As the founder of a Jane Austen book club, Anvita Budhraja has introduced many to the delights of the author’s gentle comedy of manners.
As a volunteer in the literature section of the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, she has now been exposed to an array of writers herself.
“It’s been great to come across so many new authors,” said Budhraja, 17, a Class 12 student of Dhirubhai Ambani International School. “I’m really passionate about literature and I love literature festivals. It’s a great experience to see what happens behind the scenes at a festival.”
As volunteers scramble to arrange schedules, create panels and handle the website offstage, at the front of the scene, this year’s line-up is a veritable smorgasbord of literary delights. From sessions on travel writing and memoir crafting to poetry readings, a focus on the graphic novel and conversations about food, cricket and the many facets of the city, the literature segment will also embrace multilingual sessions and performances.
“The idea is to have a lot of variety,” says Kaiwan Mehta, co-curator of the section. “We have a range of speakers from different disciplines, different languages. We want to cater to a large range of interests.”
Some of the panelists include poets Adil Jussawalla and Gieve Patel, historian William Dalrymple and writers Kiran Nagarkar, Meena Kandasamy and Hindustan Times Mumbai editor Mumbai Soumya Bhattacharya.
“Many of the panels are particularly rich this time,” says Mustansir Dalvi, writer, poet and architecture professor. “I will be on two of the panels, but am looking forward to attending all the others.” He added that another attraction this time was the refurbished David Sassoon library lawns, where some of the events will be held.
“The festival is an important occasion to look at the state of contemporary literary practice and to trace its connections with a range of other cultural practices, ranging from publishing and the visual arts through architecture and cinema, to urbanism and cuisine,” says Ranjit Hoskote, poet, cultural theorist and co-curator of the literature section. “The 54 panels, sessions and workshops that we have mobilised attest to this transdisciplinary understanding of how the literary imagination works and where it circulates its outcomes.”
The specially curated children’s literature section this year is no less a haven for both booklovers as well as the uninitiated.
“We want to make it fun for kids, including reluctant readers,” says Parinita Shetty, 23, one of the volunteers. “Events have been designed to attract all kids.” For instance, a chocolate-making workshop by Zeba Kohli will riff off the themes of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with children even given a chance to concoct their own chocolate recipes. A wildlife photography workshop with Bittu Sehgal, a short story session on flatulence, a chance to make your own audio-book, and exploring the nuances of punctuation are among the other draws on the schedule.
In a first, the festival will also be bringing international authors to the city, including Australian Ken Spillman and French illustrator Joëlle Jolivet.
A special Kala Ghoda car will also be making the rounds of city schools, to get students excited about reading.
The city’s lovers of books are already dazzled by the array of choices. “I love Jerry Pinto and I hope to learn something of the craft of writing by attending his sessions,” says college student Reeti Rajadhyakshya, 22.