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. 

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