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Fact and fable, news and verse, detail and dizzy prose: When the Bangalore Litfest came alive

If the thrill of being up and about, going hither and thither, was not heady enough, there was the bookshop, with books to the left and books to the right.

Published: 02nd January 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st January 2022 09:07 PM   |  A+A-

(Photo | bangaloreliteraturefestival.org)

Bookworms converged in Bengaluru with their glasses firmly perched on nose when the Bangalore Literature Festival recently unpacked its 10th edition. In times of yore, you could attend fests in person and nod at this and shake head at that. But in post-pandemic paranoia, we fear to go live. So, a fest most authors would attend in person was a daring, daring decision. Taking a solemn oath, hand on the latest bestseller, to enforce all safety norms, the festival team decided to go ahead.

As writers opened up with wit and verve, words ruled the day. Journalist Josy Joseph, whose book The Silent Coup sold the highest in the festival bookshop, rued the growing religious divide in society: 'Today it is far easier to implement authoritarian decisions.'

'The Language of Grief' panel -- which dived bravely into the dark that follows the departure of loved ones, with children's writer AT Boyle and RJ Stutee Ghosh of Mera Wala Grief podcast who lost a parent during the pandemic, Nandini Murali who penned Left Behind: Surviving Suicide Loss and journalist Dipti Nair -- dovetailed with virologist Gagandeep Kang's lowdown on virus variants.

Chetan Bhagat, whose career now includes a cameo in Netflix show Decoupled, got a full house with his punchlines. Others who brought the crowds in were Shashi Deshpande, whose book Subversions: Essays on Life and Literature is just out, and Rukmini S, author of Whole Numbers and Half Truths.

The man and his vision: At the launch of Furrows in a Field

While journalists Debashish Mukerji and Sugata Srinivasaraju spoke about their books in person, others to zoom in from afar were Andy Griffiths, Bee Rowlatt, David Baldacci, Chitra Divakaruni, Lori Gottlieb, Ma Anand Sheela, Rutger Bregman; Remo Fernandes from Goa and Sabrina Janesch from Germany; Sania Mirza came in with sport and Moin Mir with Sufism. Yes, speakers agreed, romance has changed. So have the stereotypical views on women.

If the thrill of being up and about, going hither and thither, was not heady enough, there was the bookshop, with books to the left and books to the right. You could pick up, cradle in your palms and inhale. The festival ran through that weekend like water, with its own meter and rhyme, folding into Jeet Thayil’s reading from Names of the Women.

His Salome danced right in the aisles -- 'nobody watching was conscious of the hour of the day, or where they were, or why' -- before demanding John the Baptist's head 'washed and dressed and placed on a silver platter with a necklace of figs and sumac leaves'. The executioner, apparently, 'a soft-spoken man with a terrible hangover'…

A festival made up of fact and fable, news and verse, detail and dizzy prose. Only stories can take us to once upon a time.

Shinie Antony is an author. She can be reached at shinieantony@gmail.com



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