Me (as an observer) at Bangalore Literature Festival (BLF) 2013

Recently, on realisation of the craving to explore the artistic side of myself, I ended up writing my (upcoming) 'first book'. Further to that I saw min-banners displaying the happening of a three day literary festival in Bangalore - that too in Electronic City (where I live) - I started correlating Alchemist. Felt, the convenience 'created by stars' is to welcome me in this field of writing.

Me being from a science and technology background, I have attended many conferences and workshops related to technology and business - where, I have presented my papers or listened to other speaker. I did attend cultural festivals and extramural lectures as well - as and when possible. But this non-technical festival was a different experience for me.

I saw people around 'full of life', very different from the crowd I am used to - of seeing - in technical conferences. The ambiance was colourful, and air had music in it. 

On the day 1 of BLF, I reached around noon and listened to the ending notes by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Further to that there was a discussion on 'The Making of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag: Has Indian cinema finally woken up to bio-pics?' - 'Farhan Akhtar, Prasoon Joshi and Rakeysh
Mehra in conversation with Bhawana Somaaya'. It was interesting to know who the story was written, movie was made and so-on. Further a few interesting questions were asked by audience as well. 

One question drew my attention was 'since Farhan is good in acting as well as in direction, which one he should choose for future career?' I thought why people ask such questions. Why it should be about choosing. If one is good in more than one thing, should he not been exploring both? As viewers, as long as he is presenting something nice to us, we must just enjoy it - while giving him 'his creating freedom'. Further, it would be defined by his options, money equation etc. Still, on getting bored by doing one thing - would he not want to do something else at least for a change? Don't we wear clothes with different colours, don't we eat food of different type? Don't we want something for a change? Don't we feel constrained if someone puts this question to us during those phases? The obvious answer would be - 'depends'. It is interesting to think about it. 

Farhan Akhtar - the rightmost one on stage.
'Talking Couture – Chronicling Fashion' - Wendell Rodricks in conversation with Prasad Bidappa discussed 10 books written on fashion, it was interesting to see the kind of research that had gone in writing each one of these books. Further, I liked what Prasad said at the end towards wearing Khadi that Khadi is the thread because of which we are sitting in free India, and enjoying this BLF

In 'Is Bhasha being subsumed by English?' discussed by 'Ashok Vajpeyi, U R Ananthamurthy, Gulzar and Ramakant Rath, Moderator: K. Satchidanandan'. It was interesting to notice how the discussion started in English and the tone got influenced when Gulzar spoke in Hindi. Many-times we need trendsetters. 

I also thought about people like me, who started education in mother tongue, further got into English as medium of education because of reason that can be discussed in great details. Further, got introduced to computer. All literature that I read as a small child was in Hindi and I used to write letters in Hindi. As I grew up, things started to appear in English and I started to read and write in English. Now, I guess, I even think in English. I have gone through that path. May be, I read faster in Hindi, but I write faster in English - that too on my computer keypad. Language is an issue - but if one moves out of the home-town and goes to stay in a non-mother-tongue speaking place because of economic reasons/career choices - It happens - and it is natural. Acceptance is the key than to live a confused life. I think - here - 'Technology is defining the Society' - as studied by Karl Marx.

During the 'LAUNCH OF KISHWAR DESAI’S ‘THE SEA OF INNOCENCE’ Endangered Gender?' women issues were discussed by 'Gita Aravamudan, Kishwar Desai and Shobhaa De Moderator: Vasanthi Hariprakash'. Focus was more on 'killing the girl child' or 'rape'. I remember how I was moved after watching 'Lessons in Forgetting'.

As a women, I too feel fearful. But gender issues is there troubling us all at all levels. That is when we have terms like 'Glassy Ceilings and Sticky Floors' for women who are supposed to be in so called privileged positions. Even in western countries, a so called successful women comes up with her book 'Lean In' as she must have perceived the gender bias during her course of journey. At one end everyone acknowledges that women are more evolved (including Premchand) one the other hand the ill-treatment at various levels. Does it reflect male inferiority complex towards women? Or do we admit that we (man and woman) are not equal - and we are just different biologically, emotionally and socially. 
in conversation - on women ..

with Shobhaa De
On day 2 of BLF, I realised that first impression is never the last impression. I noticed that with Prasoon Joshi and Nabanita Dev Sen, during sessions. As these people were part of multiple sessions, when they discussed issues in general, their speaking style was not so impressive to me - but as they read their poems, I had to change my mind. I truly liked them as true human beings. 

Further, there was Gulzar - makes one speechless - with his flirting style and deep thoughts. Ashok Vajpeyi's prayers also touch heart, while K. Satchidanandan's 'conversation of a mother with her unborn child' did bring tears to my eyes - during BLF. 

'The Ashwin Key: Writing on Mythology' made me realise that people do think alike. I remembered my article where I drew parallels between technology and mythology - until that time I was not aware of the fact that there is another person who does the same between life and mythology. 

I drew a few more parallels during the festival - between Jahnvi Barua's 'The Patriot' and the story of the saint (that we all know) who had the dilemma to tell the truth, while the deer was hiding inside. And also as Govind Mishra was telling his story depicting women's ability of decision making, it reminded me of Kiran Kher's character in 'Main hoon na' movie. Also (in his stories), the women, who has everything and still missing something - clicked Aliya - from my book. I guess, as humans, our basic nature is same - just the presentation changes - based on time, place and situation.
Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and team
On day 3, in 'Playwrights at Work' by 'Dharmakirti Sumant, Vibha Rani, Swar Thounaojam and Christopher Kloebel, Moderator: Evan Hastings' there was a reading - summary as follows - A boyfriend and girlfriend smooching around at a silent place and caught by a local boy, end up giving all their money etc to the boy on being threatened and come back home. A question was asked 'whats the meaning/message in it?' - I thought, we have so many basic needs and sex is one of them. In society, it is not so easy to satisfy it until one gets married etc. So these affairs - further, 'what people will say?' question takes one to those silent corners and results in these risks. If that doesn't happen, one can see the embarrassment in parks and public places. The basic need results in wrong behavior and even rape. It is only how controlled one feels until there is a proper means to be satisfied. As a women, I feel terrified thinking if the local boy would have come in his gang. How stupid the girl in the story was to go to a corner like that. It also brings back the social issue to me. As a women, I feel "Oh God!!", while the man (who asked question) probably thinks 'So what?"

Further there was also comparison between theatre and movie - I think both as very different medium, have different reach and economy. Still for a person, who watches both - theatre is much more intense than movies. I still remember scenes from plays I have seen 4-5 years back, while movies have a limited life.
with Anita Nair
I also noticed two aspects of this industry - 1. truth and honesty and 2. business and economy.
It was interesting to be part of 'The First Book Club' by 'Varun Agarwal, Aditya Mukherjee, Lavanya Sankaran, Preeti Shenoy, Moderator: Vani Mahesh'. 

I also noticed at one end, there is a depth in literature - that talks about good language, depth, research etc. On the other hand there is this lobby forming that reads books based on recommendations by search engines, and not based on authors, cannot read a very difficult English and wants a way out from its stressed out lifestyle. I guess its not about being superior or inferior - these are just two market segments - when it comes to readers. There was also a though on the size of the book for such readers who want to read crisp and precise. Further, on disappearing readers because of other media - I agree with Ashwin Sanghi, that as a writer's the job is to create the story. Further, there would be technological or social evolution that would allow the end user to select its medium and language to receive the same. 

'69 Shades of Grey: Scripting Erotica' by 'Sheba Karim, Ashok Ferry & Minal Hajratwala, Moderator: Harish Bijoor' had mixed response from audience. I think in a busy lifestyle, a good (not vulgar) literature makes one connect to the sensual side of self - instead to feeling miserable or mechanical. However, for the author, it is not easy to write such literature. I remember that in my book I had to write a lovemaking scene - I started - then started to feel conscious. Then finally went the old hindi movie way - by writing - 'there was a high tide, very high'- to depict the emotion. 

On the other hand 'In the shadow of the gun: Literature from conflict zones' by 'Farooq Shaheen, Babar Ayaz, Jahnavi Barua and Meena Kandasamy, Moderator: Amandeep Sandhu' makes one salute the spirit of the writers, who have overcome the community problems (from the place they belong to) and made their respectable place in society - and they are just not happy being in limelight - they are creating awakening and giving back to the society.

I am not sure if there could have been a better ending to the BLF than 'All this Longing: Songs and Poetry' by 'Shabnam Virmani & Vipul Rikhi'.

Nice job done by Vikram Sampat and his team.

My first (long) poem (after the BLF) is at

with Gulzar