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,