Just got back from Bangalore. During the three days at the Bangalore Literature Festival one got to hear diverse views and viewpoints and much more … Needless to write the obvious - one met writers, authors, publishers, enthusiastic readers and more than enthusiastic commentators.
The list of the who's who, who had come for this Festival is rather too long. And before I write about those who left an impression I must offload this vital - it would be one of the most difficult ventures to assemble over 150 writers from across the globe and then arrange those panel discussions and interactive meets together with those elaborate get together sessions. With that the BLF core team - Vikram Sampath, Shinie Antony & Srikrishna Ramamoorthy- do deserve that 'hats off' certificate, for they showed no apparent signs of Blood Pressure or Hypertension attacks. It went off rather too smoothly and without any apparent hiccups.
In this entire gathering of 'heads' only three left a mark. I was greatly impressed by Girish Karnad's stark comments. He came across as blatantly honest and bold. In fact, after years one could say - ah, yes, a man was speaking! He was stark and forthright about his own life and also whilst commenting on the present political scene. He took on the Right-Wing think tank wallahs, present in considerable numbers. No, he did not bother to sugar coat and nor dilute his views or his stark comments with any of the frills. Indeed, he was at his blatant best! He seemed to give a damn whilst criticising Modi and those Right - Wing men.
Amongst the younger lot, I was left bewildered by the literary output of the 39 year old academic turned full time writer, Palash Krishna Mehrotra. The passages he'd read aloud from one his previous works were well riddled with sexual intrusions of all possible hues and forms and yet there was no trace of vulgarity. He knew how to play along with an abundance of works and settle them on his characters and atop the steady intrusions they were indulging in if I may comment, there was aura of innocence about this young writer and with that he could get away with much!
And one single question from lawyer activist Danish Sheikh from the audience to the panelists was so very hitting and well loaded with facts that I simply had to go up to him and congratulate him. In fact, if only such well informed activists are put up on the stage they would do enough to enlighten. Above all, Danish Sheikh did not sound nervous and not jittery when he threw his query to the row of who's who on that panel - Girish Karnad, Arun Shourie, Shubha Mudgal, Siddharth Dhanvant Sanghvi, Joe D' Cruz, Rajiv Malhotra, Swapan Dasgupta, Sankarshan Thakur - of the very last session of this Festival - A Country Gagged and Bound ?
The thrust of this Festival was on the North East; with that one got to hear several authors and activists from that belt. Also, some refreshing voices from Australia. In fact, several Australian Aboriginal writers were attending this Festival and whilst talking to Marie Munkara, Jeanine Leane, Dylan Coleman, Brenton McKenna, it got more than apparent they faced discrimination and varying hurdles all through their growing years. As Mridula Nath Chakravorty - who is teaching at the Sydney University and was accompanying this group, summed up their struggles - "You could say the Aboriginals face the same discriminations and struggles as the Dalits face in our country …"
Moving on, I must write some of the relevant details of the 2 panels where I had to speak. One panel was on Khushwant Singh where the other speaker was his grand niece - Tisca Chopra. A well known actress she has recently come out with her debut book - Acting Smart (Harper Collins). She spoke from her heart about Khushwant and with that helped in the very flow of the discussion … it was a relaxed noon session where the audience asked us several aspects to Khushwant's remarkable life and writings, where honesty and focus held sway.
And it is towards the evening that the session on Kashmir took off. The four speakers were Sankarshan Thakur, Neelesh Mishra, Sunayana Kachroo, Sameer Arshad Khatlani. I was the moderator. Yes, it took off! The speakers were candid about their comments and observations about the prevailing ground realities in the Valley, compounded by the aftermath of the flood fury. …Audience participation was peaking as the speakers bared their observations about the deteriorating conditions. Many in the audience threw query after query. And though one can write pages on the queries from the audience but it's important to focus on this vital - there ought to be many more discussions on the Valley so that facts and more ground realities and are put forth, and with that gaps could lessen and those divides contained.
Missed meeting 2 personalities at BLF
Yes, I missed meeting the noted scholar - writer - commentator UR Ananthamurthy… He had passed away this July, and though there was considerable focus on him but, perhaps, there could have been some more focus on him and his works and his strong views. He was such an outstanding liberal and such men are needed at this hour when fascist forces are more than wrecking young psyches.
And the other person I was looking forward to meeting at this Festival was Gulzar saab. He couldn't attend it and I missed him …he is one of those 'healers' who can relay so much through simple one - liners!