BANGALORE: Lekhana, a multilingual literary weekend held at The National Gallery of Modern Art from February 10 to 12 was truly a literary connoisseur’s delight and dream come true for many amateur writers and literary lovers in the city. With names like Girish Karnad, MK Raghvendra, Anjum Hasan, Zac O’Yeah, KR Usha, Gopalakrishna Pai, Khaleel-ur-Rehman on board, there was nothing more you could have asked for.
Day one started with fiction writer and editor of Desha Kaala, Vivek Shanbag introducing eminent author Gopalakrishna Pai and poet Khaleel-ur-Rehman who read some poems and excerpts from their book. Some of the young writers too had their share of literary amusement especially with Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino where the reader aptly changed the tone of his voice to suit the character, which left the audience in splits.
The reading was followed by a panel discussion on The City in Literature, which was moderated by film critic M K Raghavendra. The panelists for the evening included Anjum Hasan, Zac O’Yeah, K R Usha and Saniya. The discussion revolved around ‘where the city figured in the literature and arts scene’ and ‘what it felt like being an author in this city’.
Raghavendra started the discussion by speaking about Kannada films, “Our movies have an ambivalent attitude to the city. It reaches only the poorest sections like Ballalpet and Cubbonpet. It may, at the most, reach JP Nagar, Jayanagar, but not Koramangala. Kannada movies have made the city emblematic of the nation, by showing Bangalore as a national, not regional space. Unfortunately, the Kannada audience and politicians perceive the city in the same way. And thanks to the rulers, we have nothing iconic here. Hence, nothing really kindles the imagination of the writers.”
The city seems impermanent, with perpetual transformation, is what the critic felt. The city does not breathe any loyalty and Bangalore is in the hands of those who don’t feel loyal to it,” he further added.
However, Marathi author, Saniya, who spent most of her adult life in Bangalore loved the space, freedom and anonymity this city had to offer. And, poet, novelist Anjum Hasan too echoed similar sentiments. She said, “Bangalore is a city of complete liberation and plays a major role in my imagination. The city lets you be and is constantly being fed with so many things.”
Her second novel, Nethi Nethi was written in Bangalore and explains further her characters experiences in the city. She also felt that one is not judged here, based on your roots or nativity.
Finnish-born, Swedish writer Zac O’Yeah, who made Bangalore his home 12 years ago, had a two decade-long view of the city. “Here, I find it easy to write about Sweden.” He jokingly remarked, “People think I am from a place in North Pole, who writes in some gibberish language. So, in my next life I hope to be a Kannada writer.”
He felt that though several books have been written on Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, not much has been written about Bangalore. “I walk around Cubbonpet, Malleshwaram and Rajajinagar, striking conversations to get a sense of the city. It is easy to sample culture this way. My next novel is set in Bangalore.” The author also felt that Kannada writer Lankesh’s novel, which though set in Sheshadripuram, doesn’t talk much about the place.
U R Ananthmurthy, who was keenly listening to the discussion said, “If anyone writes about Bengaluru today, it will be like a tourist guide.” He said, “A lot of Bangalore today looked like villages”, evoking a sense of nostalgia. He reminisced memories of Vidhyarthi Bhavan, Koshys, Majestic (which used to be a lake).
Many people lamented the perpetual transformation in the city, whereas many said, Bangalore is the best city in the country for its weather and cosmopolitan culture. With many different voices ranging from writers to critics to thinkers, a visit to Lekhana was worth its salt.