It rolls off your tongue, you punch it out on your smartphone, it sits on your bedside table at night. Yet this is one of the rare times when the word strides forth and spells out fun on the streets of Mumbai.
Literature at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival throws light on all kinds of disciplines — architecture, music, cricket — and offers booklovers the chance to hear a bevy of noteworthy authors such as Keki N Daruwalla, Adil Jussawala, Arshia Sattar and Jerry Pinto discuss books.
This year’s theme is ‘Watermark’, and the schedule features 71 sessions, with about 150 speakers, exploring works in five languages — English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and Urdu.
“Just as the watermark is a subtle signature, our mode of programming aims to bring together diverse voices, unified not by style or subject but by attentiveness to certain core questions: How is literature re-inventing itself to address a fast-changing social reality? How do writers wrestle with the challenges posed by migration, censorship, shifting contexts?” said section curator Ranjit Hoskote.
Adds Mustansir Dalvi, poet, translator and essayist who will also be speaking at a session on translation: “The creative energy of the entire year finds a platform here, a showcase for new works that people have been toiling over. Over the years, the festival has also gained a critical edge, what with the many discussions, debates and panels.”
City lovers can also look forward to the launch of an eponymous book on Kala Ghoda edited by conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah. “It maps the many journeys and issues that make the area and festival what they are today,” said co-curator Kaiwan Mehta. There will also be a focus on linking space and architecture with literature.
“I am specifically looking forward to Arshia Sattar’s session on the major cities of the Ramayana, and the session titled Fiction and Place, a discussion featuring three wonderful novelists — Mahesh Rao, Saskya Jain and V Sanjay Kumar,” said Mehta.
Acclaimed author Jerry Pinto will be launching the Marathi translation of his novel, Em and the Big Hoom, at the festival, alongside the book’s translator, Shanta Gokhale. “There’s a peculiar delight in knowing that a book you have written has reached another audience. This is a first for me,” he said.
Meanwhile, young readers can participate in discussions on issues such as homosexuality and race, as part of the Children’s Literature section.
“We are delighted to present sessions with two international authors — the Israeli Yannets Levi, whose books about the charming Uncle Leo are bound to capture children’s hearts, and the Canadian Susan Laidlaw, whose young adult novels tell gripping stories set in unusual worlds from Pakistan to the Honduras,” said section curator Lubaina Bandukwala.
There will also be a competition, with children from nine schools enacting extracts from Payal Kapadia’s Horrid High; and, in a first for KGAF, there will be a barter and book-swapping platform called X-change.
The Literature section is particularly eclectic, with readings, discourses and performances, said Khorshed Deboo, 23, who has been a regular at the festival for a decade. “The focus on writers whose works are not too well-known is what makes it distinctive,” she said.
Mesha Bhansali, 24, a first-time volunteer, said the experience has served as the perfect introduction to the art and literary scene in India, in a non-intimidating manner. “Even if you read just a little bit, the events at KGAF generate an automatic excitement,” she said.