The Gurmani Centre for Languages and Literature, in its efforts to preserve and promote South Asian literature and culture, has taken on the endeavor of bringing art to LUMS. For this purpose, this semester (Fall 2018) was packed with various events, all of which celebrated and explored a different form of art. Halqa-e-Danish, a series of weekly sessions/seminars conducted to celebrate a particular theme in Pakistani culture, organised two phenomenal events this term.
Considering the theme in focus, ‘Maestros of Raag’, there was perhaps no one better suited than the sensational Madam Farida Khanum and Ali Sethi, two pioneering voices of two different generations, to come and speak about music at LUMS. On October 4, the audience not only learnt a great deal about the various stages of Farida Khanum’s singing career, but also had the fortune of experiencing her live performance. With two maestros of raag on stage, the evening was certainly one that we will remember. The following week, on October 12, Javed and Babar Niazi were invited to perform at LUMS. With hits such as “Kheryan de nal” and “Lai beqadran nal yari,” this world-renowned duo paid tribute to their father and mentor, the icon Tufail Niazi.
Apart from music, particular focus was devoted to the art of photography. The various colors of Napier Street were explored in an exhibition and discussion conducted by Arif Mahmood, who has been photographing Napier Street in Karachi since 2006 and has over 27 publications to his credit. These photographs show us what Napier Street is now—faded, gritty, mundane—but at the same time they reflect what is not necessarily visible, what Napier Street was—a place of dreams. The Gurmani Centre further plans on introducing weekly photography workshops for students who take an interest in the art. These workshops will be conducted by Dr. Lukas Albert Werth, Associate Professor of Anthropology at LUMS.
Literary prose is another element of literature and culture which the Centre has been keen on discussing. Professor Bilal Tanweer, novelist and Co-Director of the Gurmani Centre, along with Professor H.M. Naqvi, author of Home Boy and winner of the inaugural DSC Prize for South Asian literature, read from their books. Bilal Tanweer read from Love in Chakiwara and Other Misadventures—an Urdu classic from Muhammad Khalid Akhtar that he translated into English. H.M. Naqvi recited excerpts from his forthcoming novel, The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack. Another such book reading took place as Mustansar Hussain Tarar recited excerpts from his new book, Lenin for Sale, translated into English by Durdana Soomro.
For the series titled Ahmad Bilal Awan Bazm e Adab—designed as an academic and literary sitting with prominent scholars and re-named after the sad passing away of the Gurmani Centre Assistant Professor Ahmad Bilal Awan— the Gurmani Centre invited several scholars who spoke on literary issues. Dr. Saadat Saeed, professor of Urdu language and literature at Government College University, Lahore, was invited for a talk. A well-known poet, critic, researcher, and educationist, Dr. Saeed spoke about elements of resistance evident in Urdu poetry, anchoring his talk on the works of Mir and Ghalib. Award-winning dramatist Dr. Asghar Nadeem Syed was also invited to speak on similar themes. He discussed works such as Imtiaz Ali Taj’s Anarkali, Agha Nasir’s translation of Galileo, and a few of his own works. Both sessions were followed by questions from inquisitive students as well as professors.
The semester also featured the publication of the latest issue of Bunyad (Volume 9, 2018), the flagship journal of Urdu studies published by the Gurmani Centre. Recognised in category ‘Y’ by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan, this issue of the journal, comprised 399 pages and featured 18 articles by Muhammad Akram Chaghatai, Najeeba Arif, Sajid Siddique Nizami, Rauf Paresh, Tariq Mehmood Hashmi, Zaheer Abbas, Ismat Durrani, Khadim Hussain Rai, Muhammad Arshad, Muhammad Salman Riaz, Rafaqat Ali Shahid, Zahid Hussain, Zaheer Hassan Wattoo, Saadat Saeed, Muhammad Asif, and Muhammad Rasheed Ashraf. It was edited by Dr. Moeen Nizami with Zeeshan Danish as its Managing Editor.