The Serendipity of the Times LitFest, Delhi 2018

 Litfests are special for authors and readers alike. This year’s edition of the TimesLitFest offered a wonderful opportunity to interact with authors from different countries. Sutapa Basu, bestselling author and litfest panelist, shares her experience.

‘What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.’

When JD Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye, said that he had obviously never been to a literature festival like the Times LitFest. This is one literature festival that not only celebrates books, authors and everything related to them, but you actually can interact with many of your favourite authors there.

This year, at TLF, Delhi 2018 held on 1st and 2nd December, it was a pleasure to listen to and speak with people who had written books on self-help, entrepreneurship, journalism, filmmaking, journalistic essays, history – even cops writing thrillers as well as fiction on various genres. I was thrilled to listen to Claire Mackintosh, whose thrillers I have enjoyed reading so much. Besides, there were many fun activities which drew an unusual number of children to the fest.

One of the authors I had coffee with was Allan Pease, author of books on communication and analyzing human behaviour. Though he has addressed audiences in about 70 countries and is known as ‘Mr Body Language’, he was so easy to converse with that he seemed to me the best example of his expertise. He has written 18 bestsellers, yet he confided in me that he finds writing a chore though he loves speaking to people and teaching. In fact, he and his co-author, Barbara Pease, were more interested in the silver jhumkas hanging from my ears. They wanted to know if their half-spherical shape had some special cultural significance as they had seen a lot of Indian women wearing them. Well! I could not really remember any cultural connect but I did explain how the shape emulates a common architectural feature of Indian temples, tombs and mosques…the domed roof. Perhaps, it was a design that jewelers picked up from the sacred buildings that they saw around them. In a similar fashion, if we go to the south of India, the temple roofs tend to become more conical going up to a point and sometimes with graduating levels to them. Now if we look at traditional Southern jewellery, it features jhumkas with nearly the same shape! I don’t know if that was a relevant cultural overlap but the Peases seemed quite intrigued.

TLF Sutapa

Sutapa Basu at TLF, 2018

The other extremely enjoyable experience was the panel discussion, ‘Of Sultans, Conquerors and Empresses’, that I participated in along with Manu Pillai, Ira Mukhoty, Parvati Sharma and Anuja Chandramouli. Anuja and I bonded instantly especially over the fact that both of us had published the historical fiction on Queen Padmavati around the same time! I was particularly impressed by Ira’s and Parvati’s research on the Mughals but who really held all of us enthralled was young but extremely articulate Manu Pillai. His tongue-in-cheek anecdotes about the Empresses of the Deccan dynasties were as much eye-openers as interesting. If anybody had not read his books on them, they must have surely picked them up that day. I loved the fact that our discussion had a full and attentive audience who rounded it up by very relevant questions.

TLF concluded with a very meaningful ceremony where Write India Season 2 winners of the all-India contest received their awards from renowned authors such as Amish Tripathi, Ashwin Sanghi and Anand Neelkanthan. Many of those winners such as Roshan Radhakrishnan, Kenashree, Vasudha Chandna Gulati and Harshali Singh are also my dear friends.

I have been attending the TLF over the last three years but this year, the energy at the event was different. Whether the electric enthusiasm churned up was due to the warm welcome accorded by the smiling and helpful volunteers or by the confluence of eminent writers and their fans or by the dynamic and graceful presence of the TLF Chairperson and Write India founder, Vinita Nangia and her wonderful team, I cannot say. However, the excitement, goodwill and zest were palpable in the air.

My beatific moment came when I was signing my latest book, The Legend of Genghis Khan for a friend. A little boy of about ten years, passing by, pointed to the book in my hands, saying to his father, ‘I want THAT book.’

Wow! I was zapped. Children wanted to read my book! What could be more thrilling!

Eventually, I did sign a newly-bought copy of my book for the boy and his father.

Moments like this all through the two days of the TLF has made it one those special events for me. Its memory will never fade away. And as I look forward to next year’s fest, I shall always cherish the serendipity that TLF Delhi 2018 generated in my life and let its moments, aka William Wordsworth,

‘…flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude.’

Have you attended a LitFest before? What was your experience like? Share your thoughts and feedback using the comment box below.

Sutapa Basu is the bestselling author of Padmavati – The Queen Tells Her Own Story and The Legend of Genghis Khan, both published by Readomania.

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