The inspiration for a literature festival in Chandigarh came of course from the mother of all festivals, the Jaipur Literature Festival. Two different groups of people felt that if it can be done in Jaipur with such success, why not here in our city too.
Some bureaucrats with taste for literature and fond of wielding the pen now and then founded the Chandigarh Literary Society (CLS), enrolling members and going about slowly and steadily to reach their goal. Small functions were held and prominent writers were invited for book launches in riyaz for the larger event.
The other group comprised a cutting-edge businessman with some writers and scribes walking along and as a result the Adab Foundation was set up that came out with a somewhat hurried festival, as its visiting card calling it the Chandigarh Literature Festival (CLF). This proved to be yet another form of riyaz as it brought together writers from different parts of the country and poet and Mumbai-based author Altaf Tyrewala felt that the city held many possibilities for trying out a lit fest with a difference. So the second edition of the festival in 2013 came out with a new format of 13 critics recommending 13 books with a session for each. The aim was to celebrate books and not authors.
Altaf Tyrewala inaugurating the Chandigarh Literature Festival in 2013. (HT Photo)
The same year saw the CLS come out with the Chandigarh Literati set in the idyllic backdrop of Sukhna Lake in the boat club lawns. The Literati followed the more regular format of conversations with sets of different writers by an anchor. Since the CLS had started with enrolling members, they had the advantage of numbers as far as the audience went. Also the presence of senior bureaucrats of the Chandigarh administration brought forth some who would like to mark their presence. Some, of course, attended both festivals.
As preparations for the third edition of Literati and fourth edition of CLF are reported to be in full swing, the unsettling revelation came that there is a clash of dates and both festivals are being held from November 6 to 8. Oui la la, as the French would exclaim, why so? Perhaps both groups worked out their own schedules and author availability and found these dates the most suitable. But enthusiasts who would have liked to be a part of both are left wondering— ‘main idhar jayoon ya udhar jayoon?’
Not just that even for the festival organisers it is not so happy a business for it would mean divided audience and shared media coverage. Well it is not something entirely new for the city that saw such a situation when Pracheen Kala Kendra’s Bhaskar Rao Sangeet Sammelan and the Chandigarh Sangeet Sammelan, started by former bureaucrat late Navjeevan Khosla, were held on the same dates leaving music buffs running from one venue to the other to hear their favourite musicians. Finally, the two groups got together and decided that it was best to coordinate and schedule the two sammelans on separate dates.
This is a way out for the two literature festivals too. If it’s too late this November, then let’s hope the next year is free of the clash of dates.