poetry traffic sign at cheltenham literature festival 2010 300x225 The Lit Fest   Intro

 

By Sunil Kumar

Now, let me confess something to the world. I loved to read, since childhood. This made me something of an anathema, an oddball in a city that is crassly commercial. Artful Dodgers, Creative Freaks and a sleazy love for the dark side, Bombay has its share of vices and virtues. My school, Holy Family was typical Mumbai kitsch, a vada-pau insult to intelligence, but still we had champions in everything.

One of them was me, the school quiz freak, who managed to win cups in school, college and in the university. As for my school, I will thank a nice Catholic father for this, Lawrie.

But this is beyond the point. Cut to a million years later and I’m in Jaipur for a sheer orgy of words, a freakzone. Sitting alone in a room gives one ideas and the scope to dream, I am not going to elaborate any further.

The flight takes off late. It lands in exotica, India‘s fairytale land of maharajas, sand and enchanting stories, Rajasthan. As I leave the airport, none of this actually seems to be in evidence. A deadly silence and the stoic gloom of night assault my senses. Compared to the grit, struggle, pomposity and self-assurance of India’s commercial capital, the state seems to be caught in a time-warp.

But everything in India is charming. People like me and countless others read white men, Chinese or Africans to wonder at the sheer diversity of our country, when everything around us reminds of the madness, color and vivacity of the world’s biggest democracy.

I reach the hotel at around 11.45, close to midnight. There is a strange,eerie silence all around me, unlike the slightly repulsive, sometimes obnoxious, and sometimes interesting atmosphere of the port city of Bombay.

I don’t know what to expect. The literary festival is overhyped, as Salman Rushdie has managed to make it a talking point worldwide. Having attended one recently in my own city, I believe that the force of ideas will bring about an internal transformation. In one of my earlier avatars, Sunil has mass-produced technology, so we can call this an enterprise single sign-on for my literary genes.

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Eyes over the cow returning to the state of being. (Photo credit: Natashalatrasha)

 The Lit Fest   Intro
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