Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Kitab Literary Festival, and a disquisition on boots

Starting tomorrow, we enter the last ten days of February, and as always this is the start of high literary season in Bombay. Everyone who has ever written a book or read one, thought about writing one, or even used one as a paperweight, backrest or flower-press will be out and about, going to awards ceremonies, panel discussions, seminars, and readings.

And there really is going to be something worth going to, as later this week a battalion of writers from around the world will turn up for the Kitab Literary Festival, from Friday the 23rd to Sunday the 25th of February. The full schedule is here.

There are a few events I'm looking forward to in particular:

The panel discussion "Veils and Miniskirts" (Friday, 12.30 to 1.30, Asiatic Library), featuring Germaine Greer, Urvashi Butalia and Kamila Shamsie among others

A chat between Hanif Kureishi and Ashok Row Kavi after the screening of My Beautiful Launderette (Friday, 2 to 4.30, Max Mueller Bhavan)

The screening of Anand Patwardhan's short film We are not Monkeys, followed by a discussion by Patwardhan, Farrukh Dhondy and Sujit Saraf on the use of religious symbols in art (Saturday, 1 to 2, Max Mueller Bhavan)

"Credentials Please", a discussion on writers and authenticity, with Geoff Dyer, Blake Morrison and Ranjit Hoskote among others (Saturday, 2 to 3, Max Mueller Bhavan)

Amit Chaudhuri in conversation with Ian Jack (Saturday, 3 to 4, Oxford Bookstore). Chaudhuri will also be performing with his band at Prithvi Café, Juhu, on Sunday, 6 to 7

A symposium on "World Literature", featuring Helen Cross, Dilip Chitre and Antara Dev Sen among others (Sunday, 1 to 2, Prithvi Café)

And most unusual of all, a Poetry in Performance Session with poets Jeet Thayil and Vivek Narayanan (Sunday, 3.30 to 4.30, Prithvi Café). I've heard both these poets in performance, and they're very good. Members of the public will be allowed to present their own poetry afterwards.

And lastly, Mumbai Meri Jaan! (Sunday, 7 to 9, Prithvi Theatre) featuring readings by Sonia Faleiro, Naresh Fernandes, and Eunice D'Souza among others
And the festival will be a landmark in my singularly uneventful life as well, because for the first time I'll be at a panel discussion where I'll actually be on the panel, and can speak as loudly as possible (as I like to do) instead of murmuring.

Yes indeed, I shall be one of several people asked to pontificate on the subject "What's the future of literary criticism in India and Britain?" on Saturday the 24th at the NCPA, 10am to 11.30 am. Come along, if for nothing else then to get a good seat for the discussion to follow right after on "The Role of the Writer", which is sure to be packed, as it will feature many Beauteous, Handsome and Important people in conversation.

I'm not sure what I'm going to say at the discussion, or if I'm going to say anything at all - as everyone knows, I'm an exceedingly quiet person, and speak only when spoken to - but secretly, all I ask and pray for is that, even if they line us all up in chairs, there isn't a long table in front of us, of the kind seen at dining halls and symposiums. The reason for this is that I plan to wear on this great day a pair of very natty boots I bought recently - long, pointy size 11s, peeping out from under the fall of my trousers like crocodiles half-sunning themselves beneath trees - and what would be the point of it if no one could see them?

As everyone knows, the three things that most determine one's general mood in life are one's choice of career, life partner, and - last and least, to be sure, but important nonetheless - shoes. I had a excellent conversation on this very subject with Jeet Thayil at Jaipur last month, and found him to be even more zealous than me on this theme - look out for his splendid boots when he reads on Sunday. I bought these boots of mine after great deliberation and at great expense, and immediately grew to care for them as a parent cares for a child. I'd polish them before I went out and, solicitous of their wellbeing, polish them again after I came home. I kicked no stones on the streets, and avoided all crowded places, where lesser shoes might stamp on them.

Thus it was that, when a reporter from the Guwahati Herald called last week for an interview (I don't know why - possibly they ran out of people to interview in Guwahati) and asked me, among other things, what my most prized possessions were, I naturally said "My boots". Imagine then my surprise when I looked at the paper a few days later to find my answer mysteriously rendered as, "My books". How ridiculous - why would they ever think that?

So, anyway, as we've got to chatting, I might as well tell you about some other things I've been up to recently, and if you want to do the same you can catch me on Saturday, and I'll hear you out.

I don't often write about art - nobody asks, and I'm not much good anyways - but a couple of weeks ago I did a piece on Atul Dodiya for Tehelka, which you can find here. And I don't often work in the movies - nobody offers, and indeed why should they - but last month I assisted my filmmaker friend Rustom Irani on a short for a competition called the Genesis Film Project, and it was selected as one of the prizewinning entries. It's going to be screened tomorrow evening at Zenzi, and I'm listed on the credits as Creative Advisor - like all undeserved praise, this exaggeration pleased me very much.

All right, I don't know if you've got all sorts of things waiting to be taken care of, but I certainly have, as it's almost time for the weekly polishing of my boots. See you later this week at Kitab.


Space Bar said...

such fun! i suggest you climb on to the table (should it be one of those long, symposium type things) and let your boots do the talking. that way you will have pre-empted jeet and vivek by putting a different spin on the term 'performance poetry' (hash to boots: you supply the poetry and i'll supply the performance).

Untamed Mind said...

I bet you’ll do a wonderful job in getting your point across to the audience by the pointedness of your naughty...oops...natty shoes, if not anything else. And I’ll definitely come by in the week to take a tip or two on weekly parenting of prized possessions!! So get to work Hash since it seems like its ‘ Shoe Time’ :-)

See you on Saturday !

Anonymous said...

Happened to chance by your blog and am grateful for it: I came to know about the Kitab festival! Checked out the site and the schedule and all sounds very enticing, but one thing not mentioned over there was the availability of passes or tickets. can i ask you if this is going to be a free-for-all affair?

Chandrahas said...

Anonymous - You certainly may. If you're asking if it's free for everyone to attend, it assuredly is. A free-for-all will be harder to arrange - people are very polite nowadays, and it's hard to stir them all up to the level where they begin to throw things and perpetrate brazen slanders. I will try my best, as I like these things as much you seem to.

Untamed Mind - You have more confidence in me than I have in myself, for which I must thank you, as it's not easy sitting on panels and trying to think of things that won't offend anyone and at the same time won't put the audience to sleep either. Your support is much appreciated. See you on Saturday indeed!

Space Bar - You always come up with such constructive suggestions. I will ask my boots and get back to you about this.

Anonymous said...

We must all be wary of Germaine Greer - feisty, ex-Newnham, former Celebrity Big Brother housemate...
She walked off the show accusing it of being a fascist prison, indicating either her inexcusable ignorance of the programme format of exploitative television or a complete disregard for what fascism means.
I say, get your boots on, boy, and walk all over her!

Chandrahas said...

Fuzz - These are alarming suggestions. You do realise that the Greer event is on Friday, and if I create any trouble the police'll whisk me off and I'll have to get out on bail - which, knowing how life turns out, will probably mean my having to surrender my boots as surety - and then I'll have to limp back on Saturday morning in tacky slip-ons. I won't, I won't, I won't do any such thing.

Any other requests I can fulfil instead, at less risk to life, limb, and boots?

Anonymous said...

Hello Chandrahas,

I have lately turned from an occasional visitor to a regular one and have enjoyed the posts I read.
I also read your interview at Bloggasm.
After being excited to read another interview on its mention,I chucked aside the thought that the Guwahati Herald interview is just a part of the lighter tone the post.However,the hyperlink made me think there could be a Creative Booty somewhere there.
Is it there?

Anonymous said...

And if not,why the link?

Chandrahas said...

Anonymous - That's very strange - I can't access the Herald website as well. I think the increased traffic on their website must have been too much, and so their server must be down.

In any case, it wasn't much of an interview: a couple of questions about whether the writing of Indira Goswami and the films of Jahnu Barua were known in Bombay, and another about literary representations of the Brahmaputra. They asked me nothing about myself - although I was dying to talk about just this very subject - till the final question about what I treasured the most, which is why I was so upset they got it wrong. These provincial newspapers, I tell you.

"Creative Booty" - that's a great pun in keeping with the spirit of my post. Let me take a guess: yours are dark brown size 9s, without laces. Whatever it is, please keep coming back. I'll check again about the link.

Chandrahas said...

Oh, and Fuzz - I opened my newspaper this morning to find that Greer isn't coming after all - how did you manage to bring this about? Anyway, more power to The Fairer Sex - that's the name of that famous book by Greer, isn't it, or am I thinking of Simone de Beauvoir?

Anonymous said...

Well, at least the Guwahati paper didn't quote you saying (again, with only one letter amiss): "My boobs."

Chandrahas said...

Amitava - I was indeed going to say that - "I'm glad at least I'm not a woman, 'coz it could've been a lot worse" - but as you well know, an integral part of running a well-run blog is learning how to engage your audience, and an integral part of engaging your audience is not making all the wisecracks yourself. Not all the good things on one's blog should, in a manner of speaking, be home products.

That leaves room for people, such as your esteemable self in this instance, to write in, chortling to themselves all the while. Not only that, they often spend the rest of the day feeling witty, clever and happy, and in our difficult times this is not a small thing.

Incidentally, have I ever told you that you're the biggest luminary ever to leave a comment on my blog?

Anonymous said...

Good words.