Right at the moment of start I was stuck by the usual fear: “Will I get a place for parking? Even if I get it how far will it be from the venue?”. Added to this fear was the feeling of loss as we missed a couple of interesting sessions caused due to poor judgement of Saturday Bangalore traffic. So, it was a pleasant surprise when the hotel staff offered valet parking even though neither was I going to stay in their hotel, nor was I going to eat anything dished out by their chefs.
But for some pressing personal engagements, I would have liked to attend all the sessions of the Bangalore Literature festival held at Hotel Royal Orchid on 17 and 18 December. Then of course the events took place simultaneously at three venues. If you sat through one, you missed two others. Or, you had the option to be a casual bystander at each of the venues hopping from one to the other. It is like you have a number of marriage functions to attend on the same day and you cannot afford to miss any of them.
In this post I am not going to give a journalistic narration of what happened. I will give some glimpses into the events, some titbits and my ruminations spurred by the discussions that happened among the panelists.
It was for the consecutive second time that the BLF was conducted at this hotel on Old Airport Road. I wanted to suggest the organisers to shift the venue every year, preferably to a venue in North of Bangalore (where I stay :D) so that it would be convenient for those who were coming from outside via Bangalore Intentional Airport. In fact a similar suggestion came up during the discussion on ‘Askew- A short Biography of Bangalore’, where in one of the panelists suggested that an event like this could be held at a heritage site to create awareness about the golden Heritage of Bangalore.
There was this session with the representatives from the famous publishing houses. In a literature festival it could be expected with a fair degree of confidence that a large chunk of audience would consist of wannabe writers. It was heartening to note a few of them petitioning, cajoling, praying to the high priests and priestesses of publishing industry to consider publishing their books which they have already published through self publishing route.
Somewhere I had read that if you are a first time writer, you have to write better than the established authors to make any impression on the publishers. Moreover, if you read the guidelines of the publishing houses they make it clear that if Salman Khan writes junk, they would prefer it over your brilliant book that may turn out to be a turning point in the history of literature. Of course it is understandable. The roti, kapda and makan needs of he owners and the employees of the publishing house depends upon the ‘sale-ability’ of the books.
Sometimes I wonder what do the publishers learn from the history of some of the books that made history, yet were rejected for publication umpteen number of times. Take this extreme example of the comic novel called, “The Confederecy of the Dunces”. Now the book is among the all time top ten comic novels. But the author was so much depressed by the consistent rejection of the book that he committed suicide. A decade after his death the book was published due to the initiative of his mother and the interest taken by another publisher. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981.
God must have said to the common man long long ago, “Come ye to me, but only thorough a priest”. Following this dictum one of the panelists suggested that new authors should go to literary agents in stead of coming to them directly to better their chances of getting noticed. I wonder why the publishers cannot have some policy and a dedicated section for new authors in their own set up. Of course, even in this route things are not easy. JK Rowling got a simple rejection letter from the first literary agent that she sent the book. The next one sent it to twelve different publishers, before it was selected. The rest is history.
At another venue, there was a melee around and a long queue. Wondered what might it be? After a little tussle with the crowd, discovered that the queue was to get the books autographed by the author Shashi Tharoor, whom I spotted on Day 2 as well. This time he was on the first row of the audience along with his relative to cheer his son Kanishk Tharoor. Kanishk read out a few paragraphs from his book – Swimmer Among the Stars. Found the paragraphs quite humorous.
Next to Sex in the taboo index in India are discussion of topics concerning Hinduism and Evangelism. It was heartening to note the open and non-hostile discussion on these topics involving both the panelists and the audience. For the entire session I was engrossed in the discussion on the ‘Clash of Civilisation’ between Mohandas Pai and Rajiv Malhotra. Since the media houses in India are sold out to various vested interests for various reasons, Rajiv Malhotra suggested that we should more and more depend upon the social media to counter misinformation and the bias of the mainstream media. Here again the problem is that most of the social media organisations are controlled by the west. Hence he suggested that Bangalore being the hub of IT activity the Bangaloreans should take the lead in developing desi social media apps in line with China who have their own version of Facebook and other social media apps.
It was equally heartening to see the enthusiasm of people to buy books (in hard copies) at the venue even in this age of Kindle, Amazon and Flipkart. The queue to pay for the selected books was as long as the one to get the books autographed by the authors present.
And this gentlemen who shifted from venue to venue reminded me of the jesting Pillate who would ask what is truth and would not wait for an answer. This gentleman in question would be missing through out the duration of the discussion and appear from nowhere towards the end of the session holding a mike to ask a question. Actually he did not have a question to ask. Nevertheless, the compassionate panelists would somehow guess what he wanted to ask and answer it. And how he managed to appear holding the mike to ask questions consistently events after events and venue after venue was a miracle, because, there would be more than thirty candidates vying for the honour of asking one of those those three to four questions permitted towards the end of each session.
Did not have time to hang on to the last event to listen to Piyush Mishra. However, we had enough time to attend the first half of the the penultimate session when Shatrughna Sinha regaled the audience with his inimitable style and humour.
It was anything but, Khamosh.