Indians are often the perfect example of a people with many places inside of them, says author Pico Iyer. The essayist and travel writer will open the 11th edition of the Bangalore Literature Festival (BLF) with his talk titled, ‘Why We Travel’.
“The pandemic reminded us of what we miss when we can’t travel, how much we can travel whilst in one place and how many wonders are there close to home. Ever since the lockdown lifted, I’ve never seen the world so eager to travel and make up for a lost time,” says the author, speaking over the phone from Tokyo.
“Airports are jam-packed and it’s probably a good moment to reflect on the virtues of travel, its shadow side and maybe the reasons not to do it,” he adds, recalling how Japan fully opened its doors to foreign travellers only last month.
Pico says his talk would be more about “what we don’t know in the age of information and the virtue of encountering other people or other places — another lesson that came to many of us during the pandemic.”
The author who was last in the city in 1974 as a teenager is delighted to be back for the fest. “I’ve been reading about the developments there, but finally I get to see Bangalore again as well as visit extended family residing there. I’ve been invited to the BLF for as long as I can remember, but due to conflicting schedules couldn’t visit earlier. I’m finally getting to be a part of it this year.”
Pico is also excited to be sharing the stage with novelist and publisher David Davidar at another session. “He was my editor 34 years ago! During our interaction, I hope to give a preview of my next book which comes out just five weeks after the festival — I’ve never spoken about it in public before and BLF seemed the perfect place to unveil it.”
The Half Known Life: In Search of Paradise is very much a pandemic book, says Pico, adding that it chronicles 48 years of his life travelling the globe. “The book also details my time with the Dalai Lama and Benedictine monks; I’ve spent more than 30 years of my life in monasteries.”
It seems Pico has always been on a quest to explore the inner and outer worlds. “I have always been interested in the crisscrossing of cultures that happens across the globe and inside people’s hearts,” says the author who was born in England to Indian parents. “We moved to California when I was seven and I was fascinated by this new group of people. I continued my schooling in England and would travel the Atlantic Ocean for my holidays.”
”In a way, travelling came naturally to me. That summer of ‘74, when I was in Bangalore, I toured the country and then went back to England and finished school. After that, I went to California for three months and worked in a restaurant, after which I got on a bus to explore South America with the money I earned from that job. I was spending every season on a different continent; movement was second nature to me.”
Apart from a chance to reconnect with his roots, Pico is exhilarated about The Half Known Life as it is the first book he’s written that circles South Asia. “I never had a chance to write about India as I’ve never spent much time there, but this book has a chapter each on Kashmir, Ladakh and Varanasi, and two chapters on Sri Lanka. I believe it might be interesting to an Indian audience since so much of it is close to India.”
The Bangalore Literature Festival is on December 3 and 4 at The Lalit Ashok. For more details log on to http://bangaloreliteraturefestival.org. Entry free.