The literary aspirations of our country have been on the rise since a few years now. Literary Festivals, which are being organized with increasing frequency all over the country, seem to have replaced Fashion Weeks that were previously held in these very cities. As things stand, for intellectuals, bibliophiles, writers and socialites alike, to not be seen at a literature festival today is to not exist at all.
Be that as it may, the literary scene in India and more specifically Mumbai wasn’t always as lush as it is today. Until a few years ago, lovers of the written word had no adda to call their own, no opportunities where they could meet and exchange ideas with each other and rub shoulders with their favourite writers and queue up to get books signed by them.
In 2011, however, two literary ladies, both accomplished writers, authors and opinion makers in their own right, decided it was time to address this gap and change the literary landscape of Mumbai. And so it is that Bachi Karkaria and Namita Devidayal, the two peerless optimists, unleashed THE Times Litfest upon us, solely on the might of their own will.
Ever since, their ambitious venture has come to be an incredible meeting of minds of celebrated writers, emerging voices from across the sub-continent and passionate, (mostly) intelligent audiences. The Times Lit Fest Mumbai also raised the entertainment quotient of such gatherings, which were once perceived of as a dry and esoteric enterprises, by injecting them with the requisite dose of humour, music and drama.
Ergo, first weekend of December, year after year, temporarily suspending ones maternal and professional duties, one has flocked to Mehboob studios, to hear writers commune. One has sprinted from one hall to another with the urgency of NASA personnel on verge of missing a space shuttle departure; like any self respecting Indian, one has jostled for good seats in those hallowed halls; purchased more books than one can humanly read over twelve months and conversed (and perhaps taken selfies) with gush-worthy authors.
As enthralling as the previous Times Lit Fests have been, 2015 will take the experience a notch higher, not only because of its impressive lineup of literary stars from home and abroad but also because it promises to provoke dialogue and discourse over a topic that is impacting all our lives in ways that our generation, this far, has been unfamiliar with.
The carefully chosen theme of this year’s festival then, is ENSLAVING EXPRESSION, a phrase that is, tragically, a true representation of our times.
Some of the interesting panel discussions then being held between 4th and 6th of December, 2015 at the Mehboob studios are: Is India the most unequal country on earth?, a talk by globally acclaimed economist Thomas Piketty, Mani Shankar Aiyer, Tavleen Singh and Indira Jaisingh discussing the Right to Offend with Shekhar Gupta, Anatomy of an Investigation with Avirook Sen, author of Aarushi, Mumbai Police Commissioner Javed Ahmad and criminal lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani, Do you remember how it was once? Gulzar and Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s daughter Salima Hashmi.
Some of the other global stars at the Times Litfest, 2015 that one can look forward to seeing also include Prof. Michael Sandel of Harvard, the ‘brain-mapper’ Tony Buzan, and global adviser on teenage distress, Nicola Morgan.
However, it isn’t all grim and highbrow at the list fest this year for its curators have thrown in enough amuse bouche to keep it light and cheerful with entertaining sessions such as Three Mad Men featuring Suhel Seth, Cyrus Broacha and Kunal Vijaykar and High Life, Low Life (of crazy rich Asians), a discussion between panelists author Kewin Kwan, Moni Mohsin and yours truly. There is also a session with Radhika Vaz and Hemant Morparia that promises to provide comic relief to the audiences along with another fun session between Twinkle Khanna and Moni Mohsin.
Bachi and Namita have made a special effort this year to draw in young audiences with an informal tutorial by Kumar Mangalam Birla on leadership, entrepreneurship etc, and panel discussions of, by and for young adults.
For those interested in the fine art of cooking, the menu ranges from the venerable Claudia Roden to the uber glamorous Padma Lakshmi.
Vikram Seth, Patrick French, Manu Joseph, Sudha Murthy, Aparna Sen, Vikram Chandra, Atul Dodiya and Ram Rahman are the other luminaries from the world of literature and art who will be speaking at the festival.
As a mother of a child on the cusp of her deadly teen years, I am personally looking forward to participating in the discussion about parenting, curiously titled Tigers, Helicopters and other Smothers with international adolescence expert Nicola Morgan and psychiatrist Dr Pervin Dadachanji.
For further information on the Times Litfest Mumbai, 2015 you can log onto www.timeslitfest.com