The Bangalore Literature Festival began on 27th September. I was there: my first ever lit fest. It was an exciting start: you know how any event starts for women, irrespective of careers and calling: we went shopping. This was because when we checked our wardrobes, we did not have a thing to wear, other than the four new outfits that were bought the previous week.
- Writers: All of them seemed to know each other. They met, hugged, air-kissed and share about their recent literary accomplishments.
- Organizers: They looked busy and overworked. They talked nicely to the writers and sized the rest of us up, with confused, supercilious looks.
- Media people: They wore media-looking clothes, crumpled and classy, carried large totes and knew who was who.
Now, I searched for the category I could relate to: wannabe writers, but there seemed to be none. I must have been standing out like sore thumb, and really needed to belong to some group or the other.
I tried entering the writers’ group, particularly around lunch time. I must have snooping for a while outside the lunch hall whereupon Sri Sri Ravishankar breezed out with his entourage, and headed towards the stage, for his session. He mistook me to be reverential follower and blessed me with a raised, open palm. I immediately, replaced my hungry, wannabe looks with those denoting piety and reverence and folded my palms. I noticed Nandita, also caught unawares, folding her palms over her bisleri bottle, her cheeks swollen with water she was too pious to gulp down.
I could never make it to that lunch room, despite Vani assuring me that we belonged there. So, after the guards escorted us out, we headed towards the street-food kiosks. By this time, I was worried that I had not yet gotten the opportunity to showcase my literary prowess.
‘One chhola bhatura, madam?’
I corrected him, in a patient, elegant admonition:
‘You should say, one plate chhola bhatura’, I smiled my gracious, literary smile.
He ignored me, doling out the greasy stuff on plates made with dried leaves. Shobha De, by now, was, I am sure, eating off gold-rimmed china in the authors’ lounge.
We sat there eating humble pie and the rest of the stuff.
Mohandas Pai and Jay Panda were talking about their vision for India. It was a treat to listen to them. But, it was getting very hot out there.
No, I don’t mean Jay Panda, though he does qualify as a probable cause.
The sun was beating down, and the canopies were occupied. People were crawling under trees, shrubs, bellies of large people, hogging every spot of shade. Beads of sweat were trickling down my torso, making me fidget, which I disguised, skilfully, as applause.
One more trip to the food stalls, with some more literary inputs,
‘A cup of tea with some cream please. You know, ‘cream’ really means ‘milk’…’,
and I was now, dehydrated, tired, and not feeling literary any more.
We tried looking for a spot of shade, just in time for Farhan Akhtar’s session. Monica, by now, looked like an Al Qaida agent with her white dupatta wrapped round her head and face, exposing just her eyes behind sinister-looking sun-shades. It was really hot. We spotted a low, gnarly tree. Vani walked right into a stumpy branch, almost getting impaled.
As Vani screamed, Monica smiled and said,
‘I think it’s a Cherry tree.’
We were in no mood for empathy, also because we were now, disoriented with dehydration. Luckily the scream was masked as the crowd roared just then. Farhan Akhtar was on stage. We did not bother to check if Vani was alive. We rushed to the stage, aunties jostling the Symbiosis Management students out of our way.
Sweat streaming down my face, and smelling like what Milkha Singh would have after a day’s worth of running, I was yelling,
PS : I want to launch my own Lit Fest now, with focus on, er, me.