LAHORE-Like all international festivals it was fun and a happening place. Held in the premises of Lahore Arts Council on The Mall the whole place gave the look of a true cultural festival – Faiz International Festival. However, inside the Alhamra Halls and Adabi Baithak serious discussions about the current socio-political scenario were held with literati brainstorming on various issues in very interactive sessions with the audiences. 

Three-day festival which concluded on Sunday was a reminder to our social fabric which has disrupted and raged due to extremist mindset in recent years that all is not lost and there are plenty of strengths and hopes on which we can lead this nation to new heights.

On concluding day there were 27 sessions for visitors. People from all walks of life visited the festival where there were books stalls set up by leading book publishers including Readings, Nigharishat, Sang-e-Meel and Oxford University Press. Staff at Caravan Books stall told The Nation Faiz poetry collection ‘Nuska Haye Wafa’ was the most popular among public and one of the bestselling books of all times. 

Despite all the arrangements the parking mafia reached the Alhamra, The Mall even the official parking contractor LePARK overcharged. They charged Rs 20 for bikes and Rs 50 for cars despite official rates of Rs 10 and Rs 30 respectively.  

In a session ‘Baday Noh Bahaar’, Tanya Wells a UK based performer received huge applause by reciting Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s famous poetry ‘Gulon mein rang bhare, baad-e-naubahaar chale’. There was also a music performance by Tina Sani moderated by the Adeel Hashmi. 

The outdoor activities were also equal source of attraction for the visitors as sessions were. A play performed by Lok Virsa titled ‘Jag vasda Aey Mein vi Wasa’ received applause by the people. Another theatre play Diva Mandri by Sangat Production was also staged.

Raza Rocky, 21, a guitarist who was performing in the sidelines of the festival said he was glad to see such a huge crowd here at Alhamra. “Thorough this festival I am able to show my talent to other people,” he said.

Afza Ashfaq, student of Bachelors of Arts said she was a huge fan of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and she had attended many sessions, which provided a platform to continue the discourse on which Faiz fought throughout his life.

Bhupinder Singh, real estate businessmen, who came to Pakistan from United Kingdom on trip arranged by Potohar Association UK said it was amazing to see and meet people from different walks of life at Faiz Festival. “Luckily my hotel is near Lahore Arts Council and I found the festival venue by this following the sounds of songs. I have not read so much about Faiz but now I know a lot about his life and works,” Bhupinder said. 

Dr Kanwal Feroz, recipient of Pride of Performance Award, said Faiz gave a message to continue your struggle for a prosperous time which can only be achieved passing from a pathway full of thorns.  “My all time all time favorite poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, “Moqaam Faiz koi raah mien jacha hee nahi, jo koy-e-yaar se nikle tou soy-e-daar chalay”.

Mohammad Tahseen, Executive Director of South Asia Partnership, said through these kinds of festivals we come to know there is much hope left in our society on which we can lead towards a better Pakistan. “I am very happy that there is a debate going on about the future of Pakistan in which people from different age groups are participating. I think this is very encouraging,” he said.

A photographic exhibition ‘Koi Tasveer Gati Rahi Raat Bhar’ showcased different pictures of Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Mesmerised recitations from Rumi and Mian Mir poetry arranged by Hast-o-Neest also received huge applause.

The festival had sessions on many languages including Persian and Punjabi.  Session ‘Akhiye Bismillah’ Mushtaaq Soofi, Arif Lohar, Bahar Begum and Zafar Iqbal as panellists. The session was moderated by Dr Sughra Sadaf.  

There was a food court in which Kashmiri tea for Rs 100 per cup was the main attraction as the weather remained cold and dry during the three day festival. Despite this people were seen bargaining on the cost of Kashmiri tea. Dahi Bhally plate for Rs 70 sold like hot cakes. From Gilgit Baltistan a group had brought organic food that included dried fruit and other food items. People took keen interest in this stall. Other food items being sold included burgers, shwarma and the usual desi food that is seen in melas of rural areas. While the musicians continued to walk all over the venue to wow the people with their beautiful tunes on guitars and other music instruments.