I am back from the invigorating Literary festival- with a difference-the Kumaon Literary Festival. (Ok.. its been a while 11-13th Oct, but a great experience nevertheless!)  In its second year, the fest was held at the Jim’s Jungle Retreat, Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand. 
Turns out that I have to speak around the topics close to my heart- heritage, its preservation and also on food! The discussions were the highlight for me as a participant- thanks to the new found friends( Check out my updated FB friends list…) and old acquaintances that pushed the experience notches higher!  So the KLF, just so you know, is unlike any other run-of-the-mill, ever mushrooming  ‘literary’ festival around the country.

Aditya Arya, Sumant Batra, Tarun and moi!

Firstly, the concept is unique- its organic, a one of its kind, travelling festival and also recognises local talent and encourages budding child writers too.  It’s one place where you run the risk of blinking and missing the action, owing to back-to-back, simultaneous literary sessions, in equally enticing and inspiring locales. Sample this, with names like ‘Pathaar Taal’, Siyaar Chaur‘ and ‘Rangshala‘, you can’t help but visualise idyllic spots in the midst of wilderness- lotus-laden ponds, tall-as-yourself, honey-hued  straw fields,  and gazebos amidst rugged beauty! It is that and much more- it’s Nature and man at their best! 

Speaker Shots- they came , they spoke and they conquered! 

A symbiotic understanding of the larger aim of universe and amidst that, the whole talk on Art, poetry, the craft of writing, heritage and food makes more sense! It is a heartwarming experience- a meeting ground of young, enthusiastic volunteers and of the erudite, philosophical learnings of the authors. Not the heavy-duty, aloof writers variety, instead the kind that  rub shoulders with you in the session that you attend next- Not only that, they are the ones asking questions and discussing issues on other’s panel talks, as passionately as the ones they addressed you on minutes go! 

KLF excitement enroute!
Invigorating Company Indeed- Kulpreet and Dushyant  

Akshay Manwani,Pankaj Dubey.Raj Shekhar and Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri discuss the supposed loss of meaningful lyrics from Bollywood musical topography. The session was laced with humour, wit and insights into not looking at things in black and white and examining the context of the times we live in. A lively and engaging  50 minute chat! Here’s a brighter version!

‘Un’Sounding the death of Meaningful Lyrics in Bollywood 
The sessions that I enjoyed attending are far too many to share- however I can’t not mention a few!
Starting from Sathya Saran’s informative talk on morphing of the Indian heroine from a voluptuous sensuous goddess to the size zero phenomenon to Sudeep Sen’s insights into casting the perfect poesy -internal topography getting translated onto paper, chiselled to perfection-, in the session titled Tea, Art & Poetry. Sublime House tea-tasting session, multiplied the charm of the balmy conversation and evening! 
From Akshay Manwani’s delightful and incisive presentation on charting the cinematic sojourn of the great Nasir Hussain- from his template of  dance number to the feverish pitch most ended on or to the breaking of the stereotype of an Indian heroine-the session remains one of my favourites. 
Crime thriller writers, Vish Dhamija and Kulpreet Yadav provided sunny entertainment, exchanging notes on their released and yet to be released books, not necessarily in that order. As a parting shot Kulpreet Yadav wondered if the two crime solving protagonists of their respective books would make out or no, Dhmaija shot down all his hopes citing irreparable height differences! Another fascinating session was on the painstakingly carried out investigation and the resultant triumphant discovery of Akbar’s Ibadat khana at Agra, by KK Muhammed who was in conversation with the founder of KLF, Sumant Batra. Quite a revelation that! Hopefully the claim will find government and historical sanction soon, going by the detailed presentation on evidences leading up to this discovery,  it is only a matter of time when it finally does! 
Come Day 3! Here are vignettes of two of my sessions I had the pleasure to be a part of-A chat with Efrat Dvir- of Israeli descent, Efrat ran for may years a restaurant, and is now settled in Puducherry – She’s out with a book on her interpretation of the Indian and Israeli cuisine and is a believer in cooking that’s essentially  ‘off the cuff’ ! In an organic, freewheeling chat with me,  the author revealed the similarities in theIndian and the Israeli approach towards rustling up a culinary masterpiece- cooking impromptu and fusing the best of the two cuisines. Most questions and answers that flew back and forth from an active audience were also in the same strain. One particularly interesting insight was shared by a member of the audience who believed that food was a central part of familial heritage and memories- so much so that her daughter, she shared, had written a book on the rare recipes of the Maharajas of India. Can’t argue with that!
Holding Fort and Court- Efrat and Moi!
My next session was on the rise of the private collector and the notion of collecting- its seriousness in contributing towards heritage preservation. This session had the heavyweights Aditya Arya, founder of the India Photo Archive Foundation, Tarun Thakral, founder Heritage Transportation Trust and Sumant Batra Founder, KLF and Chitrashala -Museum of graphic Art. The conversation revolved around people’s and the establishment’s attitude towards the past, heritage and history preservation in India and the concomitant results of apathy towards it or an urgency to preserve it. The three men shared their passion for collecting and collectibles and confessed generously that rarely if not never, does anything get discarded at home!
 On a serious note, Aditya candidly spoke of government intervention (read interference) in realising his dream of preserving photographic paraphernalia down the ages and images that are priceless! Sumant while answering the question on why would one want to preserve bric-a-brac , shared warmly that he was aghast at the thought that his children and the coming generations not being able to partake in his experience of the world!  One could tell that its his personal voyage that he undertakes to preserve heritage for the coming generations! Tarun’s effort in making the museums self-sustaining after the initial struggles are commendable.The digitisation of the museum in keeping up with the changing times too formed part of the discussion. 
Phew! By the time festival ended, I had made many like minded acquaintances, met newer insights and stretched my horizons – a symbiotic relation with those who met me too- I am hoping! Onwards and Ahead KLF! 
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