The Babu meant to blog about Kitab, the literary festival that took place over the weekend in Delhi, but it’s been written about here, and here, and here, and, oh, here. It’s also been blogged, by Jabberwock in what the Babu hopes is the first of many Notes-from-the-Fest posts (I’m too lazy to do this, but it would be so nice if someone else did the hard work!) and by Hirak.
The panel discussions were better than I’d expected, but I have to confess that the best conversations happened outside the auditorium.
What was going on inside wasn’t bad, but I suspect most authors doing the talking heads thing secretly share Asokamitran’s bemusement at the things writers must do:
From Asokamitran’s Mole!:
I found out what the function was about only after we got there. Two hundred eminent citizens of Des Moines had arranged for a poetry reading by our international group of writers; they had been waiting for us for the past hour.
One by one, writers from our group went up to the podium and read poems in their own languages. It is true that I am no poet. However, had I known earlier about the programme, I might have saved the situation somewhat. At that moment, I felt helpless. I told one of the organizers that I carried no poems with me. He gave me a shocked look, but offered no other response….
…Wracking my brain, I recalled as much of a Gnanakoothan poem (“Anru Veru Kizhamai”) as I could, and adapted it in English as best as I could. [The reading goes well; the guests praise the poem, line by line.]
It was then that disaster struck. A good citizen of Des Moines announced that their poet-guests would now sing songs in their own languages. A deafening roar of applause went up—even from our own group. I trembled and shrank back in fright. But the guests went up on stage with more eagerness and gusto than the hosts themselves. They sang in different octaves and voices, and even in plain screeches, till everyone cried, “Enough!” When my turn came, I sang for a whole minute and got down.
We had to stay at a hotel that night, two to a room. I wanted to share a secret with the [Korean] writer who was my roommate. “Did you know that I didn’t sing any song? I only sang the thirty letters of the Tamil alphabet to a tune of my own.”
He did not seem surprised. “Is that right? I thought I was the only one who had used that idea.”
But there are some literary events–festivals, gatherings, mushairas–that the Babu is genuinely sorry to have missed. Here’s a partial list, and please can we have some of this in Delhi? I’m not picky, I’m willing to pass up on Segovia and Zauq… but just a little Lorca, a dash of Ghalib?