The Coimbatore Literary Fest created a buzz over poetry, prose and drama.
It was two days of literature, with animated conversations about poetry, novels, short stories, biography, wildlife writing, editing and publishing. It was perhaps for the first time such an event was held in the city. The Coimbatore Literary Festival (CLF) was organised by Sahitya, a students’ initiative of Kumaraguru College of Technology. Kasthuri Sreenivasan Auditorium where the event was held buzzed with energy as writers, readers, book buyers and book sellers interacted and filled the air with literature.
The guest of honour was Professor Ananda Lal who had come all the way from Kolkata, where he heads the prestigious publishing house, Writers Workshop, set up by his father Professor P. Lal in 1958. A literature scholar himself, Professor Lal pointed out the dangers of always assuming that bestsellers were good literature. He spoke insightfully about the business of modern-day Indian writing and publishing. He also noted, to applause, that it was perhaps for the first time that he was addressing a gathering that had in it four writers that Writers Workshop had published or was about to. They were Srividya Sivakumar (The Blue Note) Shobhana Kumar (The Voices Never Stop), and the yet-to-be-published Shivaram Hariharan (Rumble) and Air Commodore Minoo Vania (A Vista Ahead).
The CLF audience had the rare privilege of hearing a mother and daughter read out from their works. Vatsala is a Tamil poet and novelist while her daughter K. Srilata is an acclaimed poet, fiction writer and a translator whose debut novel Table For Four was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize. Srilata and Vatsala co-translated the latter’s Tamil work Vattathul, into the English Once There Was A Girl. When writer-publisher Shobha Viswanath (of Karadi Tales) spoke of children’s literature in India, she had the audience all ears, especially since she also told them a story! People also listened in rapt attention when biographer Vikram Sampath told how he wrote the story of the musician Gauhar Jaan. His talk was packed with anecdotes and amazing statistics that Vikram had unearthed from archives in India and abroad.
Christine Appadurai, in her 90s, read from her-yet unpublished manuscript about her early life in Burma and the journey back to India. Air Cmde (Retd) Minoo Vania spoke about the history of the Coimbatore Book Club. Shashi Ghulati and Bulbul Vania of The Coimbatore Theatre Club presented a play reading of Girish Karnad’s Broken Images. It was directed by Dhinoo Hataria. Pradeep Chakravarthy spoke about Tamil thatha, U.V Swaminatha Iyer.
Bus conductor and eco warrior M. Yoganathan made the stage his. His simple Tamil haikus were captivating. One went thus: “Appa, I’m sending you to an old age home, so that I can book my place there.” Another spoke of a naked village girl guarding a pile of cotton, to be made into garments for somebody else, far away. Yoganathan spoke with feeling about the environment. “If we destroy the environment at this rate, humans will soon perish and Nature will remain a mute spectator,” he concluded.
The lit fest had beautiful asides, such as Theatre Y’s reading of letters exchanged between Rajaji and Gandhi and a piano recital by Anil Srinivasan, where he read out the love letters of Beethoven and then played the maestro’s music, besides that of Bach and Ilaiyaraaja.
There was a dance recital by Karuna Sagari to the poetry of Bharathiyar, a session by Dr. T. Sathish Kumar of Rajalakshmi Fine Arts, on women’s writing that had been immortalised through Carnatic music, and a stirring invocation by Sreerekha.
It was gratifying to see young students immersed in the literary sessions and actively interacting with the guest speakers. In fact, four of them, Saranya Ramalingam, Swathi Nachammai S., Adityan V.T. and Jiju Vijayakumar, read out their poems at the CLF.
(With inputs by Subha J Rao)