Humour writer, Rachna Singh writes about her experiences at the Bangalore Literature Festival that concluded recently.
Per Bloch. Per Bloch. Per Bloch. I am saying that name of the author I have to introduce aloud in the car. Coughing out the ‘Bloch’ to get it right. My driver turns to steal an alarmed glance. I stop.
Thankfully, the traffic on this beautiful Bangalore morning is not that bad. I reach the venue, Hotel Royal Orchid at 9:45 a.m.
The venue is dotted with energetic, white-tee wearing volunteers. They escort me to the stage I am supposed to be on. I am compering today. I feel important. It’s a windy day. Chairs are being flung around in the wind.
I worry whether some of the lighter authors will be swept off and land in the KGA golf course next door. I manage to get the day started somehow even as the canopy on the stage shudders loudly in the windy onslaught.
I get the day started. I soak in the captivating discussions, the comforting green vistas around me, and the aroma of hakka noodles being tossed in the stalls nearby.
‘Confessions of a Biographer’ is on. I love it. Jaishree Misra. Manu Pillai. How painstaking would be the task to research someone else’ life! Something I am sure I can never do without sparking bloodshed over distortion of facts.
‘Challenges facing Creative Writing in Sanskrit today’ has begun. Distinguished professors in crisp dhotis are on my stage. The other stage has dishy Ayushmann Khurrana in harem pants. I hope the wind gets strong all over again and blows him over to our side. One would think that the Sanskrit panel does not stand a chance when there’s Bollywood on the other side. But, that’s not what happens! We have a good audience and fantastic interaction. It’s time to wrap up the session. I am thanking my panellists, trying to keep my voice louder than Ayushmann belting out ‘Paani da rang..’ from next door.
The last session has begun. ‘From Anna to AAP’. It is super-exciting! But, I am tired now. I am zoning out. The light is fading. I am staring like a zombie at Sambit Patra’s socks. They are so white. So white – that they could get a part of the Milky way named after them.
The day over, I go back to my room. I met several strangers on the way who tell me they love reading my work. They cite some articles I have written for Deccan Herald. And some blogposts. I feel like a celebrity. I reach my room. Am so tired. Want to soak in bathtub.
I find out that my bathtub does not have a stopper. I call housekeeping. I am in the warm, celebrity haze. I expect an army of minions to rush in with gold-plated stoppers. Half hour goes by. I still don’t have a stopper. Have a reality check though.
I have worn jeans for breakfast. It may not be the most literary-looking attire but it is comfortable. I approve my own choice till I drop sambhar over my tee-shirt. It trickles down in erratic trails right upto my jeans. The session ‘Tipu Sultan and the Re-fashioning of History’ is on. But I have to go back sheepishly to my room and refashion myself.
I am back for the session on ‘Pangs of Separation – Partition tales’. It’s a real treat. I feel a sense of kinship with Anam Zakaria who has come from Lahore. My grandparents had also come from there. She shares how people in Pakistan interpret India through TV serials. They wonder if Indian women are always dressed like shown in the serials. I immediately regret my choice of saree and my jhumkas.
It’s time to sit in the Authors’ Lounge and meet the lovely women authors who are part of my panel –Andaleeb Wajid, Milan Vohra, Rupa Gulab and Asha Francis. We chitchat over coffee. We discuss how we wish to take the panel discussion ahead.
The moment comes. We are on stage. We are talking about ‘A Little Girl in a Big World’. It’s fun all the way. We are talking nineteen to the dozen about our books, the ‘little girl’ characters from them and the big world they seek to conquer.
My parents are in the audience. I cherish the moment. For them it must be like my school concert all over again. I say a prayer of thanks for this special special time and to have them around for it.
Day 2 is coming to a close. There is a star-studded debate with Maya Mirchandani, Aakar Patel, Mohandas Pai, Sambit Patra, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw on intolerance. In this debate, they decide that they should debate on intolerance. In future. That’s pretty much it. So I retreat to the Authors’ Lounge which is really Geoffrey’s pub in is literary avatar. Sunil Sethi of Just Books (NDTV) is there. We chitchat. I tell him I love his show. Then, he gets pulled into another conversation. That is when the guy having a drink with him turns to me and asks me,
‘Excuse me ma’am – Who is this gentleman?’
I am puzzled. You don’t know the guy you are having a drink with?
‘Sunil Sethi’, I tell him.
‘Suneil Shetty?’ he appears flummoxed.
It’s time to get back to the real world.
Pix and Text by Author