Lit fests are delightful places to meet people: Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar

It’s the lit fest season now. It’s a platform to meet and interact with authors, publishers and most importantly, the readers.  Author HANSDA SOWVENDRA SHEKHAR talks about his ‘lit fest experiences’ to our Managing Editor Teresa Rehman

What are your takeaways from the Jaipur Lit Fest 2018?

I spent most of my time at the JLF 2018 at the press terrace as I met my friends there. Also, the press terrace was the only place at the venue of the JLF, Diggi Palace Hotel, where one could move about freely without colliding against five other people while walking a length of just five feet. When I was not at the press terrace, I went shopping with my friends in the old city area of Jaipur. Therefore, I could not attend many sessions. However, the session I had with Manoranjan Byapari and Arunava Sinha at the Durbar Hall is something I would remember for a long time. Also, I saw a young girl, who must have been in her late-teens, run up to Rupi Kaur in the shuttle bus and cry her heart out. Also, I attended a dinner hosted by Pan Macmillan India in honour of Julia Donaldson, the creator of the delightful Gruffalo books. And, of course, I signed the contract for another book with my publisher, Speaking Tiger.

What role do you think lit fests play in popularising books and authors?

I think people get access to authors and authors get to meet the readers. 

Do you think only a certain class of writers dominate the lit fests?

I am not sure. Authors who apparently dominate lit fests vary from festival to festival. If there are three lit fests – Lit Fest X, Lit Fest Y, and Lit Fest Z – then Lit Fest X might be dominated by one set of authors while Lit Fest Y might be dominated by one other set and Lit Fest Z by some other set. And since all three lit fests – X, Y, and Z – are important and all three sets of authors are important, so all of them have something important to contribute to all three lit fests in their own ways. 

Do you think authors of Indian Languages find their space in these lit fests?

Yes, I think authors of Indian Languages find their space in these lit fests. 

Which lit fests did you attend till date? And how would you rate them?

I have attended – in the order in which I started attending them – The Hindu Lit For Life, the Jaipur Literature Festival, the Goa Arts &  Literature Festival, the Hyderabad Literary Festival, the Times Lit Fest Bengaluru, the AMU Literary Festival, the Noida Literature Festival, the Chandigarh Literature Festival, and the Times Lit Fest Delhi. I will now attend the Kolkata Literature Festival (which is organised at the International Kolkata Book Fair). All these lit fests are good, however, I really appreciate the AMU Literary Festival – organised by the AMU Literary and Debating Club – as it is put together entirely by the students of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). 

Is there any anecdote that you would like to share regarding the lit fests?

My best and most quirky anecdotes are from the Goa Arts & Literature Festival (GALF) which I have attended for three years now, and none of these anecdotes have got anything to do with books or readings or authors or the literary sessions. I lost my mobile phone during a dinner at the 2016 GALF and I was so worried. I was looking all over the venue when I thought of calling my own phone using someone else’s phone. I did that and realised that my phone was in my jeans pocket! At the 2017 GALF, when I was supposed to go for an outreach programme at a college, I got out of bed and found that I had been locked out of the bathroom. Again, at the 2017 GALF, some of us authors grouped together everyday and travelled from Dona Paula (where the festival is held) to Panjim and did restaurant-hopping to eat Goan food. It was more like a food fest than a lit fest. And yes, one very special memory: after the 2016 GALF, Antara Dev Sen asked me to accompany her mother, Nabaneeta Dev, to Kolkata as Ms. Dev was not keeping well and was travelling alone. I was helped at the Goa airport by Samhita Arni. At the Goa airport, with the flights being late, four of us had our own little lit fest: Samhita Arni, who was flying to Bengaluru, and we three Kolkata-bound authors: Nabaneeta Dev, Nidhi Dugar Kundalia, and I. That time I spent with Ms. Dev was a memorable one.

Teresa Rehman

Teresa Rehman

Teresa Rehman is an award-winning journalist based in Northeast India. She had worked with India Today magazine, The Telegraph and Tehelka. She is now the Managing Editor of The Thumb Print. She has been awarded the WASH Media Awards 2009-2010. She had recieved the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award for two consecutive years (2008-09 and 2009-10) for the category 'Reporting on J&K and the Northeast (Print). She received the Laadli Media Award for Gender Sensitivity 2011, Sanskriti Award 2009 for Excellence in Journalism and the Seventh Sarojini Naidu Prize 2007 for Best Reporting on Panchayati Raj by The Hunger Project. She was also featured in the Power List of Femina magazine in 2012. Her two book are 'The Mothers of Manipur' (Zubaan Books) and Bulletproof (Penguin).