Days before the festival, I was already feeling the activity and animations in my actions exploring Kerela sitting in my room. I just hoped if I would have known at that time what was in store for the next few days. Just then while travelling in Kerela express from New Delhi to Coimbatore; I could smell literature watching the modulations in flavors, dresses, languages and what not. More importantly the typical South Indian food had started and the only thing I hated (just a little bit) was too much of rice.
The Auto Rickshaw guy was the first person we met in Trivandrum (who could barely speak English). He was a lovely guy who kept smiling all the way through just that he charged us a little extra. Even though my hair might have the same number of curls as a Malyali guy but it was the accent that was hard to match. We entered the cultural complex known as Vylopilly Samskrithi Bhawan which was the venue for the Literary Festival. It made me fall in love with the natural and the architectural aspect of the place. Why would someone want to move out from this place, I was thinking? Maybe, someone has to. I eventually had to (Humor intended).
So, finally the morning, hours before the event just had to be kick started. I had been feeling the fresh air for about an hour now. The air certainly felt relaxing and the tinge of ‘nip’ was refreshing. Breakfast, I expected some idli but it was Idiyappam with egg curry something new for me but an experience and taste worth remembering. Also it was a good beginning and sign of things to come. People started coming in, I sat nearby and started observing the people coming in. I did not know anyone apart from the Chief Editors of Indian Ruminations so it was a good time to exchange pleasantries with people you don’t know and hope to know them better. So everyone just eventually entered the ‘Koothambalam’. It’s a theatre hall for staging ancient forms of Kerela. It is considered sacred as temples as I was told. To say the least, It was beautiful. With everyone (almost) grabbing a seat, all eyes were set on the stage finding a prolific Indian English writer- Anita Nair. Mrs. Sandhya welcomed everyone and explained the motive and aim behind this festival. Presidential address by Sri. Jayakumar was a perfect beginning to the event. He was a class act with his words, paid lot of attention on translation and how it has to be developed as a separate career and a more important one at that. Obviously, there is nothing such as a ‘bad translation’ or something that disturbs the core or theme. Then I remember him talking about democracy of publishing now-a days, with blogging and Internet coming into the scene. This was soon followed by the inaugural addressing by Ms. Anita Nair. She talked about the fact that there are very few readers in our country although we may be accepted elsewhere around the globe. She described different kinds of views or perceptions regarding Indian writing in English. I would have to say that Mr. Jayakumar stole the show with his words and their right use.
In next was the award distribution and book releasing ceremony. Sri.Vinaychandran displayed his wonderful set of emotion filled poetry which I could not understand but feel. He has been a great Malayalam poet for thirty years now and has been recognized for his contribution to literature as I was told. Mr. Premji followed taking out his prepared speech making way for the panel discussion on the topic ‘Exploring Indian alternatives in Reading and Writing’. Smt. Indira took everyone by her charm. The session went on to become very interactive with good support from everyone. Many questions were answered but whole of the talk was heading towards something ‘generic’. We no more had a topic. I felt we talked on a lot of issues some may be outside the topic one would say but more importantly it was a great to hear and watch such cultural mix and conventions.
Moving onto the Lunch, It was ok. I ate a lot of things which was I never used to so it tasted a bit different not so bad though. What did surprise me was the hot (and pink) water in such sticky weather. I could never drink that. Someone told me they put in something to remove thirst, thus the pink color. Yes, I never asked for water after that so it works, No? Heading straight to the venue again, Introduction of poets and poetry reading was the next session. I must admit that I could not connect thoroughly (with everyone, of course) in this session. No, doubt they were such wonderful people, but poetry, I believe is not to be listened but felt. In such a short span of time, I felt, I did connect with some of them. It would seem to go beautifully and then I could not connect or loose the plot. Nevertheless, there were some words and lines which clanged like anything. Soon I did find myself not that attentive as well, my mistake. Just when I was having tea, Mrs. Sakhya bid us goodbye for she was leaving, I could certainly feel from her eyes that she so wanted to stay but she had to go to see his just recovered brother. Ashish come here called Sandhya Mam, The Evening Session (best of lot).I was asked to introduce myself and my views on the motive of the festival. Just as I peeked at Sandhya mam, she was smiling. No better moment to start, I thought? Turning into an informal yet valued talk, the session was going great guns half way through and all of us did come to know about each other. I was coming in terms with everything now. At the end of the session, I had a feeling that I cannot put into words. Just like an exuberant child who did win something. Actually I was feeling on the top of the world striking such conversations with such souls, such great souls. I very well knew that it was for real. I just wanted to stay, stay forever.
Earlier the day before, I had gone to roam around Trivandrum. I am never used to such simplicity yet grace and poise here in north. I don’t care what anyone says but I found the place more at peace (comparing it with north). Meeting R.k Das , Premji and many others for the last time on the day was amazing. Just when I was expecting some traditional art form in the cultural program, It turned out to be a magic show. I don’t know how good it was because simply I was not interested. With a smile on my face, I had dinner. I did not sleep early and me and my friend talked and talked about our experiences till about 1 in the morning.
Next day started with a wonderful with a wonderful panel discussion: Future of Literary publishing in India: Print and Web. I could more connect with the Web aspect of it, being a computer science graduate watching the powerful WEB come along. More so the young generation, taking everything for granted. Strange world, A world of tablets. Just as I can read from a book, I am so more used to read it on my laptop.
Looking at books gives me inspiration, will laptops do the same? A person asked me. Can a conversation go that lame, I thought. It’s time that we move ahead and build marketing strategies through Web now, enable the mobile version of our site; enter this whole new world of blogosphere. Because at the end of the day, It has always been the content and will always be. By the way Inspiron Dell laptops do provide some inspiration, I have heard. Anyone?
Again, there came the poetry reading again. Only do remember the Yo-Yo by Annie George and one small poem by Premji (He can define what is ‘small’ just for you). After that I just went out and found Mr. Das sitting in the verandah. We both had to rush in though when we came to know that Mrs. Sandhya was speaking. Knowing her so well, the hard work she had put in (along with the whole team) was commendable. She was speaking everything with so much of ease remembering how they started and how the event has been quite successful. Thinking about the whole process broke me. It was organized so much from the heart. Exceptional!
Evening session on the first day, again it was the best but it should have been longer or may be twice. I also felt at time it was all about poetry, not any other form of writing. Many times conversation staggered mainly around poetry but not on other forms, may be because poetry does not sell as someone said. Adding to that there was no concentration on readers, they are as important.
There must be a system, how do I buy an Indian book? I should be satisfied. Otherwise I may not buy a book again. How can I try every Indian book? How can I promote every Indian English writer? Let the system bring them up the ranks, let’s build it. I was thinking on those lines. We have to evaluate them at some point of time. We have to judge them at some point of time. I had some questions un-answered and I wanted to answer them myself pretty quickly.
The best thing about the festival was the motive, aim and the right kind of peoples the right time as one would say. The event was successful in taking a giant step in this regard. Some Alarmed souls, Some Enormous minds, some beautiful girls, colossal poetry, what delicious food and still that peace. It sums up our visit to the literary festival.