The children who reached Bagh Ibne Qasim early for the opening of the Rafi Peer 29th International Puppet Festival Karachi on Friday were treated to a parade of larger than life characters and mascots gearing up to entertain them over the next three days of the festival.

Some had long legs and some had big heads and all danced to the beat of the drum.

Eight-year-old Kanza Salis watched all of them in awe. “How come they are so tall?” The little girl’s mother asked her and she smiled knowingly. “They are standing on poles,” she giggled pointing to their legs.

The children of the city were very much ready and receptive to this kind of entertainment provided by Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop and yearning for more.

The 29th edition of the three-day event will continue at Bagh Ibne Qasim till Sunday

Bagh Ibne Qasim wore a festive look. There were stalls selling handicrafts, tiny plants, books, hair clips and other jewellery along with the food stalls lining the festival area. The garden had been divided into different entertainment areas with their own stages and seating for the different puppet shows.

The seating had been done keeping in mind the comfort of children and families with children. There were plenty of coffee tables decorated in truck art in the sitting areas along with takhts and bolster cushions.

Soon there was an announcement calling all to the main stage. The mascots in the shape of dancing horses and camels and the characters with long legs along with those with big heads all turned to the main stage as the children followed them before settling down there.

‘Yaqeen’, the first song sung by Grover and other popular Sim Sim Hamara puppets, spoke about the power of belief and keeping the faith. It told you about the importance of having dreams and following one’s dreams.

Next up there was a skit where Chamcha apprised the wizard Abby Caddaby about the power of the internet, which made the poor wizard rather insecure about his own magical powers.

The young and young at heart audience was also reminded to always thank the Almighty, especially when feeling happy and they clapped, clicked their fingers, tapped their feat as they sang along with Elmo, Grover, Munna, Baji, Bhola, Master Ji and Agarmuch the Magarmuch.

Meanwhile, the last one mentioned in that list was finding it very difficult to settle down in school where the PT instructor wanted him to do frog jumps and the class teacher made him sit like a rooster for not learning a poem. And he landed himself into more trouble when his teacher informed him that he had earned an ‘egg’ in the exams and he expressed his desire to eat the egg!

More entertainment included a storytelling session, a puppet-making workshop, a juggling performance and a folk puppet show after which all the puppet operators walked up to the front of the stage along with their puppets, which they carried over their shoulders, to take their bows.

Mayor promises to take the show to other city areas

Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar was the chief guest on the first day. He said that he was glad to see the Rafi Peer Theatre in his city.

“After providing so much fun and entertainment to the children of Lahore for some 28 years now, the Peerzada brothers have been wanting to bring their theatre to Karachi for the children of this city too, and KMC supports them and welcomes them here,” he said.

The mayor said that he had himself been a huge fan of Rafi Peer Theatre as their shows carry important lessons to be learnt too.

“Our city is really in need of more such events as there is a dearth of healthy activity here. Entertainment for families has become going out for dinner or letting children play games or watch shows on the cell phone, which is sad. There is no idea of recreation here anymore and we want to use our parks for such fun activities. After holding the show here in district South, we also want to take it to the other districts of the city,” he said.

Having said that, the mayor also said that they intended to carry out the order of the Supreme Court of Pakistan regarding the cleaning up and clearing up of amenity plots in letter and spirit.

CEO of the Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop Saadaan Peerzada said that this was their company’s first time in Karachi and they can already feel the impact it was going to have here.

“There were so many folks here already way before the show, which is a good sign. I could feel their feelings,” he said, adding that there were some 10 productions putting on performances at the festival over the span of three days.

Actor Usman Peerzada and Ahmed Shah, president of the Arts Council of Pakistan, were also present on the occasion.

The Rafi Peer 29th International Puppet Festival Karachi concludes on Sunday.

Originally published in Dawn, February 8th, 2020