Roundup: Celebrating the written word at 10th edition of Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival
From Tharoor predicting UPA III over NDA III to senior Abdullah talking about peace, and from poetry bridging boundaries to Shobhaa De urging to hear out men too. AKLF 2019 was all this and more
The 10th edition of the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival, a three-day literary extravaganza, will be etched in the memory of book lovers in the city for a while to come. Held over five venues, the festival brought authors, poets and theatre artistes closer to the readers. The festival kicked off on January 18 at Allen Park, and found enthusiasts of art, literature and poetry relish every moment.
An early session at Allen Park brushed aside the adage ‘Don’t judge the book by its cover', by underscoring just how important book covers are today. Titled 'Cover Story: The Book Cover Prize Shortlist', the discussion found Alka Pande, Priti Paul, Pinaki De and Kunal Basu discussing the changing perception of book covers. Pinaki also offered a presentation on Purendu Pattrea’s book designs, addressing the book covers as a ‘first seduction’, which the reader experience.
Shashi Tharoor had the crowd held under a spell in the session 'The Great Indian Paradox: In Conversation with David Davidar'. The parliamentarian directed his concerns over apparent paradoxes in government policies, and even forecasted that 'UPA III is more a possibility than NDA III.' Paro Anand, Anuradha Roy and others were part of the delegation in the sessions that followed.
The second day of the festival saw a variety of discussions - whether it was about gender sensitisation in books for children, or about Lorenzo Angeloni’s latest book, Amor Italiano. Each discussion enlightened and piqued the interest of the audience. In another session, Lorenzo held a conversation with journalist and writer Shobhaa De, as the latter recollected her fondness for all things Italian.
The next session hosted a panel of journalist and researchers, including Makepeace Sitlhou, Ronnie Nido and Huidrom Boicha Singh, as they talked about various trends in the North East - from the gaongoris of Arunachal Pradesh to insurgents who kill sexual offenders, and how people perceive them. Boicha spoke about the criticism of those who identified themselves as females, despite being males or transgenders, who indulge in cross-dressing and are publicly ostracised for doing so.
There was also a representation of the ongoing #MeToo movement, discussed by Anuja Chauhan, Shobhaa De, Shutapa Paul, Jayant Kripalani and Ruchir Ghosh. The session was titled, 'Crossing the Line: Perspectives on the Me Too Crisis'. Moderated by Kavita Punjabi, the panelists were encouraged to hear out the concerns of men, and taking women seriously when they are vocal about being harassed.
The evening witnessed the dance drama, Sundays with Chitra and Chaitali, inspired by Tagore's Chitrangada. A delight to watch, the tale of two modern day friends drawing parallels from the classic was very relatable.
Devdutt Pattnaik and Jawhar Sircar captivated the audience further with their discussion on 'Ancient Teachings, Modern Times: The Ramayana and Mahabharata'. The session made for an interesting discourse that pointed out how the two epics are different, yet inevitably connected.
The concluding session of the day found popular anchor Ravish Kumar captivating everyone with a speech. In 'Speaking Truth to Power with Urvashi Butalia', he enlightened the audience by pointing out instances of biased reporting in select Hindi newspapers, while being wary of the youth turning into a lynching mob.
On the final day, Farooq Abdullah gave the festival guests more food for thought. The former CM of Kashmir was in conversation with AS Daulat, a RAW agent who co-authored the book, The Spy Chronicles, along with Pakistani ISI agent Assad Durrani. At the session, 'The Illusion of Peace', the two delegates emphasised that peace can be obtained only if the two countries indulge in constructive dialogue.
Soulful poetry brought down the curtains for the tenth edition of AKLF. 'Poetry Cafe: Multilingual Mehfil', curated by The Creative Arts, witnessed poets recite poems in Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi on various themes. Moderated by Raju Rama, the event was punctuated with performances of ghazals.