After a long period of incubation and living a life that was crafted by everyone else except me, I introspected into the necessities that I had strayed away from. The most important of them being reading and writing. I always knew that I wanted to write, not technical documentation, but stories — real and surreal.
As part of this realisation, I started reading slowly but steadily and simultaneously started working on my Novel. I must admit that I am not a voracious reader and I would’nt risk walking kilometers to hit a bookstore or stand in an overnight queue to grab the first copy of a book written by my favourite author. I can say that I am a book hoarder. Once I visit a bookstore I drool over those paperback and hardbound books. I love to flip the pages and sink my nose into the fresh pages and breathe in the words along with the pulp.
As part of the exercise of being inspired, I started participating in literary festivals and literary gatherings. The first one being the Mumbai Literature Festival, followed by the Bangalore Literature Festival, couple of events at Atta Galatta, and recently, the Jaipur Zee Literary Festival, considered to be one of the largest literary festivals around the world.
The first festival was more of an excitement that comes with all the firsts in ones life; there were a couple of takeaways from that about what really happens in the literary festivals and how it shapes up to be. The kind of people that come and the relentless efforts and running around by the organisers, followed by a couple of discussions around recently published books. This was something common across all the three literary festivals that I attended. The topics for discussions were spun around the theme of an author’s recently released book. That appeared more like a publicity campaign and less of a hearty discussion on a topic that may be of interest to a lover of literature. After I attended these festivals and got myself tweeting, in turn being a part of a few writing groups is when I got to know that there are scores of literature festivals that happen in India and attending the Mumbai Literature Festival was not something memorable that I could lock down in my memory.
So what’s in it for me as an aspiring writer. Initially, when I saw the programme details, I was excited to see the line-up and was equally excited in assimilating all that I could from each of these sessions. I watched euphorically as the panel comprising commissioning editors of popular publishing houses like HarperCollins, Penguin, Juggernaut, spoke about the current trends in the writing world. What slowed down my excitement was the discussions around an author’s book. Do I need to come to a forum like this to think that I am being canvassed to read a particular book, can’t I get that from book reviews or as general knowledge.
As I still could not quench my thirst, I saw myself attend the Zee Jaipur Literary Festival. Having heard a lot about it and with a hidden agenda of visiting Jaipur, I landed in Jaipur. The biggest and supposedly the best literary festival was an utter disappointment for me, as I was overwhelmed by the number of participants and the number of simultaneous sessions happening in as many as five venues. The excitement of the first day got myself to attend a couple of panel discussions, which were again revolving around the main speaker’s recently launched book. Maybe it was inevitable to talk about the author’s book and it was only my misunderstanding that they were marketing the books, or maybe there is nothing wrong in doing that, and someday if I happen to write a sensible book, I might also end up doing the same. But over here, I did not find anything legible that I could register and leverage to hone my writing skills or creative thinking. The easier way would have been to sip a cup of coffee at the confines of my home, skim through the programme list and google about the panelists and if you come across any information that will in turn direct you to a wonderful book that may inspire you, you have saved a lot of money, time and effort.
Thus, I decided that I will take a break from literary festivals and sit at my desk and resume my writing with all honesty and rigor. After all, knowledge that is not put into practice is of no use. And now I know that it is not important to attend literary festivals unless you are an accomplished writer, or you have a completed manuscript for which you need to look for a literary agent or an editor, or you have a lot of time to soak yourself in the aroma of literary pomp and fancy.