Opportunities out of Nowhere: Karachi Connections

May 21st, 2020 | By | Category: BLTN Global, BLTN International, Featured, Spring 2020

-by Mohsin Tejani. Mohsin is the Founder and Executive Director at The School of Writing in Karachi, Pakistan. He completed the Andover Bread Loaf summer program and received his M.A. from BLSE in 2001.

The outbreak of COVID19 created major disruptions in School of Writing’s operations, including abrupt program and project closures. The only desperate, fallback option was to take an alternate route and navigate the cyber space. But entering a space which was relatively new and uncharted, support was what we looked for. Like always, Andover Bread Loaf (ABL) friends and colleagues were there to bear part of the load. 

Since end of March 2020, we’ve initiated several activities including writing circles in creative writing, journalistic stories, blogging and personal essays. Exclusive Poetry Writing Circles have also been organised. Besides, we celebrated the Earth Day 2020 on April 22, by organising Write for the Planet, a Facebook Live event and an International Family Literacy Night on May 17, 2020 to celebrate the International Day of Families. The IFLN had families from six countries (Canada, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Puerto Rico, USA, and Pakistan).

The ABL friends facilitated the following sessions:

  1. Writing Circle, with Lee Krishnan – April 02, 2020
  2. Poetry Circle, with Richard Gorham – April 11, 2020
  3. Ripples of our Lives – a Tagmemic Approach to Self Discovery, with Ceci Lewis – April 18, 2020
  4. #covidpoetry, with Lou Bernieri – April 21, 2020
  5. Family Literacy Night – to celebrate International Day of Families – May 17, 2020

The virus came from nowhere, but it also brought opportunities from nowhere. TSW was fortunate to be associated with Andover Bread Loaf and the wider Bread Loaf Teacher Network. Although these are trying times that are constantly evolving, one lesson learned is that collaboratives, collectives, and networks are the way to go.

My experience hosting a writing session for The School of Writing was a profound experience for me.   What a gift it was to participate in a powerful  writing community that developed so quickly – within an hour — across such vast geographical and cultural differences!   No surprise that the open mic toward the end of the session revealed how similar our lives were, how, deep down,  we all shared the same struggles, the same hopes, and fears, and dreams.

Many props to Mohsin, aka “Mohsin Magic”, for organizing this event.  Mohsin and I have been working together for over two decades.  Having the opportunity to write with him  and his daughter, Annie (who visited ABL last summer), was a very special privilege for me. 

-Lou Bernieri, Andover Bread Loaf Director

Lou Bernieri’s facilitation of a poetry writing workshop with paricipants from the School of Writing, Karachi, Pakistan.

On April 18th, 2020, the world came together for approximately one hour and twenty minutes.  During this time, writers from Germany, England, India, Pakistan, and the United States gathered together for the workshop “Ripples of Our Lives.”  In this short time period, we wrote, shared, and listened to each other’s stories. This experience was unlike anything else I have ever experienced. The immediate formation of community, the willingness to take a risk by opening up our personal lives to the group proved to be a powerfully moving experience. The magic, of course, was able to happen because Mohsin, his daughter, and The School of Writing have created a fertile space for writers to plant their words and grow.  I am humbled by the beauty of the experience.  

-Ceci Lewis, BLTN Associate Director

Ceci Lewis’s “Ripples of our Lives” writing session with participants from the School of Writing, Karachi, Pakistan.

ABL 1997 changed my life, not just professionally but personally. I have a new family and  23 years down the line, the bonds are stronger than ever. Mohsin Tejani, Rich Gorham, Lou Bernieri, Mary Guerrero… I can’t imagine a life without them.Ever since my first visit to Karachi, Pakistan in 2000, I’ve always wanted to go back.This workshop made it possible, albeit virtually. My workshop was a Reflection On Our Lives, on the people, experiences and stories that shaped our lives and made us who we are.I’ve done similar workshops in Mumbai, and at the end of the workshop, after  the reading and sharing, it reinforced my belief that no matter where we are, or where we come from, we are all the same.

– Lee Krishnan, English Department Head, Diamond Jubilee High School, Mumbai

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