Authors Discuss Cultivating Empathy Through Literature At Government College University’s Lit Fest

The hallowed halls of the historic Government College in Lahore were rich with literary figures sharing thoughts on the role of literature.

Authors Discuss Cultivating Empathy Through Literature At Government College University’s Lit Fest

From the multiple panel discussions that were a part of Government College University’s Literary Festival organized this week by Safdar Mir English Literary Circle (SMELC), one was titled “Climate Change and Lahore-based Writings” graced by the popular novelist, columnist and screenwriter Amna Mufti. 

Mufti was accompanied by award-winning story-writer Kanza Javed, novelist Awais Khan and two professors, Sadia Ghaznavi and Faiza Sharif. The session was moderated by Sumera Khalil, a lecturer at the institution’s English Department. 

Amna Mufti’s inclination towards environmental concerns as an author rendered her an apt speaker for the panel discussion. Mufti kept her discussion focused around the rather sad fact that Lahore is not the city it once used to be. Its birds, trees and rivers, or the “non-human” entities to be precise, are gradually diminishing owing to anthropocentric behaviour. 

She went on to tell how her latest novel “Paani Mar Raha Hai” is also an effort on her part to direct people’s attention towards the fact that Pakistan’s rivers are running dry and the matter needs to be attended to as soon and as diligently as possible. 

Professor Faiza Sharif, the head of GCU’s Sustainability Development Study Centre, seconded the idea, saying that an attention towards it is the need of our times in order to avoid “ecological backlash”, a term she described as nature’s revenge in lieu of its maltreatment. 

Ms. Sadia Ghaznavi, as a professor, added to the conversation by suggesting how courses pertinent to the climate crisis can be introduced for literature students as well in order to create an awareness amongst them, while author Kanza Javed was of the view that writers need to create empathetic characters in their stories whose considerate attitude towards plants and animals can influence the readers to adopt a kinder approach towards the entire ecosystem. 

Awais Khan, whose writings are rooted in the culture of Lahore, discussed how the entire city’s infrastructure has changed over time, forcing even the authors to introduce a somewhat “unromantic” city setting to their stories, and it is hoped that a collective, selfless approach on part of the humans (writers and social activists alike) may be able to revert this loss somehow.