Military Literature Festival: A grand event marred by poor attendance
Most sessions had an audience of not more than 20 or 25 and a dozen of them were journalists.punjab Updated: Dec 10, 2017 10:58 IST
It is said that to popularise the Vaishnava cult of Lord Krishna of the Dwapar Yug, a whole tradition of poetry, dance and music came up going back to the childhood of the Lord.
It was stolen butter, frolicking with the Gopis and the much-celebrated love of Radha-Krishna that went to the hearts of the masses. This was so because they did not wish to hear of strategies of war and loss that were the hallmark of the yuga with the Mahabharata.
The masses respond better to love not war and this was perhaps the reason the country’s first Military Literature Festival organised on a grand scale at Sukhna Lake Club in Chandigarh had a very poor attendance.
The fourth session on Saragarhi Samvadh for children had perhaps the most forced attendance. A visitor remarked that in the city, children are the victims of the several lit fests where they occupy the seats even if what is being talked goes far above their heads. So it was with the Military Literature Festival, where they played the role of ushers.
Most of the sessions had an audience of not more than 20 or 25 and a dozen of them would be journalists reporting the event. While the mother of all festivals — Jaipur Lit Fest — has led to mushrooming of so many festivals, including those in far-flung schools and colleges, it must be recalled the Jaipur fest had a modest start in a room with an audience of some 100 people that gradually grew to the phenomenon footfall that it now has.
Actual literature given a miss
So if this festival had stuck to the single session formula with a mixed variety of subjects concerning actual literature penned on war and peace it may have fared better.
The other reason for the military’s failure to even attract the weekend crowds that flock to the lake was the elaborate traffic arrangement that made it quite a task to park and reach there. It was followed by the rigmarole of obtaining a pass and posing for a picture with an identity card. The presence of army jawans acted more as a deterrent for people casually strolling in. The many stalls of crafts and food served just as an embellishment like the huge tricolour paper flowers hung around.
A local wit was overheard saying: “There is enough military here but little or no literature.”
Sessions were constantly changes or shifted as many of the invited speakers including Barkha Dutt did not reach. William Dalrymple who had come with an elaborate PowerPoint presentation on 1857 had no means of showing it. So the organisers need to relook at the concept if they wish to have a better impact in the years to come.