Lit For Life 2016 is the sixth edition of Chennai’s own literary festival, organized by The Hindu newspaper.
The three day deluge of stimulating conversations has come to an end and I’m here now with my mind going off in multiple places. I have to thank the people at The Hindu for bringing this to Chennai. The city has definitely bagged one more feather to its cap. And I hope to see this festival blossom into an even bigger phenomenon to become a go-to literary festival for South Indians at least. The Jaipur Literature Fest has already set the benchmark quite high.
There were two themes that will probably be my key takeaways this year – one has to do with “taboo” fiction, and the other is the whole mythology/religion/intolerance debate. While it’s true that the audience is equally split between the older and younger audience, it’s nice that we are able to have these conversations without anybody batting an eyelid. I mean, I expected there to be at least a groan or two when author Ananth read out an explicitly raunchy conversation from his erotic novel, but nothing happened and no ambulances were required after all. 😛
As Devdutt Pattanaik rightly put it in his speech, progress do not arise out of a tug-of-war. Nobody will gain anything if either side takes an unassailable position. One has to give a little for the back and forth debate to happen. That’s the only way we can sustain a healthy conversation. It also tied in neatly with the whole freedom-of-speech conundrum in that currently it is indeed very true that the “leftist” society is going too left that they almost seem like the right wing.
Anyway, without further ado, here are my favourite sessions from the final two days of the fest…
True Detectives: Of sleuths in Gaborone and Edinburgh – Alexander McCall Smith
Am I the only one who hasn’t read Alexander McCall Smith, y’all? Well apparently, he’s this very popular British writer with a staggering number of 84 books under his belt and he’s still writing! This had been a fun session as the author himself seemed like a jolly good man, with a lot of funny one liners that had the audience in splits. And I’m most definitely gonna pick up his title “The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” as everyone had great things to say about it.
Kama’s Sutra – Amrita Narayanan, Ananth Padmanabhan, Margaret Mascarenhas
An interesting discussion on erotic fiction. Though all three panelists wrote erotica, they all had different sensibilities which really made me see the number of ways one can approach any topic. My favourite was Amrita Narayanan’s attempt to delicately sexualize everyday life in her short story collection, which for the most part is not even given a curt nod to in this part of the country.
Coming Out – Sandip Roy, Living Smile Vidya, Philip Hensher
I was pleasantly surprised that they even had this session. As expected, the auditorium was only half filled for this one but what matters is that people came at all. Sandip and Philip are both openly gay authors and Vidya is the first transgender woman in India to hold a proper corporate job. The discussion was a bit desultory given the breadth of the issue at hand but it was interesting nonetheless.
Forbidden Fruit – Lionel Shriver, Manil Suri, Amrita Narayanan and Annie Zaidi
We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver will be the next book I read. The book became a widespread phenomenon for its content which is of a mother hating pregnancy and childbirth and then her son, later on. The rest of the panel too had written something on the lines of a “forbidden fruit” which is the danger zone in literature, the unnecessary line that you are expected not to cross. Lionel’s words that while you’re breaking taboo several new ones are continuously taking birth ring very true.
Scion of Ikshvaku – Amish
The penultimate session for the year, author Amish got a full house with this one. And as for something that I had been wondering myself, he explained why he cut down the “Tripathi” from his name. Turns out, Tripathi is a caste name in the north and he did not want that to be part of his identity. Which is thoughtful, I guess. Amish came in last year as well which was when he revealed that he was working on a new series which came true in the Ramachandra series. This time the conversation flowed more towards the concepts of religion and belief which I always find interesting. And I’ll admit that while I’m not a fan of the author himself, I’m grateful for what he’s done to increase the readers in our country!
To be honest, the three days flew so fast that time doesn’t seem to be have passed at all and yet here I am at the end of the third day with a lot of experiences and memories to cherish. So long for 2017 now.
Here’s the recap of Day 1 – > link