There seems to be a lit fest in every little town in India now,” sneered a corporate acquaintance I recently bumped into at the Mumbai airport, while I was heading for the first edition of the Banaras Literary Festival. Throughout my journey, his condescension was on my mind.Literature festivals are proliferating across the country — even in small towns like Kishanganj in the Seemanchal region of Bihar. But, should this phenomenon be held in disdain? I don’t think so. I have also come to appreciate the pioneering passion of the people who organise these events in small towns, despite tight, erratic budgets and poor infrastructure.I was witness to an amazing session a couple of years ago at the Patna Lit Fest. One of India’s foremost writers in English, Vikram Seth, held forth in pure Hindi on varied subjects ranging from flora and fauna to music. But, most importantly, I saw the young Patnaites’ desire to interact with an internationally acclaimed author like Seth. I have noticed that audiences in smaller towns are very interested and well-versed in the works of authors they admire. They brim with questions, opinions and sometimes even suggestions. Most importantly, they truly hold in high esteem anyone who pursues the literary path. Author Piyush Jha is a contemporary storyteller who practises his craft by directing films and writing books.I have also come to appreciate the pioneering passion of the people who organise these events in small towns, despite tight, erratic budgets and poor infrastructure. In contrast, literary festivals in larger cities have more or less turned into selfie-ops with celebrities. The organisers also stuff in film stars, politicians, sportsmen and even have song-and-dance acts. In fact, just talking about books isn’t enough to attract audiences or the media in larger cities. The authors also have to up the ante and ensure a touch of glamour to ensure attendance. However, I find the same authors relaxed and enjoying their ‘vanilla’ interactions at small-town lit fests. Many authors have said that the discussions are more true to the topic and the audience’s interest is keen. Here’s hoping that in the years to come more and more small towns start their own Lit Fests.