Keeping Alive i n pakistan n As 2017 marks the bicentennial death Anniversary of the novelist, A group of women in the country Are trying to resurrect her legacy in the most charming way
he clock strikes 4pm at a stately home in Islamabad. In the dining hall, fine cutlery and biscuits are being neatly arranged on a table. Enter Elizabeth Bennett, Georgiana Darcy, Marianne Dashwood, Lady Susan Vernon, Emma Woodhouse and Jane Bennett in colourful gowns. Sitting right in the middle, Lady Caroline Bingley welcomes the guests to her tea party. Pleasantries are exchanged, selfies are clicked and, for a moment, it seems Jane Austen’s girls have finally made peace with each other… if not in fiction, then at the annual tea party of the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan ( JASP).
Two hundred years have passed since Austen taught us the fine art of schmoozing, Regency- style. Keeping her legend — or Janeitism as many scholars call it — alive, the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan organises annual tea parties where the members, dressed as iconic characters from her books, gather to discuss her novels, play games and attempt to find answers to the all- important question: why is Mr Darcy so perfect?
2017 marks the bicentennial death anniversary of the Pride and Prejudice author. Over the years, Jane Austen has begun to command a following in some unlikely quarters. For instance, discovering a growing ‘ cult of Janeites’ in America, a 2013 BBC story noted that “it might be seen as incongruous that Austen’s fandom is so extensive in the US, a nation founded on the rejection of aristocracy and old world manners and traditions”. Had the BBC waited another year, it would have come across yet another unconventional hub of Janeites. Formed in 2014, the Jane Austen Society of Islamabad started as a Facebook fan club, the brainchild of writer Laaleen Sukhera. Having read Austen ever since she was a precocious 12- yearold, Laaleen was fascinated by everything ‘ Austen- esque’. Pursuing her passion, she even prepared her university thesis on Austen’s screen adaptations. And then came a chance meeting with the actor who has owned Fitzwilliam Darcy in popular imagination with his portrayal of the character in the 1995 television series Pride and Prejudice — Colin Firth. “I met him