Hassan Tahir Latif
Congratulations dear reader! We have finally escaped the jaws of January and the drudgery it entailed. The month felt like a decade, and I for one breathed a sigh of relief when it ended.
Lahore, it seems, has been shaken awake from the stupor of the past few months; perhaps when the annual fog (or smog) rolls in, it casts an effective spell over the city, enveloping it in an embrace of revelry, festivities and a suspension of all sense of time.
For about three months the city functions as one big party, the revellers often reminding me of the Lotus Eaters of Greek myths. The clock strikes twelve at the end of the month and the curse is finally lifted — normal life can resume. Now let us rejoice in the promise of the fleeting spring that follows February.
Springtime in Lahore might not have as long a lease as it once used to, but the city has been hard at work whilst we were asleep. A plethora of events are being held across town, from the second Lahore Biennale, to the fifth Lahore Music Meet, to Auratnaak, the Lahore Literary Festival and a multitude of smaller art exhibits, workshops, panel discussions and book launches. It delights me to see all this art and literature being celebrated and not just by the usual suspects. Magical pockets of creativity are emerging around town and spring is breathing further life into them. A new crop of young talent with a fresher, more progressive perspective on the world is gradually laying claim to the joie de vivre that is quintessentially Lahore.
One standout moment thus far has to be the screening of Shehr-e-Tabassum’at the LMM5. In eight minutes we were led along a nerve-wrecking journey from the point of view of a character living in 2071 dystopian Pakistan, where smiling is the only expression allowed. Strong visuals (hand drawn illustrations), a compelling storyline and phenomenal sound effects gripped me till the very end. The high-tech reimagining of a Pakistani city was wonderful to behold, since science fiction is often relegated to more developed parts of the world.
Pondering later over the almost Orwellian subject matter of the short animated film, I wondered if that is the future we are headed towards — or in fact, if that is not the world we are already living in. Pakistan seems to be headed towards some form of upheaval, with increased backlash by progressive elements of society against the incessant nannying by the powers that be. All I can hope is that we are heading towards a more tolerant, pluralistic society. Thinkers, such as those behind the short film, are required now more than ever.
With spring’s annual sojourns cut shorter and shorter every time around due to imminent climate change, I wonder what will happen to the almost symbiotic relationship of the season with brief moments of exuberant celebration. Will they disappear along with the season? Or will they continue to resist and find firm footing as a beacon of hope?
For a moment in time, I am transported to the carefree spring days of my childhood, when flowers bloomed aplenty, kites covered every inch of open sky and happiness did not seem policed. Maybe there is hope yet.