The Bangalore Lit Fest is really shining this year with a panel of guest speakers on topics ranging from horror to politics to Bollywood to music. It is definitely a more eclectic viewing this year than the one before. The venue is the same as last year, the grounds of the Crowne Plaza, and is beautiful and serene. The landscaped gardens with the small, artificial stream bubbling through and bottle brush trees dotted here and there is a perfect setting for discussing books and authors. The mike systems, like those everywhere, keep either screeching or shutting down completely at regular intervals. Thankfully, there are also a lot of young college volunteers who are quick to make amends and ensure the smooth running of the sessions. There is also an ongoing contemporary art and sculpture exhibition on the grounds for all to enjoy. The food stands were a little sad-looking on the first day maybe because the crowd was a little thin – it being a working day. I still remember the gorgeous food we sampled here last year and am looking forward to more of the same.
Two or three sessions are usually arranged at the same time and sometimes it becomes difficult to pick one over the other. The seating under canopied tents is comfortable enough.
Chetan Bhagat’s session was the one I wanted to catch first, since my brother is a huge fan and he wanted to be in the presence of celebrity by proxy. I was standing just at the entrance of the gardens under the shade of a tree waiting for Hubby to pay the cab and turned around to come face-to-face with the author himself. He was being escorted by three svelte girls in hep clothes and 6-inch heels. The pathway was completely empty but for the four of us, but since the svelte ladies totally ignored my presence I will do so too and say it was just the two of us. It was a perfect opportunity to get his autograph or even a selfie and I even made eye-contact with him and received a smile but I was so frozen by the ‘be polite’ and ‘don’t accost strangers’ etiquette drummed into me by my parents that I could only stare at him with a goofy smile as he sailed past. I think the goofy smile scared him a bit because he immediately asked the nymphs to ‘surround’ him in order to ‘protect him’ in a loud and clear voice. Really! Look what being polite gets you. People actually begin categorizing you as a maniac. His session was fun since he obviously is a good speaker with a lot of charm and wit. And I never did get his autograph afterwards – there was a huge crowd and it was really hot and I am too short (easily trampled).
We then wandered over to a discussion on the state of minorities in India and got ourselves well and truly riled up. The panel was composed of a set of individuals who were so far left that they had almost come full circle to the right. To hear them speak one would think India had declared itself a Hindu state and was systematically culling the Muslims in our country. Asma Jahanagir talked about Pakistan’s problems with their minorities and made some pretty valid points but according to her the great difference between our two countries is that ‘Pakistan recognizes that there is a problem whereas India does not’. I certainly admire her for her courage to raise questions in a country (Pakistan) that pretty much has a gag order on everything and everyone but this was a bit much to swallow. Nirupama Dutt was absolutely virulent in her aversion to the ruling party every time she was given a chance. According to her it would be so much more peaceful if Hindus and Muslims would inter-marry as the Hindus and Sikhs did in Punjab to counter terrorism and hate. Also, she pointed out that the present HRD minister was a woman from a Saas-Bahu serial in which she portrayed one Hindu festival after another. How that was relevant to the topic completely flew over my head! A member of the audience from Bihar made a much better and succinct point when he said that a riot starts between two communities and then becomes a riot between the minority community and the administration. He also asked why it was that after every incident of violence all the Hindu liberals flocked to the channels to denounce the violence and the members who took part in it and non of the Muslim liberals ever did. Not surprisingly, he never received an answer for that. There should have been a speaker with another view also on the panel so that it didn’t feel so much of a India-bashing bunch. I agree that the Hindus have suppressed the lower castes for hundreds of years and it is something which calls for recompense but it is absolutely fallacious to say we should be guilty of doing the same to Muslims.
The next session we attended was about the mindset of getting a job done in India and whether it will ever change. It was an interesting panel with both for and against speakers about the ‘Jugaad’ culture in India, a practice that can be taken as both a positive quality of getting a job done no matter the circumstances and a negative one that bypasses perfection by throwing things together in a haphazard manner. It seemed much more fun but I wanted to see Rani Mukherjee and dragged my hubby away before he could hear the whole of it.
Rani Mukherjee in a pink kurta and casual jeans looked more like a journalist than a movie star and I am not sure if I was disappointed by that. The session was overflowing with her fans and seemed like a lot of fun. She talked about her latest movie and the work she put into it and the people that she met during that time. She really comes across as the quiet girl next door.
The most harrowing part of the day was trying to get a taxi back from electronic city. Our mistake was not pre-booking one in the morning. For our sins we had to take an auto drive with Kannada Michael Schumacher cum angry Salman Khan. He just couldn’t tolerate anything in front of him and so would overtake from any side. And then he decided that these two boys on a bike were deliberately mocking him and started yelling at them which made them begin mocking him for real. in retaliation he started following them and whacking the guy on the back with stinging slaps on his back – all while driving at full speed and leaning his torso completely out of the vehicle. I think I might have exploded an artery but for his auto breaking down halfway home. Yes, there is a God.