'I wanted Karachi's surreal normalcy to come across'

Saba Imitiaz represents a new breed of writing from Pakistan as her chick lit flick, Karachi, You’re Killing Me! seems to be flying off bookshelves for its candour, wit and devil-may-care plotline

Q. Karachi comes across as a heady, rollercoaster ride to readers who aren’t familiar to the city; was this intentional?
A. I did want the manic nature and surreal normalcy of the city to come across, but it wasn’t entirely intentional, it’s also because of the kind of events and characters I’ve described. The protagonist, who is a journalist, obviously has a far different life than many other people in the book and in Karachi, as journalists anywhere else in the world do.

Models present creations by Pakistani designer Tapu Javeri on the last day of the Karachi Fashion Week on February 21, 2014. Pic/AFP 

Q. Are portions within your book drawn from real-life characters and incidents?
A. Some of the events and characters are definitely inspired from real life, but the book is entirely fictional. Since I was writing about something very familiar to me — the life of a 20-something reporter in Karachi — it was inevitable I would draw on what I knew and had experienced first-hand.

Q. Growing up in Karachi, what kind of literature inspired you?
A. I read all kinds of authors and literature growing up, so there wasn’t a particular genre that inspired me, but I do love Punjabi and Urdu satire. One of my favourite books is Ibne Insha’s Urdu Ki Aakhri Kitaab, a satirical version of a government-issued school textbook.

Q. You’re one of the rising breed of young, fresh writing to emerge from Pakistan; what is the mood and feedback that you get for this stream of writing?
A. I think people in Pakistan are encouraging — and honest and critical — regardless of what your age is and at what point you had started writing. My book has just been released, so I’m still getting a sense of what people have thought about it, but the reaction has largely been positive.

Q. Karachi in the book sounds similar to Mumbai in several ways; have you visited the city?
A. I’ve never visited Mumbai, unfortunately.

Karachi, You’re Killing Me! Saba Imtiaz, Random House India, R299. Available at leading bookstores.

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