In this snapshot from last year's festival crowds are seen mingling at the Alhamra
In this snapshot from last year's festival crowds are seen mingling at the Alhamra

Yep, it's that time of the year now — Lahore Literary Festival time!

LLF, which was meant to begin on Friday instead kicks off today; Shortened from a three-day fest to a two-day event, it is now being held at Avari Hotel.

We give you the lowdown in real time on who showed up, who ate what, who wore what (come on, it's Lahore!) and which ideas/sessions we were most inspired by.

9.30pm: Twitter spells out the verdict on Day 1:

Some gave an encouraging thumbs-up:

A few thought they missed out:

Others couldn't get over how cramped it got:


8.pm: Credit due to LLF organisers for arranging a last-minute venue substitute, but visitors, who have turned up by the droves, suffer:


6.15pm: No surprises here - Zia Mohyeddin's session leaves no seats empty.

Looks like management messed up a bit here:

Still, the session was a hit:


5:25: One of the more anticipated sessions 'Friends, Not Masters? Addressing the post-Obama U.S.-Pakistan equation' kicks off.

Steven Coll, the dean of Columbia Journalism School says what we've all been thinking: "Donald Trump will not be the next President of the USA. His record is one of opportunism."

"We need to dial down our America fetish, which means lower expectations," states Sherry Rehman mincing no words.

5:18: Now happening — 'Satire as Self-Defense' featuring Ashok Ferrey, Mohammed Hanif and Ned Beauman with Rachel Holmes. And it's a popular one!

"You've got to be punching something that can punch back for it to be satire" shares Ned Beauman.

5:10pm: Uh oh, the fashion police has also arrived!

5:00pm: 'Feminism and Global Politics' wraps up in roaring applause and a standing ovation.

4:45pm: Poet Raja Sadiqullah had a bone to pick and understandably so!

"After the exclusion of Punjabi sessions, LLF may as well stand for London Lucknow Festival."

4.30pm: Revelations from 'Feminism and Global Politics':

"Our key to freedom being women of colour is to fight everyday -isms: sexism, racism,, homophobia and more," said Mona Eltahawy

"Every man here should call himself a feminist. You should be feminist. What's wrong with wanting a better, equal society," asks Anita Anand.


4.15pm: In 'Future of the Metropolis', Kamila Shamsie asks "What does ancient history of the city add to the present day?"

"It's the difference between a person who has a memory and someone who doesn't," answers Ahdaf Sodief.


4.05pm: "Before I begin, f--- the patriarchy": Mona Eltahawy sets the tone for 'Feminism and Global Politics'


3.55pm: 'Feminism and Global Politics' seems to be the hottest session of the hour.

People lining up for the session on feminism and global politics #LLF2016

A photo posted by IMAGES (@dawn_images) on

A view from the podium:

Lifetime achievement honour awarded before the start of the session:


3.45pm: Key learnings from from 'We Can Be Heroes':


3.35pm: Mona Eltahawy in 'The Arab Spring' leaves audience entranced:


3.20pm: Session on Urdu nazm commences

"The ghazal has its limitations but nazm gives more liberty to a poet," says Zehra Nigah

Session on #Urdu maza commences! #LLF2016 #happeningnow

A photo posted by IMAGES (@dawn_images) on


3.pm: Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy is at LLF to talk about "feminism, gender equality and sexual revolution":


2.35pm: LLF's got a proud supporter in Tapu Javeri!

@tapujaveri won't compare #khilf & #llf - he loves both!

A video posted by IMAGES (@dawn_images) on


2.10pm: Historian Nancy Dupree reflects on regional politics:


2.15pm: Some astute observations being made about the presence of George Orwell's son Richard Blair at LLF:


1.45pm: Quotes from 'Aag Ka Durya: Partition's River of Fire':

""Freedom of society depends on freedom of an individual. If an individual is free, society is free.": Arfa Syeda Zehra

"Quratulain Hyder was not anti-Pakistan": Ameena Saiyed

"Pakistani society didn't forgive Quratulain Hyder for being an indepedennt woman, that's why she had to leave the country": Asif Farrukhi


1.30pm: Richard Blair's highly awaited session 'Life With My Father, George Orwell' begins on an "Orwellian afternoon".

Richard Blair in conversation with Navid Shehzad in 'Life with my father, George Orwell' #LLF2016

A photo posted by IMAGES (@dawn_images) on

"It's a very Orwellian afternoon because the people and the government are at war with each other," begins moderator Navid Shehzad.

Richard Blair on his father: "I was an adopted son and he died when I was just five-and-a-half years old.. I grew up with his fame. I've always hidden behind the edifice of Eric Arthur Blair,"

He continues, "He had a dilemma. He was a very hands-on father, but had to keep his distance because he was suffering from tuberculosis."

"But we did things together. In the day, he typed away at his typewriter but at nighttime, we'd go fishing!"

"He almost died in the middle of writing 1984," Blair reveals.

"He was an old-fashioned socialist. He wanted to tell people, 'Look, you're being lied to.' He lost a lot of his notes to the KGB. And his notes are still in Moscow. He said history is always written by the victors because no one believe the losers."

"I've not known of any other writer who has been so prophetic. We sometimes feel we live in a world that has been dreamed of by Orwell": M. Hanif wraps up Orwell's significance


1.15pm: Grumbles heard about no free water and no open WiFi!

They're festival essentials, really.

Other complaints include the presence of non-literary types:


1.pm: It's chowtime!

Lunch break is officially on! This is the coffee queue! #yikes #LLF2016

A photo posted by IMAGES (@dawn_images) on

It's chow time! #LLF2016

A photo posted by IMAGES (@dawn_images) on


12.30pm: Some musings from the foreign delegates

Scottish author/poet Ian Stephens has good things to say about LLF:


12:15pm: Ponderings on the state of qawwali today at 'Festivity of Soul: The Tradition of Qav'vali'

The qawwali we listen to today can't be certainly said to be the same as introduced by Amir Khusro": Dr Hasan Aziz

"This generation is aware of qawaali thanks to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and I'd like to pay tribute to Coke Studio that has young fans: Dr Hasan

"When qawwali began, there was no need for NOCs for it to be played: Dr Arfa Syeda Zehra

"In Sufism, language has no barriers. Hindus wrote for Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) and Muslims for Sikhs": Zehra Nigah

"Mullah ka khuda sirf darata hai, qawwal ka khuda sirf mohabbat karta hai": Dr Arfa

This is yet another houseful session, folks!


12.10pm: Bureaucrat Kamran Lashari tut-tuts at the government


12.05pm: Someone's raised a good point!


11:50am: More gems from M. Hanif:

And he's had enough:


11.40am: Writers getting busy at the Liberty Books stall - do visit!


11.25am: Quotable quotes from the session 'From Mazaar to Madrassa'

"Madressas insisted in preserving Islamic identity in a colonised state. And had all sorts of problems with the British government": I.A.Rehman

"The acceptance of the diversity of Islam has disappeared": I.A.Rehman

"US think tanks are engaged in the understanding of the language of Sufism": Farzana Shaikh

"Jinnah was the first to realise the problems Pakistan was going to face if it stuck to its Islamic identity, hence his August 11 speech: I.A.Rehman

This seems like a session for the most ardent of history and politics buffs. Skip if you think it's too early in the morning for this!


11.15am: Mohammed Hanif says it like it is in 'Whose Narrative Is It Anyway'.

He kicks off the conversation with a jab at the government:

"The best government that Pakistan has ever had has basically said that we can not provide you security... on Fridays...but perhaps we can give it to you on Saturday and Sunday? But definitely not in a free public space like Al-Hamra." Peals of laughter follow!

What a way to start! Moderator Claire Armstead had to say: "Now you know why he's drawn to satire!"

The discussion continues:


11.05am: "We are here not to mourn Intizar Husain's death, but to celebrate his work": Tribute session to Intizar Husain kicks off.

"There should be a memorial of Intizar sahab in Lahore, as the city is incomplete without him," offered Asif Farrukhi.

"I have known Intizar Husain for 50 years. I first met him when he was the editor of Adab-e-Latif and I was in university," recalled Kishwar Naheed.


11.am: Celebs come trickling in for the second session of the day.

Saadan Peerzada comments on LLF's change of venue:

Saadan Peerzada comments on the change of venue #LLF2016

A video posted by IMAGES (@dawn_images) on

And Salima Hashmi gets mobbed for a quick soundbyte:


10.55am: Time's up but Sharmila Tagore's keynote session still going strong!

Tagore touches on being a working woman: "It's a myth that marriage and family end your career and I've proved it. I made some amazing films post marriage and kids."


10.35am: Meanwhile, some take a stroll through the Avari gardens...

...and grumble about no breakfast!

Overheard: They've started so darn early, yaar. I haven't had anything to eat!

Hang on, peeps. The hotel's setting up their garden buffet! Kill time at the book stalls or take the kids to the swings in the meantime:


10.20am: Tapu Javeri in the house, looking forward to some cool pictures!


10.10am: Quotes from Sharmila Tagore

"My early life was peaceful and lovely as I grew up in a joint family. There was diversity and coexistence and love at that time that I don't see anymore."

She talks of Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray: "Ray was a stickler for details. I was just 13 when I debuted in his film."

"There was a lot of commotion when I wore a bikini in the early 60s in Evening in Paris and shot the Filmfare cover in a two-piece. I got a lot of flak for it. I was trying to understand the city I was new to."


10.am: As Sharmila's session begins with a video, people find things to tweet about:


9.45am: Here's Sharmila!

A short video of #SharmilaTagore's journey plays onscreen #LLF2016 #happeningnow

A photo posted by IMAGES (@dawn_images) on

What a crowd!


9.35am: As the session is about to kick off, people fume about the rain last night


9.30am: Have you got to the litfest?

Turns out you can get there in just Rs200! If you're less than 15km away that is:


9.20am: The crowd trickles in

The first order of the day is a talk with Sharmila Tagore and Hameed Haroon
The first order of the day is a talk with Sharmila Tagore and Hameed Haroon


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