The much anticipated annual fest turned out to be as amazing as promised. The event partners which ranged from Goldman Sachs to Merrill Lynch, British Council to American Centre, Indian Council for Cultural Relations to the Asia Literary Review, were as varied and versatile as the events organized over a period of five days. The same could be said for the speakers which comprised of an eclectic mix of writers, lyricists, actors, social activists, journalists and economists.
Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, Girish Karnad, Gulzaar, Mark Tully, Alexander Mccall Smith, Lord Meghanand Desai, Hanif Quereshi, Indrajit Hazra, Anne Enright, O.P Valmiki, Chetan Bhagat, Barkha Dutt, Rahul Bose, Om Puri, and Javed Akhtar were some of the speakers amongst the many other eminent personalities.
The cultural heritage of Diggi Palace provided an ideal venue with its sprawling lawns and intricately designed but spacious halls and baithak. Where literature is, can music be far behind? The literary events of each day were concluded by a well enjoyed musical night.
Day one: Though there was a slight deviation in schedule due to Girish Karnad’s delayed arrival, a host of remarkable events like Shabana Azmi’s reading from her mother’s memoirs Kaifi and I, Gulzaar’s poetry reading. Some people did express disappointment at Jamaica Kincaid’s non appearance as had been promised earlier.
Day 2: The festival picked up in full flow on the second day with Nandita Das and Om Puri talking about the latter’s controversial book An Unlikely Hero. Mark Tully and Prasoon Joshi’s discussion on The Queen’s Hinglish too drew a large crowd. Amongst the attendees of this event were Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi as well as former chief minister Vasundhara Raje , who got no preferential treatment as, to put it in the words of the organizers, “ this was a democratic event”. The highlight of the day was Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka’s readings from his book The Road. There were requests for a reading of his immensely popular poem (coincidentally a part of our Delhi University Individual and society syllabus) ‘Telephone conversation’. In the open session which followed after the reading, he answered questions ranging from his views on politics, the situation in Nigeria, apartheid and his imprisonment under the dictatorial regime of General Yakubu Gowon
Day 3: The events on day three explored the dimensions of literature in economics, gender issues, politics and music. Well attended events on this day were ‘Wanderlust’ by Isabel Hilton , Geoff Dyer and William Dalrymple which unfortunately clashed with Claire Tomlain and Andrew Lycett’s discussion, “Two Lives : Jane Austen and Kipling”. The presence of Chetan Bhagat as a moderator in the event “Teen Deviyan: Anjum Hasan, Ira Trivedi and Meenakshi Madhavan” was a crowd puller. The Lonely Planet Story and Migrant Words were other interesting events on Day 3
Day 4: The morning session of “first fictions- reading” by Tishani Doshi, Tania James and Mohyna Srinivasan proved rather interesting.
“Diana Chronicles” with Tina Brown and Vir Sanghvi as the key note speakers got a good response from the audience. Alexander Mc Call Smith with his joviality and wit made “Scotland Presents Under the Kilt” a very interesting session.
Other events on this day included “Tagore – the singer and the song” and the myth about short stories.
Director’s cut which had Hanif Quereshi , Roddy Diyle and Stephen Frears as the key speakers was another interesting session
Day 5: Day 5 saw the culmination of this event with talks by Shobha De, Hanif Quereshi, Vikram Chandra and Alexander McCall Smith. “What are you like?”, an event which had Indrajit Hazra in conversation with the prolific Anne Enright, was the highlight of the day. This 5 day long festival concluded with a charged intelligence debate on State Vs people: The state has declared war on its poorest people in the name of development.