Mehboob Studios was the venue, like the last few years. Look up and you see lights and scaffolds.
Surging crowds. Signages, collages, installations. Much style.
You register every day and wear a colored band on your wrist. They said 20K people visited. Hmm.
The theme was freedom of speech. Sceptical about festivals making a ground level difference but still heard the lecture and brought the Sahmat book (featuring writing by all 3 of the writers who were gunned), bought the poster. Phir?
Expensive food. After the first day I carried a dabba and limited myself to one great treat per day. Superb freshly baked cookies for 80/- per. Mehboob canteen helped with the frequent tea pangs.
Milling crowds. PYTs in v little, guys in grungy T’s and afros
Highlight—speaking to Vikram Seth. THE Mr Seth. (I’d saved that SPAN interview for years). What a setting. Lights on the trees, golden bird cages bobbing. The National Symphony performed pieces from An Equal Music. Speeches by Justice Leila Seth and Bachi Karkaria. Apparently there was a spat of some sort with both the Litfest and the Tata literature do wanting to honor the man. I waited until all the young uns had their Suitable Boy tomes autographed. I thanked him for Golden Gate and Humble Administrator’s Garden. And he thanked me in turn, saying no one remembers these anymore.
|housefull audience for Vidhu Vinod Chopra |
Serendipity is good. At the tail end of a session on Darjeeling tea and how it should be served and sipped (I grinned thinking of my killer brew), tea was gifted…wow. Not bad, considering I was there to get a good seat for the next event, a discussion between Twinkle Khanna and Moni Mohsin. MM is classy, witty, a great mimic.Poise! Said she’d been writing longer than TK had been alive. TK seemed repetitive. Claws.
Avoided hearing Devdutt Pattanayak speak, it was too soon after hearing Kannan Sundaram, the Perumal Murugan publisher speak. Also heard from an acquaintance DP’s ideas about fame and earned fame. A put off.
Serendipity 2- hearing Shrabani Basu, Raghu Karnad and Nisid Hajri speak about their chance encounters with wonderful material in dusty archives. Shrabani Basu has written Victoria and Abdul, an account of the Urdu teacher to the Empress. She spoke about working in the British library, in the Windsor archives, and hearing about Abdul’s diary which still is with his extended family in Karachi… she travelled to read it, got each page photocopied and translated… Raghu Karnad’s book is about Indian soldiers in WWI.. begins with how the war reached Kochi with a sudden increase in the price of eggs. Nisid Hajri’s book about the partition begins in 1946, and he read out how Panditji’s car enroute Wardha happened to hit a child on an empty, dusty road, the child did not survive but that image, fleck of blood on a white kurta have stayed with me.
Hearing Kiran Nagarkar’s stories being read out despite my basic Marathi. Hearing Kiran Nagarkar read from Ravan and Eddie, intonation pitch perfect. His clear thought about freedom of speech, and the cost of the 11 years he spent exiled from words
Hearing Anjum Hassan read from her book, The Cosmopolitans. Crisp, elegant writing. The protagonist too real life for comfort.
Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak read from The Scenes we made. I heard the para about the grand Bhulabhai Desai institute where art flourished in all its forms and a Parsi gent ran the place with an eagle eye.
Also heard: Jitesh Pillai in conversation with Kabir Khan and Meghna Gulzar; Harvard Prof Michael Sandel about ethics and morality, Tony Buzan teach a housefull audience how to build mind maps.