Noted poet and lyricist Gulzar pulled out of the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) on Wednesday after an ‘emotionally overwhelming’ visit to his ancestral house in Jhelum. The poet’s sudden return to India from Lahore on Wednesday morning triggered speculation about the reasons with television channels reporting that it was because of security considerations.
Given the way Pakistani hockey players and a theatre group were sent home from India, and a music concert in Mumbai featuring Ghulam Ali was cancelled in the wake of tensions across the Line of Control in January, Mr. Gulzar’s sudden decision to pack up and return was grist for the rumour mill.
The rumours included both Pakistani government and the Indian High Commission asking him to return to India due to security considerations following Afzal Guru’s execution.However, the High Commission denied issuing any advisory to Mr. Gulzar, maintaining that he was on a private visit and the mission was unaware of his itinerary.
Asif Noorani — who was to moderate the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) session ‘Conversations with Gulzar’ — told The Hindu that the lyricist became extremely emotional after visiting his house in Dina in Jhelum. Quoting Hasan Zia, a television film maker who was accompanying the lyricist, Mr. Noorani said: “He was happy when he visited his school but broke down on reaching his village and seeing his house. He started crying and wanted to return immediately to Lahore though a meal had been hosted for him and his entourage including film-maker Vishal Bhardwaj.”
Mr. Noorani added that efforts to make him change his mind in view of his engagement at KLF proved futile. “He said he was not in a frame of mind to go to Karachi and left in a hurry; leaving behind the books he had brought along to give away as gifts.”
The decision has come as a huge disappointment for the KLF organisers. In fact, Maktaba-e-Daniyal — a publishing house — had ordered a large print order of his poetry to complement his session at KLF beginning this Friday.
Mr. Gulzar was listed as the keynote speaker of this year’s edition of KLF and speculation about security concerns forcing him to leave have triggered apprehensions of more cancellations from the Indian contingent who include Shobha De and Ila Arun.Emotional reaction on re-visiting one’s birth- place is not uncommon among those who were uprooted by Partition.