Counter in Karachi how to lift

KARACHI: The second day of the fourth Sindh Literature Festival (SLF) began with the launch of a novel titled Manchar written by Manzoor Thaheem.

The event was moderated by Faheem Noonari, and apart from the author, journalist and novelist Syed Kashif Raza and journalist Waris Raza took part in the panel discussion on the book.

Syed Kashif Raza said the novel presents the case (muqaddima) of Manchar Lake. It's a well-thought-out piece of writing. Basically, it tells the tale of the lake in the span of 100 years with characters representing four generations of a family. The problems that the lake starts to face begin with the first character of the first generation, Manark. In his time the British were calling the shots. The English thekedar imposes exorbitant taxes on the fishermen around the lake. This is the starting point of the struggle.

Kashif Raza said Manark has a son named Sumar. After independence from British rule, it’s expected that the fishermen’s lives would improve. But even after partition, no positive change occurs in their lives. Another aspect in the story is of the Hindu-Muslim relationship before independence. The author has shown his Hindu characters neither positive nor negative. There was no problem on the basis of religion [before the divide]. There’s religious harmony (hum ahangi) in Sindh. So the thing that was positive earlier is, too, moving towards negativity. The condition goes from bad to worse when the next two generations (Sumar’s son and grandson) come.

Novel titled Manchar launched at Sindh Literature Festival

He said the situation destroys the ecosystem of the region. "Ecosystem isn't just to do with the environment. People also have a part to play in it. " As the story moves along, the fishermen get displaced, so much so that one of them comes to Ibrahim Hyderi [in Karachi] to do the same job but faces a new set of issues.

Waris Raza started off by quoting Karl Marx with reference to the novel that those [nations, people or region] who move away from nature get destroyed.

He said we read and write on issues but the administrative aspect of it relates to the government and institutions that are entrusted with the duty of preserving heritage and the environment. It is the writers ’and poets’ job to identify a problem and express their views about it. The next step is the administrative one where we are helpless.

Mr Raza lauded the author for his courage to point out a social problem. However, he posed the question that whether raising an issue proves helpful in resolving it.

The author of the novel, Manzoor Thaheem, said he has seen the good and bad times that Manchar Lake had to go through. As a writer, he felt both phases with a great deal of intensity. He clarified some people’s assertion that his is a regional book. "Lakes, rivers, oceans and human beings can't be regional." He argued that the lake represents the circle of life. It was also the hub for migratory birds, so it can't be regional.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2021