There is nothing that quite lifts the mind like intellectual conversation, meeting new people and listening to stalwarts of the literary and arts arenas hold forth on various interesting and relevant topics. Every year in January, Kolkata sees a congregation of minds at the annual Apeejay Kolkata Litfest. The Litfest was held for five days, and I managed to attend for only two days, but enjoyed it hugely all the same.
I missed the first two days, including the session by Vikram Seth, who read out from Beastly Tales., and started off with the session on blogging, held in association with The Kolkata Bloggers, where there was a virtual stampede of bloggers and would-be bloggers (frankly, I had never expected such a large crowd!) . There was a galaxy of speakers on the dais, to guide us on the various aspects of blogging; such as social media optimization, increasing blog popularity and visibility, insights on getting published, and Trisha Chopra who gave away the prize for the best blog, on the hilarious topic ” The Great Indian Chamcha.”
Having left out many of the sessions, I did manage to attend one at The Park, where the renowned photojournalist Reza from the National Geographic, took us through his iconic work across the world, from the rugged landscape of Afghanistan, the complex maze of Iran, to the snows of Siberia. Though I must admit that I had not come across Reza’s work earlier, I enjoyed the session hugely. And if there was a takeaway from the session, it was this- that photography is a portrayal of the human condition and spirit. Reza has used his lens adeptly to sketch the various facets of human existence, hopee, trials, tribulations and triumphs across the world, and even gone further in the sense of creating change and providing sustainable means of advancement and livelihood to the communities whose life he portrays. Reza’s work literally brought us to tears and moved us all, and he received a standing ovation from the audience.
The other sessions that I attended were that of Hanif Quereshi, renowned British Pakistani author and playwright ( who displayed amazing wit during the session- sample his interesting take, ” no one hasquite experienced marriage without experiencing adultery” ) , Michael Buckley’s work on the environmental degradation of Tibet , Laura McPhee’s s photographic work on Calcutta ( which I frankly found a bit shallow), and acclaimed historian and writer Ramachandra Guha’s discourse on sociology and history (who left us with the parting shot,” the central lesson from history is that all change is constant” ).
True to the spirit of camaraderie, I made friends with Elka from Mumbai, a fellow literature- buff who was in Kolkata on an assignment. At the end of three days, in the backdrop of an illuminated Victoria Memorial, I took leave from the Kolkata Litfest, thoroughly contented at the way I had enjoyed these few days.