Friday, November 21, 2014

Learning at Literature Festivals in India

India hosts over 60 literature festivals every year. These events have some of the best writers in the country sharing insights about their writing process and books.

Read this Al Jazeera article about Literary Festivals in India - Here is a post about my experience and some learning insights at two such festivals of the country:-

Tata Literature Live Festival 2013, Mumbai

Mumbai has so many festivals that you often have to choose which ones you can attend based on your schedule and which ones you cannot. Such a sapiosexual delight!

Reading had become a favored pastime, during my first year at college. I was on the lookout for any literature event happening around the city. That is when I came across, ‘Literature Live’

This is Mumbai’s very own Literature Festival. It is a four day event held every November at the National Center of Performing Arts, Mumbai. There are various talks, panel discussions, readings, plays and workshops that participants can attend with literature being common theme behind them all. I decided to go for the festival in 2013 and here is what happened.

Workshops at the Festival

Two workshops I really enjoyed were:-

a)  Creative Writing Workshop with Chandrahas Choudhary, a fiction writer from Delhi where the writer shared with us insights on his writing process and new forms of publishing.
b)  Performance Poetry Workshop by Inua Elams where we discussed how you can convert written prose and verse into poetry.

Both the workshops were outside my comfort zone and it was an interesting experience learning about these different fields.  For the next two days I became such a great student, because there were so many masters of the craft sharing profound free wisdom! It was incredible. Girish Karnad (playwright), Amish Tripathi, HM Naqvi, Nik Gowing (Journalist), Mani Shankar Aiyar were some of the speakers at the event that year.

Another highlight of the event was the poetry reading by Naseeruddin Shah, the Indian film actor. In this event, he presented the poems of Vikram Seth and James Thurber. This was held at the magnificent Jamshed Baba Theatre at the NCPA.

A Piece about the festival in 2013 on the India Real Time Website -

India Non Fiction Festival 2013

In July 2013, I saw a write-up in the Hindustan Times about the India Non-Fiction Festival. This was a three day festival for non-fiction writers. I had to be there.

The festival would start at 10 am and go on till 6 pm everyday. So for the three days from June 21st to June 23rd, I would come in early and reserve my seat for the first session of the day. I developed a close professional relationship with some of the event organizers in the process. I had studied the schedule and then noted down the talks I wanted to attend and the authors and speakers I wanted to meet.

Learning from the Practitioners

I learned so much about writing and publishing books by attending literature festivals and book launches across the country. It was indeed very exciting learning from the writers personally. This was the kind of education that even the best creative writing courses in the world would find hard to give me. It is quite hard to bring so many writers and publishers together, to speak about their work.

With Amish Tripathi (Shiva Trilogy Series)

I had some superb conversations about the writing process with the people I got to interact with there. These included readers, bloggers, entrepreneurs and other professionals. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to learn from such a diverse group of professionals. Rashmi Bansal, Radhakrishnan Pillai, Ashwin Sanghi, Mahesh Bhatt were some of the Indian non-fiction writers at the festival.

A Discussion about Education

In one session at the festival, the discussion had moved on too education. I had a very strong opinion on education and how it shapes society today. So I presented my question to the panelists, about why the education system did not appreciate different types of intelligences and how I personally had to fight the system to work on my passion.

The panelists were glad that I brought up the question and thanked me for it. The book being discussed that day was about the personal journeys of people that had taken up unconventional careers and done really well at it. The author of the book, being discussed shared with the audience, that the major objective of her book was to encourage young people and to show them examples of people that had made unconventional career choices work. These people found ways to use their multiple intelligences well....Unconventional Career Choices... That was surely something to think about.

Highlight of the Festival

The highlight of the whole festival was the final talk by Gregory David Roberts author of the best-selling book, ‘Shantaram’. Mr Roberts personal life story, adventures, struggles, views on India inspired me to look for more in life. It was definitely one of the best talks I got to attend throughout the past year.

Tavleen Singh at the Festival

On the final day of the festival, I wrote a letter to the organizers thanking them for giving Non-Fiction writers a platform to discuss and express their ideas. There was so much to learn and this festival got me even more excited about this learning adventure we are all on!

Find out more about these gatherings of literary enthusiasts here

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