, and the myriad forms and deformities of nature. In their distinct way each of them creates a portrait of their city, weaving an elaborate mixture of lives into the surrounding landscape. One does so through the lens of an assortment of fictional characters, the other by gathering stories of lived experiences. The latter, Mr. Naqvi, takes inspiration from numerous sources, be they historical texts or mere interactions with children playing on the street. In this sense we all have a story to tell.
This idea imbues our words with a sense of empowerment and responsibility, which in LUMS, affects writers, professors and students alike in their ability to inform each other’s realities. Mr. Naqvi’s references to Whitman’s New York, Dickens’ London or what we could now refer to as Mr. Tanweer’s or Mr. Naqvi’s Karachi, serve only to emphasize this bond. Stories and places are inextricably linked in the way that they define us, and each other. This symbiotic relationship between the person and the world they inhabit is, therefore, especially important in the context of shared spaces – be it Lahore or LUMS.