Bengaluru: MP Shashi Tharoor retired to the author’s lounge soon after his early morning session at the Bangalore Literature Festival, where he spent nearly two hours signing over 400 books and talking to fans. If that doesn’t give you an idea of what the Festival is about, nothing will! Fans were spoilt for choice on Saturday, as all their favourite writers (and a handful more) dotted the lawns of Hotel Royal Orchid, participating in panel discussions, catching up at the Author’s Lounge and moving to the Red Couch for some no-holds-barred conversation, too.
An art installation that resembled a large chalkboard had a cluster of curious children around it all day, all of them leaving little notes in white chalk and pressing their ears happily to hear its ‘whispers’. The interactive installation and artist Paul Fernandes’ superb illustration were some of the highlights of the day, apart from the speakers themselves, of course!
Now in its fifth year, it’s safe to say that this was among the most well-attended sessions of the Bangalore Literature Festival. The festival was inaugurated at 9 am, with authors Shashi Deshpande, Sudha Murthy and K.V. Tirumalesh arriving nice and early to do the honours. The stages were named #beda and #beku, in keeping with the current trends in Bengaluru, said V. Ravichandar, one of the organisers of the festival, in an aside.
Author Sudha Murty made India’s much-loved storyteller Chetan Bhagat blush, as she prodded him about the more intimate details in his books, to roars of appreciation from the audience. The #Beku stage was quieter in comparison, but certainly no less interesting. The stage area filled up pretty quickly for a raucous discussion on Bengaluru, led by architect Naresh Narasimhan, Prof. K.E. Radhakrishnan and civic evangelist V. Ravichandar, in a discussion titled Askew: A Short Biography of Bangalore (based on the book by T.J.S. George). Theatre person Prakash Belawadi, one of the backbones of the steel flyover protest had to miss this one, as it was moved up to earlier in the day because another panellist had to catch a flight. Legendary director Adoor Gopalakrishnan was also inconversation with Amrit Gangar.
Ramachandra Guha, one of the highlights of the day, kept his audience in splits during his talk titled, On A Different Pitch: Five Forms of Cricketing Partisanship, during which he had a go at T20 cricket, comparing test cricket to single malt scotch and the former to locally-brewed hooch. He conceded toward the end that Virat Kohli (who received praise for admitting that ace spinner R. Ashwin is 60% responsible for the team’s wins) “Is a better batsman than my favourite, G. V iswanathan.!” It had been a long, long day, but Guru Rewben Mashangva was too big a treat to miss, it seemed! Authors and fans alike stayed back, singing along to their favourite Bob Dylan tunes as Day 1 of the Bangalore Literature Festival came to a glorious end.
Sudha to Chetan: Between the covers, how do you do it?
Bengaluru: Bestselling author Chetan Bhagat and city’s own Sudha Murty indulged in friendly banter at a session, ‘Having it all: The New Indian Girl’.
Sudha Murty had the audience in splits by tossing clever questions at Chetan Bhagat.
The debate was peppered with questions on feminism and how Chetan Bhagat felt writing from a woman’s perspective.
Chetan Bhagat spoke about the modern Indian woman and how he did not want women from small towns checking Google to look up on the subject of sex.
Sudha questioned Chetan on how he dealt with writing sex scenes for his book and how he dealt with it personally. Chetan Bhagat explained at length and spoke on the topic of sex and the modern woman.
Chetan is the author of bestsellers like Five Point Someone (2004), One Night @ the Call Center (2005), The 3 Mistakes of My Life (2008), 2 States (2009), Revolution 2020 (2011), Half Girlfriend (2014) and One Indian Girl (2016).
Nandita: Adultery, the preserve of only men?
Stage 1 stole the limelight with its star-studded lineup, but there was plenty happening in the quieter corners too. Nandita Bose, HR person turned writer, whose book, Tread Softly, received much popular acclaim, was given a session alongside Chetan Bhagat and Sudha Murty, much to her alarm. The session was hugely attended, however as she talked about the word adultery being a "taming mechanism for women." If a man were to have an affair, she said, "It's dismissed because boys will be boys." The bottom line, she added, is that "People are constantly changing, relationships are always in a state of flux. We need to accept that changing dynamic. Love need not always be convenient. Marriages can end badly and affairs can end very happily." She said later, with a laugh, "I'm not encouraging anybody to go out and have an affair!"
Bengaluru – past, present & future
Bengaluru has lost its charm and there is just too much traffic, lamented Naresh Narasimhan, Prof. K.E. Radhakrishna, V. Ravichander and Vasanthi Hariprakash during a session, ‘Askew: A short biography of Bengaluru’.
Referring to T.J.S. George’s book by the same name, Vasanthi divided the session into three parts, and the first dealt with the past glory of the city.
“The 60s to the 80s were the best time to live in Bengaluru. It truly was a pensioner’s paradise at the time and cyclists could ride freely with only a fraction of traffic on the roads,” they said.
The second part on the city’s present had the panellists complaining about traffic jams everywhere. It was a consensus that the city did not need the ugly steel bridge flyover. The panelists agreed that money leaks anyway so why not let it leak for a good project. Ravichander pointed out that the city has now imbibed a culture of ‘SMS’ – ‘Send Me Suitcase’. It ended with the panelists discussing about shrinking public spaces in the city.
The last part was on hope for the future and the panelists spoke about neighbourhoods and how they could provide a sense of ownership.
The session ended with the panelists agreeing that a ‘plug and engage’ kind of approach was needed to sort out Bengaluru’s problems.
Tharoor: most beautiful man!
The Bangalore Literature Festival 2016 got off to a feisty start on Saturday morning as MP Shashi Tharoor took the stage with author and economist Sanjeev Sanyal for Inglorious Empire: The Reality of the British Raj. Tharoor's latest book, An Era of Darkness, deals with the atrocities of the British Raj, which, he says, have not been brought to light. "The British need to give us an apology, maybe even reparations for the damage caused," said Tharoor, to a most appreciative audience.
Sanyal turned the matter on its head, saying, "The West has its narrative of course, but why are Indians imbibing it? The famine of 1943 killed three million people, are kids taught that in school? What about the Naval Mutiny? How many people have even heard of that?" The west, he said, has always propagated the notion that it was they who bestowed civilisation upon the countries they invaded. “Let’s start with changing the narrative of the Freedom movement. We barely talk about the role of the Indian National Army.” Tharoor dismissed this, saying that the INA was a sporadic movement.