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.