Bangalore’s tryst with literature deepened this year. Preeti Zachariah discovers how

A Fiesta — Litera(ll)ry

The Bangalore Literature Festival kicked off its second edition this year. Held at the Crowne Plaza, Electronics City, the three-day festival garnered tremendous response with over 135 speakers from all over India. Besides, authors such as Ashokamitran, K Satchidanandan, Nilanjana Roy, Kishwar Desai, Anita Nair, Shobhaa De, Shashi Deshpande, Ashwin Sanghi and Meena Kandasamy, the festival also saw the stalwarts in other fields such as FarhanAkhtar (cinema), Wendell Rodricks (fashion) and Sri Sri Ravishankar (spirituality) participate in the various panels and discussions that pervaded the festival. Sessions on written and oral literary tradition in various vernacular languages were another novel aspect to the festival in addition to a special workshop of writing for children.

According to Vikram Sampath, co-founder of the festival, “It was a phenomenal success and more than 15,000 people attended this festival. We had speakers from all over India and abroad and there was a coming together of different streams, ideas and thoughts. Bangalore has a very vibrant literary landscape and we really needed something like this, especially in an age when people’s interest in the old world romance of books is on the wane,” he says adding, “We are very buoyed of the success and hope to make this bigger and better next year.”

A picture’s worth

You don’t always need words to tell a story. As the fantastic response to the two day long Comic Con held at the Koramangala stadium on June 1 and 2 proved, the city is teeming with plenty of comic readers and pop-culture enthusiasts.

This year also saw the launch of several graphic novels by city based authors including Ari Jayaprakash and Anisha Sridhar's Kuru Chronicles , Appupen’s Legends of Halahala and Manta Ray’s Mixtape and Twelve-Preludes.

According to Pratheek Thomas of Manta Ray, “Going by the response we get at our events, the number of book stores that keep comics and the enthusiasm at events like the Comic Con there are a lot of people in the city who enjoy this medium.

Over the last year, we've seen a larger number of independent creators and publishers coming up to tell different kinds of stories, and that's a very healthy sign... I believe that with more people creating comics and telling their own stories, it will only help the medium of comics reach more people and bring in new readers, which is the only way the comics market can grow,” he says.

Building a community

Writing is essentially a lonely profession and not perhaps the easiest one—the rewards are slow and inconsistent, the market is temperamental, and feedback is often absent. Which is why fostering writing communities that provide a support system to fledging writers is essential.

From poetry writing and story telling sessions to full blown structured workshops for aspiring writers, Bangalore is thriving with communities of this sort that that become a forum for like-minded people to gather together, ideate and share their work.

According to Bhumika Anand, Co-Founder of Bangalore Writers Workshop (BWW), “I think people in Bangalore are very keen on literature and culture, and importantly on contributing to the arts. And that's the reason something like our Bangalore Writers Workshop (BWW) has been able to introduce some really wonderful writers to the world. In fact, most people in Bangalore are serious about their writing be it a blog, a collection of short stories, creative non-fiction pieces, or a novel, and I think that's the reason BWW has become one of the key communities for writers in Bangalore.”

Launch pad

Book launches happen in Bangalore almost every other day. This year had launches of notable books such as VK Singh’s Courage and Conviction, Durjoy Dutta's Hold My Hand, Milan Vohra’s Tick Tock We're 30, Madhuri Banerjee’s Mistakes like Love and Sex, Sudha Murthy’s House of Cards, Shashi Deshpande’s Shadow Play and Jeffrey Archer’s Best Kept Secret among others. The launches which saw the authors launch their books, read from them and interact with the audience garnered tremendous response.

According to Sivaraman Balakrishnan, Senior Manager Marketing, Landmark, “Bangalore has a well read, literate population and it is always been a great place to conduct cultural events of this sort. We have had over 20 events of this sort in Landmark over the last seven or eight months.

There are two sorts of authors who have launches at our store—the first time writers who need to promote themselves and more seasoned writers who is launching his latest book and whom customers really want to meet anyway.”

Book nooks

A story is essentially a record of an authors mind. But what if you can hear the author’s voice relate the story? From a quaint little café to a swanky hotel, from a commercial store to a library, from a park to a pub, spaces have burgeoned in the city which allow you to sit down, relax, hear stories come to life, meet the people behind the novel.

As Perry Menzies owner of Urban Solace which regularly conducts events like poetry readings and author interactions says, “The Literary scene in Bangalore is alive and thank God for that... people who write prose, short stories and poetry are delighted to have a spaces where creativity can be expressed freely and openly.”

Publishing a dream

The publishing landscape in Bangalore has become more vibrant over the last few years as more and more book from Bangalore-based writers have hit the stands. According to Arcopol Chaudhuri of Harper Collins, “For many years, New Delhi was considered the publishing capital of the country, given the fact that most publishers and authors have set up camp here. However, in the last few years, Bangalore has emerged as a really vibrant venue, home to a number of talented authors like Anita Nair, Jane De Suza, Sharath Komarraju, Suresh Menon, Gita Aravamudan, Sriramana Muliya and others. Not just that, Bangalore also hosts at least two important literature festivals that are extremely well-attended. All major bookstore retailers are present in Bangalore, and the city contributes in a big way to book sales from the South.

Bangalore, by virtue of being a cosmopolitan city that is home to many working professionals in the IT industry witnesses good sales in commercial and literary fiction, and business and management books. We must also remember that Bangalore is also the headquarters of Flipkart, which revolutionized how Indians purchase books online. So the entire ecosystem for books is fairly healthy and seems set to keep maturing in the coming years.”

Writer’s word

The city is certainly a good one from writers. Anita Nair, a leading novelist who is an active part of Bangalore’s literary landscape agrees, “The writing environment in Bangalore has become a lot more robust compared to what it was when I was first getting published around 15 years ago. We now have different kinds of writers, more festivals, readings and book clubs today. If we generally look at overall trends, Bangalore always shows up as an important centre for literature.

As for me, I can’t think of anywhere else I can write from. I know because I have tried.”