Who said “Tinder is my Swyambar”? Which author visited bookstores to put his books under the “Bestsellers” section? Who claimed that Indian designers copy each other? Read on for all the scoop on the Times LitFest!
74 sessions, 100+ speakers, thousands of voracious readers: the reading capital of India came alive last weekend. While the bookworms were blissed-out seeing WriteIndia authors, William Dalrymple and the felicitation of Ruskin Bond with the Lifetime achievement award, there was plenty for those whom they dragged along too!
Those who came yawning and ranting went back ooh’ing and aah’ing seeing an uber-stylish Farhan Akhtar rocking on, resplendent-in-red Sharmila Tagore talking on and wildly adored Shashi Tharoor respectfully standing up to talk amid the stampede-like situation.
I dolefully squeezed my way out in midst of the aforesaid session to the ‘girliyapa’ next door. (I made flow-charts to ensure I attended the maximum sessions!) Kanika Tekriwal’s story inspired me to JetSetGo for my bucket-list. While Mallika Dua’s self-depreciating humour had all in splits (“3 years? My career didn’t exist 6 months ago!”), Sapna Bhavnani’s ‘roaring’ feminism was empowering. “Tinder is my Swyamvar. Why not? I’m even trying to get my mother on it!” Usually the shy ‘girl in the green jacket’, I even found the guts to ask a question. As did a man who said “I decided to leave my fave Tharoor’s session, as he is speaking of the past while feminism is the future. I have two daughters, how could I not?”
Humour follows where Ashwin Sanghi treads. He instantly quipped when something fell as he entered, “This is what happens when thriller writers come in.” He also stressed on visibility by giving his own example. “I did tell the Crossword people later that I meddled with their Bestseller racks a wee bit!” His opinion differs to Ravinder Singh’s regarding the market demand for short stories. “Stories never grow old if they are told in style,” Singh opines. “Remember our grandmothers’ stories? That’s the storytelling style I talk about.”
Ravi Subramanyam advised aspiring writers to “Write as it suits you. I’m done with 95% of my next book and I don’t yet know who the killer is.” Vinita Dawra Nangia, founder of the WriteIndia contest, defined a winning story as “The one that walks with me once I walk out after reading one.” It was easy to be vicariously happy for the winners who were present there (more so because a season 2 was announced for the rest of us!) and I happily bought the book.
William Dalrymple’s session showed how underneath a Big Name could lie such warmth and wit. Sonal Mansingh’s and Devdutt Patnaik’s insights and London Laureate Selina’s mellifluous poetry had me hungry for more the next day.
And I was happily sated on hearing stimulating discussions by P. Chidambaram and Radhika Vaz as well as meeting RJs Dev, Rohit, Ginni and Raunak (our very own Baua!). What the discussion with Paralympics winners inspired was more than inspiration… it was awe.
In a festival which was as much Delhi as it was Literary, how could films and fashion stay behind? Ritu Kumar, who started with two tables and brought the boutique culture to India, talked about how that’s ‘ridiculous’ to think of now for Indian fashion has evolved. While she has put Indian footprint on international ramps, Vidyun Singh feels the Indian designers are not beyond ripping off each others’ designs. “Look at Rodricks, he’s the only one who handed his label to a designer he trained. That’s what keeps fashion fresh!” JJ Valaya remains optimistic (and is so adorable despite his calling himself more of a writer than speaker) about the originality of Indian fashion, “If handlooms can survive anywhere in this world, it’s India.” While Vinita Dawra Nangia opines that armchair journalism or nonspecialist journalists covering fashion is the norm, he maintains that fashion journalism is seeing better days with magazines such as GQ and Vogue India.
A few Delhiites who need a dose on etiquette wouldn’t know what they missed when they left the next session on finding a promised famous director absent. Even though the session was a bit of this and a bit of that, it was very Delhi as that’s what Delhi is! Vani Tripathi Tikoo of CBFC, producer Bobby Bedi of the Bandit Queen fame and screenwriter Atul Tiwari had a stimulating discussion on Delhi standing out as a character in Bollywood films and the shift in audience’s sensibilities. “Which other product has a fixed MRP of Rs. 150 irrespective of its production cost which ranges from 1 lakh to 100 crores? Only the Film Industry,” commented Bobby as Vani talked about her love for Delhi and Atul about NSD still being the best of India. When I asked about the chances of screenwriting talent being solicited from Delhi, they stressed on what is the one key factor anywhere: persistence.
At the end of day I roamed around the IHC restaurants and wondered why my Punjabi tummy wasn’t growling. I thought of my cool newfound gyan, the high of being among brilliant minds and the pride of being in this city.
I was already full.