XI Bangalore Literature Festival- Day 2: My Impressions.

My previous post in this blog was about the first day of the XI Bangalore Literature  Festival held on December 3 and 4, 2022. Today’s is about some of the sessions I attended and enjoyed on December 4.

Yes, the man we once knew as “Sandokan” looked older, thinner perhaps but he still had his good looks and his voice was as deep as ever. Seeing Kabir Bedi speak about his debut book- “Stories I Must Tell” reminded me that in his prime he was probably the most handsome man in India. To us, he was Sandokan from the Italian TV series of that name based on the books by Emilio Salgari.  He was also the guy who acted in a James Bond movie partly shot in India- “Octopussy” in which my college friend Vijay Amrithraj also had a role. His book, published by Westland in April 2021 in keeping with its title seems to be bare it all kind of book. Engaging him in the discussion was V K Karthika a veteran in the Indian publishing industry.  The book has received many rave  reviews, with Vir Sanghvi saying: “It’s the best memoir by an Indian celebrity that I have read.” That, to my mind, is saying a lot! 

To be honest, I had not heard of Saikat Majumdar but was interested in hearing him speak being told he taught English Literature at Stanford University. His book called, ” The Middle Finger”  was published by Simon and Schuster in early 2022.  In the course of the conversation with HK Surya, we got to know the book was about the protagonist finding her feet in a new University  after she moved to India from the United States.  It seems to be an interesting story. 

I stayed on in The Red Couch for the next session in which my friend Sumaa Tekur chatted with Rita Chhablani about her three recent books in a session titled, “Relationships Done Different”. I found this conversation to be quite charming, Rita spoke of the differences in the days when she was a youngster and the present day. I could totally relate to all that she said  being not just of her age but older! She spoke from her heart and shared what worked for her. After all, as she said, each person has to find out what his/her own style is as a writer. By the way, Sumaa too has blossomed as an author.  I am happy that her first book, ” The Inner Light- A Beginner’s Guide to Spirituality and Finding Peace” was published by Hay House Publishers in July 2022. 

The next session I attended was by far the most crowded in the Festival. It was a very enjoyable one for all that.  For the many who were seated, there were an equal number of standees. This was Sudha Murty ‘s “The Magic Of The Lost Story” with Manu Pillai. The lady is 72s, has written more than 40 books and is as enthusiastic as ever before. She brought an infectious energy to the audience. Full of quips and homely  wisdom, she was at her best and didn’t disppoint the large crowd that had gathered to listen to her. For example, she said how a lady is first known as someone’s daughter, then someone’s wife, then someone’s mother, and here after a pause she said, and nowadays as someone’s mother in law. The audience burst into laughter knowing her son in law  Rishi Saunak is now the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. As always, her talk was replete with personal examples  and we heard about her Ajji and her mother and how they influenced her with the stories they told her when she was a small girl.  She highlighted the need for good books for kids and how she hoped her books would keep kids away from the addictive computer games. 

It was nearly 12.45 by the time I got ready for the next important item on my agenda- lunch. We authors and speakers had been asked to be at the designated lounge for authors half hour before our session. Mine was at 2.00 pm and I didn’t want to be late.  This diligency resulted in an unexpected bonus!   I was delighted to find myself lunching with Kabir Bedi, whom I had seen at a distance this morning. It was a great experience for me, as we had hero worshipped him during our younger days! 

When I told him that I had written a few thrillers, he said he loved thrillers. He told me with considerable pride that his grand daughter Alaya had acted very well  with Kartik Aaryan in a recently  released thriller on Disney Hotstar called , “Freddy” .

I am happy to say my interview with the Raghu and Pushpa on  their latest historical novel, ” Destiny’s Child” published by Penguin Viking in February 2022 was well received by the audience.  Raghu and Pushpa bring a lot of passion and hard work to their writing.

Their research has been meticulous .This is evident from the success of their first book- a historical novel on one of Raghu’s ancestors Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair, who at one time was the  only Indian member of the Viceroy’s Council, no less. This book, ” The Case That Shook The Empire”  is being made into a movie by Karan Johar’s  Dharma Productions and has the famous actor Akshay Kumar in a lead role.The  Palats’ second book is in the same genre. This is the story of Parukutty Neithyaramma, the consort of  Maharaja Rama Varma XVI who ruled Cochin from 1914 to 1932.  The thinking and approaches of this formidable lady to social and political issues were far in advance of her times. It was satisfying to start and end on time in keeping with this important tradition of the Bangalore Literature Festival.

A pretty large crowd gathered to hear J Sai Deepak speak about his latest book, ,” India, Bharath and Pakistan: The Constitutional Journey Of A Sandwiched Civilisation” published by Bloomsbury Publishing in August 2022.  Sai Deepak describes himself as being an engineer-turned-litigator. He practices as an arguing counsel before the Union in 1947. Supreme Court of India and the High Court of Delhi. After getting a degree in Mechanical Engineering Anna University, Sai Deepak went to the Law School of IIT Kharagpur and got a bachelor’s degree in law in 2009. He has since argued in many important civil, commercial and constitutional matters. I have always admired his logic and way of arguing his case in television and can only imagine how effective he must be in the courtroom. I consider him to be one of India’s sharpest legal minds at a relatively young age. He spoke of his latest book and answered a lot of questions from the audience.  I thought he was incisive and crisp in his comments. Sai Deepak does not hesitate to call a spade a spade in voicing his opinions on issues like secularism in our country.

The erstwhile kingdom of Mysore was always considered one of the best ruled princely states as they were called during the British Raj. Mysore was far ahead of most others when it came to education and welfare measures for the people. It was natural therefore for me to eagerly wait for Deepti Navaratana to talk about her new book ” The Maverick Maharajah : The Life and Times of His Highness Maharajah Sri Jayachamrajendra Wadiyar” , published by Harper Collins India in July 2022.  Deepti’s book is about HH Sri Jayachamrajendra Wadiyar who ruled the properous kingdom of Mysore from 1940 to 1950. He was the first prince to sign the declaration to join the newly formed Indian Union in 1947.  A major patron of the arts and a skilled musician himself, he was known all over the world fas a connoisseur of both  Indian and Western classical music. Talking to Deepti about his illustrious ancestor and lineage was the young,  suave  His Highness Sri Yaduveer Wadiyar of Mysore. Yes,  I know the privy purse was abolished by Mrs Indira Gandhi in  1971  and the princes and their titles don’t exist any longer in law in India,  but for many of us and his subjects in the old Mysore state, the Mysore Maharajah will always remain His Highness in our minds. I enjoyed this session immensely.

The next session had Anupama Bijur  in conversation with Shobhaa  De, who needs no introduction and  Gayatri Gill  about ” Love In The Lockdown.” The two writers spoke of their experiences during the Covid 19 pandemic particularly during the darkest days when no one had a clue what was going on and how long it would last. Both of them wrote extensively during their forced confinement indoors  during the pandemic. They described what they went through and how their experiences as also what they heard and saw influenced their writing.  The writers left us echoing the sentiment that human relationships did undergo a big shift due to the pandemic. Indeed, we have so much to be grateful for coming out of the pandemic as we did. 

In my last podcast I had mentioned meeting some interesting people. If Kabir Bedi and Damodar Mauzo were well into their 70s, Zac Sangeeth is not even in his teens! At lunch on Day 1, when I met Festival Director Shinie Antony at lunch at my table was a young boy with his parents.  I thought he was accompanying his parents  one or both of whom were writers. I almost fell out of my chair when I came to know he was a published author at 10 and now at 11 had written a sequel to his book! Zac Sangeeth -had a session ” The World’s Youngest Historian” which i missed because I was elsewhere in another session.  I came to know that his books  ” World History in 3 Points’ and “ More World History in 3 Points” have been published in 2022 by Hachette India.  What is admirable is his  innovative – and shall I say very contemporary – approach to writing about what is often termed a boring and dry subject. This is a remarkable feat for one so young.  His writing has made world history more readable and hence more appealing to both young and old alike.

Thanks to Shinie Antony, Festival Director and her team ; to the organisers who did some meticulous planning; to the galaxy of authors who spoke of their work; to the volunteers who were so dedicated and committed; and to the audiences who were most interested and knowledgeable.  

I throughly enjoyed the XI Bangalore Literature Festival and am already looking forward to the XII edition to be held on November 25 and 26, 2023.  

Here’s where you can listen to the podcast version of this post,

My Take on Day 1 of the Bangalore Literature Festival, 2022

In today’s post, I shall share my thoughts on some of the sessions that I attended and enjoyed on December 3, 2022- Day 1 of the two day Bangalore Literature Festival.

To start the day’s proceedings, for me it was a toss up between Pico Iyer and Bachi Karkaria. I chose to attend Bachi’s session as I have admired her writing for years and I could catch Pico at another session. Being a history and biography buff, the topic too interested me: It was about her book “Capture the Dream: The Many Lives of Capt C P Krishnan Nair”  published by Juggernaut books in Jan 2022.  She was in conversation with the erudite and articulate business and brand strategy expert, Harish Bijoor. To jog your memory, if indeed it need some jogging, Capt Krishnan Nair was the person who founded the Leela Group of luxury hotels.   Bachi briefly touched upon some of the highlights of Captain’s life. She spoke of  his humble origins, his wide exposure to life  in many countries due to the various jobs he did and his ambition which fuelled his most daring ventures. Once he made up his mind about something, nothing would stop him. He opened his luxury chain of hotels in his 60s, braving the established reputed players like the Taj, Oberoi, ITC etc. in the pre- liberalisation era in india.  The hotel chain was named after – not too difficult to imagine why- his wife. He was described as being a bon vivant who lived life to the fill till he passed away aged 92 in 2014.  Bachi and Harish carried off the session with charm and a touch of humour which I am sure Captain Nair would have heartily approved of. 

I first met Saaz Aggarwal, like me an alumnus of The Lawrence School, Lovedale in 2012 when Mathew Antony had this brilliant idea of having a Book Reading by Old Lawrencian  Authors during Founder’s . She has since written many more books, especially about 

Sindh to which she has an emotional connect as her mother belonged to that area, now in Pakistan. In today’s session at the BLF, she was in conversation with Senthil Chengalvarayan on her latest book, ” Losing Home, Finding Home”  which, like her previous book, is once again about Sindh and the displaced people from there. They suffered a lot but perhaps faced less horrors as compared to those that took place in Punjab. As a result, their stories did not feature so prominently.  Her passion for the subject comes out clearly , as does the enormous amount of painstaking research she has done on a subject not known to many.  We of course know Senthil Chengalvarayan as a renowned  business journalist. He was the founding editor of CNBC TV 18 and Editor in Chief of Network 18’s Business news room. ‘Losing Home, Finding Home”  the poignant story of the displaced people of Sindh was published on August 15, 2022 by Black and White Fountain. I am sure this particular date was chosen with a purpose.  This is one book I am keen on reading! 

“It’s A Punderful World” by Vaidehi Murthy in conversation with Sriram Sullia, one of the most popular RJs in Bengaluru. I was very much looking forward to this session as I thought it had a most appealing title.  A pun is fascinating for anyone who loves a play of words. As Vaidehi told us there are many, many  different types of puns. She then gave examples of each of them to bring out the differences. Obviously, she had done a lot of work in this field and done a deep dive, as they say these days,  in the world of puns.  Videhi is super active with her puns on Twitter. To catch her latest, check out her Twitter handle, @ButVai.  Now please don’t ask me But why? Just go ahead and enjoy her latest tweet and pun! Emceeing this session with elan was Bengaluru’s own favourite RJ- Sriram Sullia. As Vaidehi would admit, this radio jock was key to the success of her session.

After this session I had to race off to another venue to catch the session by a veteran writer  I have long admired. This is Damodar Mauzo from Goa and I rate him to be one of India’s best short story writers. Today he was talking to another talented writer, novelist and playwright – the very successful Vivek Shanbhag. Indeed a proud moment for me to be with these distinguished writers.

The topic was Mauzo’s new book , “Tales From Another Goa”. Discerning readers will remember that he won the Sahitya Akademi award for his 1983 book “Karmaelin” and in 2014 he wrote another highly rated collection of short stories, called”‘ Teresa’s Man & Other Short Stories from Goa” which I much enjoyed. In 2022 he was awarded the prestigious 57th Jnanpith AwIt was a great pleasure listening to this fine writer who is full of humility and grace. He narrated how he wrote his very first story when he was just 18. If there is one writer who is today what he was like 50 years ago that is Damodar Mauzo.  . Here I must mention how heart warming it is to see  the strides made by literature in Konkani, which also happens to be my mother tongue, thanks in the main to people like Damodar Mauzo. 

Rohini Nilekani needs no introduction to the people of Bengaluru. Though she is perhaps better known as a major philanthropist, she is a writer in her own right. I remember her debut novel – a medical thriller called, ” Stillborn”.  Today’s session was on her recent book- published in August 2022 called, “ Samaaj, Sarkaar, Bazaar” .  This has a series of articles written by her on the interplay between these three powerful entities in our world- Samaaj, the society we live in; Sarkaar; the Government we elect which administers the State, and Bazaar, the market place which determines what is in and what is out and how much it should cost. She was in conversation with one of India’s most famous young historians, Manu Pillai.  Advocating a citizen first approach, Rohini says citizens should be conscious  of their rights and responsibilities, and not be passively dependent on the Government to provide them with things to lead a better life. She obviously lays great importance to the power of collective action by members of the society. This session evoked thoughts in the audience of just how much philanthropy can and can not do .

After sessions on a successful entrepreneur ; the displaced people of Sindh; on the funny side of life; stories from sunny Goa, and what we can do as citizens in today’s world, the next session I attended was on a totally different subject. This was “The Essentials of Hinduism: An Introduction to all the Sacred Texts” ” by Prof Trilochan Sastry,  which was published in October 2022.  This book is designed for those who have never had the time, inclination or ability to read the ancient Hindu scriptures which date back to thousands of years. In the course of this 30 minute session, Prof Sastry instilled in me and I am sure many in the audience -a desire to know more- to read more about a subject which many consider forbidding not because of its content but because it is written in Sanskrit, an age old language which not many know these days.  Prof Sastry’s translation of the major parts of the important texts will, I am sure be most illuminating to people approaching this intense, thought provoking subject for the first time. Prof Sastry is a Professor in IIM Bangalore and is a graduate of IIT Delhi, and IIM Ahmedabad. He holds a doctorate from MIT.  I liked the way Prof Sastry placed his points to the audience. Never judgemental, never persuasive but giving you things as they are- it is, as he said,  upto you to take it, leave it or make the best of it . All in all, I thought it was an educative session. 

With this we come to an end of my observations of the sessions I attended on the first day of the Bangalore Literature festival . In my next post, I shall cover some of the sessions of the second day and also some interesting people I met during the Festival. 

Here’s where you can listen to the podcast version of this post,

The Bangalore Literature Festival, December 3 and 4, 2022

Although a few days have passed, I still feel the buzz of the two days spent in the 11 th edition of the Bangalore Literature Fest held on December 3 and 4, 2022.   As you might know, these days  there are so many Literature Festivals taking place all over the country, but the one at Bangalore  held annually since 2012 continues to a big draw for  crowds of bibliophiles as well as authors from India and abroad.  We see from their website that over 1500  authors and speakers have added to the heft of this festival over the years. I quote from the website  ”   The Festival is India’s largest independent and community-funded literary conclave and Bengaluru city’s flagship annual literary and cultural experience focused on rekindling the romance with literature and fostering fine reading and writing, especially amongst the young population of the city.”

An interesting feature of the Bangalore Litereature Festival is the impetus it provides to aspiring and new writers in many ways. Since 2015, writers vie for the prestigous Atta Gallata- Bangalore Literature Festival Award each year in as many as 9 categories. Apart from awards for the usual Fiction and Non-Fiction in English,  awards are presented for Literary Achievement in Kannada, Popular Choice, Best Cover Design, and 4 categories in Children’s Books. This, I believe,  must be an unique feature of this festival. 

This year’s event was that much more awaited as it was the first physical event after a break due to the Covid 19 pandemic. 

As has been the practice for the last few Bangalore LitFests, the venue remained the 5 star Hotel Lalit Ashok.This luxury hotel with its 10 acres of sprawling grounds lent itself for the actual programs to take place in the outdoors in 6 designated venues. The weather Gods were kind and it didn’t rain for these days coming after spells of rains in Bengaluru in the previous weeks. If anything, it was pretty hot with the maximum temperatures hovering around 28 degrees Celsius. 

Hats off to Shinie Antony, Festival Directors and her team for their meticulous organising of the festival. To fully comprehend the magnitude of the task involved, let me throw some numbers at you! There were a staggering 71 sessions for adults and 28 sessions for kids on the first day. How on earth did so many sessions take place in one day, you might ask? The answer is simple. The oraganisers had 4 sessions for adults and 2 sessions for kids running simultaneously  in the hotel grounds. As you entered the LitFest area, you came to  the first venue named “Gandhadha Gudi” . A little further was the second, “Raajkumara”  which was poolside,. The third and fourth venues further down were Yuvaratna  on the Tennis Court  and The Red Couch  Courtside. The sessions for the kids were held at Seonee and Malgudi in the Lalit Ashok Gardens. 

On the second day, there were 69 sessions for adults and 25 for kids. In effect, this meant  there were 193 sessions running simultaneously over these six venues spanning the two days. 

Bengaluru’s literature buffs had to make some hard choices. Obviously there was no way anyone could attend all the sessions.  On Day 1 for example, where would you start? With Pico Iyer on “Why We Travel” or Bachi Karkaria on ” The Many Lives of Capt C P Krishnan Nair” ? With Crossings by Mini Krishnan. Gita Ramaswamy, S Sreedhara and AJ Thomas or with Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra ? You get what I mean.  Thankfully, the organiser s had published a neatly formatted scehdule well in advance on their webiste. This helped you choose  from the wide range of offerings,  depending on your interest.  I would imagine most  book lovers made their choices driven by either the author or their preferred genre. In any case though you had to choose one over another, you weren’t unduly worried because the recording of all the sessions sessions would be published in the YouTube channel of the BLF over time.  So you chose what you wanted right now! You could listen to the others at leisure later. 

Typically, each session was for 30 minutes and in keeping with the fine traditions of the Bengalore LitFest adhering to these timings was sacred.  Here was one occasion when the much talked about  Bangalorean laid back  ” Swalpa Adjust Maadi” didn’t kick in. The sessions went like clock work! Not just a few but every single one of them -started and ended on time, which is indeed quite remarkable.

I had the privilege and pleasure of interviewing Raghu and Pushpa Palat- on December 4. They are the  co-authors of ” Destiny’s Child” a book  about the undefeatable reign of Cochin’s Parukutty Neithyeramma.  She was the consort of Maharaja Rama Varma XVI who ruled Cochin from 1914 to 1932 . The book is the story of this formidable lady who was far ahead of her times in her thinking and approach. 

The books discussed were available for sale at  the bookstore- Atta Galata . All through the two days one saw crowds throng this venue to buy the books they wanted and get them autographed by the authors. After their sessions, authors were asked to spend some time in that venue and do the book signings for their reader fans. As is popular these days,  many readers sought to capture selfies with their favourtite authors. 

Thanks to the meticulous planning by the organisers and to the dedicated and committed band of volunteers who executed these plans the LitFest was a great success.  Needless to say, the success was also due to the galaxy of authors who spoke of their work and of topics related to literature. and art.  They were cheered on by  large audiences who were most interested and knowledgeable. 

No wonder it is reported that over 20,000 literature- crazy people attended this two day LitFest.

Here’s where you can listen to the podcast version of this post.