Sundeep Bhutoria

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mountain kingdom's Lit Fest

Sunday morning I shall leave for Thimphu (Bhutan) to attend the five-day Mountain Echoes – A Literary Festival at The Tashi property of Taj Group of Hotels. This will be my first trip to the mountain kingdom and yet another addition to my list of my one more nations that I have already visited so far.
Many renowned writers, including Vikram Seth, Patrick French, Javed Akhtar, Gulzar, Kishwar Desai, Namita Gokhale, William Darymple and others including, Sharmila Tagore, Arshad Warsi, Dayanita Singh, Wendell Rodricks have confirmed their participation in Mountain Echoes. Also, eminent writers from Bhutan Karma Singe Dorji, Kunzang Choden and local talent Ugyen Pande (singer) would be speaking at the Fest.
The Jaipur Literary Festival has been a trendsetter. Its popularity and International appeal and recognition has inspired others to start off their own Lit Fests in recent years in the Indian sub-continent. So much so that a few months back the first Lit Fest called Harud (autumn) was planned in Kashmir, which, unfortunately, had to be postponed due to security reasons. Karachi also hosts an annual Lit Fest.
Cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolavam, Thiruvananthapuram and Goa have also emerged as venues of festivals on literature. Thanks to Jeet and Malavika Banerjee, Kolkata too has also started its own Literary Festival this year. Besides Kolkata, the majority of the Literary Festivals that take place are organized by an event management company whose key man is also inhails from our state.
There are two common allegations levelled against the Lit Fests. First, only the glamorous names are handpicked to attract the crowds. Second, the Lit Fests are a money spinner for the organizers. In other words, these Fests are organized more for the sake of commercial gain rather than promoting literature.
I think there is no harm in raising the glamour quotient since it is a well-known fact that people do clamour for glamour. As far as commercial aspect is concerned, I see no harm as long as it brings the literary community at one platform and gives an opportunity to the writers and common citizens to be a part of it. It is also a fact that the Jaipur Lit Fest has successfully branded itself as an international event drawing some of world's big names from the literary world to come to India.
Besides these two common allegations, there's another one that these Lit Fests are confined to the English literature and regional literature, including Hindi, gets scant attention.
My point is that everyone sells things which are in demand. As far as events go, any body will always prefer a sell-out event over a flop one. The day people start giving regional literature its due, I am sure there would be Lit Fests for regional literature as well.
Let me recount my experience at the last Jaipur Lit Fest. There was a session called “Kahani Kise Kahtey Hai” which started with Gulzar, Javed Akhtar speaking in English. This was a big disappointment for majority of audience . Who on earth would want to hear out Gulzar and Javed speak in a language other than Hindi or Urdu. But during the course of the session, I believe, they too realised this fact, and gauging the audience mood, switched over to Hindi and Urdu.
So regional literature may not have got its due yet, but is has not run out of hope as evident from the incident. I personally think that the day of regional language festivals will happen soon.
But if we care to see beyond the commercial aspects of Lit Fests, people would realise that the positives, or the gains that accrue, far outweigh the negatives. If promoting literature is good business what's the harm. Let it be so as long as it is done tastefully and organizers don't play doorkeepers to the people's minds and hearts.
ess bee

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