Friday, January 30, 2015

@HLF 2015 and the Haul@HLF

True to its peripatetic reputation, HLF once again moved on and pitched its tents at a new venue, Hyderabad Public School, this year. At HPS it appeared like HLF may have found a permanent venue because HPS as Hyderabadi a venue as any. But I couldn’t help wondering where the HLF might be held next year.

Unlike the previous years I was present at HLF this year for all the three days from morning till evening. This meant that I got to attend quite a few sessions though I gave the cultural events, the book launches and the workshops, a miss. I also checked out all the exhibitions, especially the photo exhibition of one my favorite travel writers- Ryszard Kapuscinski. I also could meet my friends in Hyderabad and also those from other cities. There were also a few pleasant surprises and a couple of unpleasant surprises. The pleasant surprise was finding a second hand book sale where I picked up four books.

There were three venues for the sessions, two outdoor and one indoor. On Saturday, the first day the first session I sat through was the one by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Kishalay Bhattacharjee which was quite interesting. The second one I sat in was with Vinita Dawra Nangia and Wendell Rodericks which was held in the indoor venue which had such bad acoustics that I left midway. At lunch I discovered that the organizers had made good arrangements for the delegates including lunch for them at the venue. However they seemed to have forgotten that those who come to hear the delegates also have stomachs some of which need to be filled with something more than chaat which was what was arranged for all those who were not delegates. So I had to walk all the way out of the vast HPS campus, and search for a place to eat and have lunch.

After lunch I sat through another session which was a conversation between Krishna Shastri Devulapally and Keith Butler, an Anglo Indian now settled in Australia. Butler was an angry writer, angry about how Anglo Indians were treated everywhere which he seemed to pour into his book. Another session I sat through was the one by Ashok Banker. This was in the second venue where the sound system had not yet been fixed so I could hear only half of what transpired between the writer and the moderator.

The second day,Sunday, I came along with my son. I wanted him to see what is behind and what is beyond all the books I bring home regularly. We sat through the session by Aniruddha Bahal who said that he wanted to be known as a novelist than as a journalist. The day was filled with sessions of poetry. I attended one in which there was one poet I had been reading since decades- Menka Shivdasani. Another graceful poet was Usha Akella, and so was Semeen Ali. In contrast was Meena Kandaswamy, letting off some fireworks in her poetry.

Later on after lunch it was more poetry, but it was Telugu poetry. The session- A Celebration of Telangana Poetry- was moderated by N. Gopi. Some of the Telangana poets like Nikhileshwar, Denchanala Srinivas, Annavaram Devendar and others read out stirring stuff composed out of rage, frustration, and a sense of despair in the minds of the Telangana. I plan to get my hands on some of the other poems written by these poets. It was interesting to find that one of the poets was a Government employee, an employee of the Revenue Department.

On the last day I sat through the session called ‘Urban Vignettes’ of Devdan Chauduri and Madhavi S. Mahadevan. The session was capably moderated by Urvi Desai and an interesting discussion ensued over an issue in one of the novels by one of the authors. The second session I attended was a conversation between Anvar Ali Khan and Kingshuk Nag which was very interesting. Kingshuk Nag made some explosive observations about the present day politicians and gave his insights into the origins of some of the country’s major political parties However, I felt there was a kind of chill between Kingshuk Nag and Anvar Ali Khan in conversation.

After lunch I sat through another session-Muslimist Poetry in Telugu- which I was glad I attended. The session was moderated well by Naren Bidedi. I heard a wonderful poem by Khadar Mohiudeen on the lives of ‘lower castes’ of Muslim. One poem that I found too poignant was titled ‘Laddaf’ which was read out by a woman poet whose name I am unable to recollect now. I wish I could lay my hands on the entire collection of poems the various poets read out. The last session I attended was ‘Cross-cultural Journeys’ with Ashwini Devare, Chitra Viraraghavan, and Nina McConigley and moderated by T.Vijay Kumar.
During the three days of the HLF I managed to pick up three books at the second hand stall and one book at the other store. I found ‘Life and Times of Michael K’ by JM Coetzee, ‘Writing from the Margin and Other Essays’ by Shashi Deshpande, and a beautiful hardcover copy of ‘Trying to Say Goodby’ by Adil Jussawala, at the second hand book stall. I picked up ‘Gas Wars’ by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.
It was a wonderful time that I spent at HLF meeting some of my friends (Hari, Daniel, Kiran, Krishna Shastri Devulapalli, Chitra, Praveen),hearing all that wonderful poetry, listening to the writers, poring through some of the books at the two book stalls, watching all those dedicated book lovers some of whom I see at almost all literary events, and feeling good in general.

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