Anvesh, son of Jagannath Das my good friend from Indian Express, called me and asked me if I would be the Chief Guest for Literati, the CBIT Literary festival. Going to CBIT itself was an incentive but I was really curious to know more about a full fledged literary festival. So I agreed to the event which was today.
Literati is a one day literary festival, a prelude to Carpe Diem the CBIT student festival which always boasts of some of the biggest events and performances. For example tomorrow they have Sreeram, the Indian Idol, performing and Vishal Shekhar to follow that. Now that is big. Anyway, this is the first time that CBIT decided to go with a full fledged one day literary festival with several events lined up for the day including quizzes, discussions, debates, short film reviews etc. I'd have loved to see a book review event there.
In my mind CBIT was a place where several fo our close friends studied during the time we did our engineering. We from Osmania College of Engineering always had the best bonding (at least in those days) with the CBIT crowd and despite our arguments, matches, debates and other stuff where we always competed hard against one another we always got back together to enjoy the cultural show and the literary events at the end of the day. Maybe a chai at Hilton where students from both colleges mingled happily. So many of our friends come to mind - Madhav, Anjan, Vasu, Naresh, Parag, Nitin. Rajiv (a good cricketer), Rahi Prakash (from my All Saints days), Pardesi, Tara Prashant (their cricket captain), Abhay Jaiswal, Ravinder (from St. Paul's days) and so many more names that keep coming. We had our share of fun in the cricket matches we played at Endeavour (where we beat CBIT in a tight game - we were a stronger team) and in a return friendly game at CBIT where we beat them again, narrowly. They always came to our festivals and we always went to theirs. But never, did I step into a single literary and cultural event which seemed rather high brow and an unnecessary taxation of my mind on things I knew nothing about. Of course the lit and cul guys left us to ourselves knowing we were no good and that we'd only go to ogle at the 'literary' girls.
So it is funny to me that I am called as the Chief Guest for a literary festival.
We had a pleasant drive to CBIT. I chatted with Anvesh on the way and he told me that the budget for this Carpe Diem was Rs. 60 lakhs. At CBIT I was welcomed heartily by Vishwanathan, the student co ordinator for the festival, Dr. Sandhya Reddy, HoD English and Dr. Chenna Keshavulu, Principal of CBIT. We went and met the Secretary and Chairman of the CBIT Trust, Mr. Kamalakar Reddy and Mr. B.N. Reddy and then proceeded to inaugurate the program. A few speeches from all of us and it was on and away.
I gifted both my books to the lit club, Communicando, and asked the students to write some book reviews. The crowd was good, intelligent and enthusiastic. The event was well organised. It was nice to be in the environs of the college again. Good luck Literati and may you grow in size and intention each year.
THE SPEECH MORE OR LESS AS I DELIVERED IT
Speech at the inaugural of LITERATTI, the literary festival at CBIT on September 24, 2010
Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Firstly let me congratulate the organizers of Literrati for taking this wonderful initiative of conducting a literary festival of this kind. This is a first to my knowledge because I remember, back when I was a student in Osmania University some 25 years ago, that cultural and literary events were mixed up in student festivals. For a nation that is perpetually scared that the next generation does not read enough, this is a wonderful surprise. I wish you all the very best and I urge you to conduct it every year and interact with bigger literary figures and minds. It is a very enriching experience.
Secondly I must thank you for inviting me to be the Chief Guest for this program. I am certainly not the biggest literary person you can find. I am practically a nobody in this literary business. My only claim to fame is that I have published two novels, both subjects close to my heart ‘TMW’ on cricket and romance. The first is being made into a movie even as we speak and should hit the theatres in November.
But when Anvesh called me and said he’d like to have me as a Chief Guest it took me many years back when I was a civil engineering student in Osmania. Today when I come here to see what I saw some 22 years ago I can see that this institution has grown much beyond what I had envisaged. We had a fine relationship with CBIT even then and had many friends. We competed hard, had several festivals, played matches and at the end of the day, remained fast friends. I remember coming here to play a cricket match, to witness your cultural festival. But what made me accept immediately is that in those days I was far removed from anything cultural and literary. I was mostly spotted on the cricket grounds, near canteens and in the company of not so socially acceptable, though not deviant fellows. My cul and lit friends those days shunned us as philistines and with right reason I am afraid. It is great fun today when they meet me at a book launch or a party and say ‘ You were the last person in that batch who I would have thought would become a novelist’.
Frankly I did not know either. I approached life with the same cavalier spirit as I did, aimlessly, taking I one day at a time, making merry and hoping it all would work out. Several jobs later, 10 years in an investment bank later, I realized one day that I was not doing what I’d love to do and quit a secure job to write – novels at that. You could call it taking responsibility for myself, one way or another. No one had told me I was a prodigious talent, no one gave me an advance but I felt I could write and so took the plunge, at that time the biggest gamble, to give up a job as a banker. It’s been six years since and I am two novels old, one being made into a movie and which has taken me into the realm of what they say, a motivational speaker, a management consultant a workshop facilitator. I really would not like you youngsters to make the same mistakes we did, make new ones.
But apart from reading I will urge you all to write. For yourself or for publication. Whether you write diaries or letters or stories or scripts it does not matter. It is therapeutic for one. It also instills some wonderful qualities. I have tried to learn from my successes and failures, from my cricket and from my academics, from my job and from my personal life and realized that writing requires the same principles that any formula for success requires.
Say for example, at the very beginning. One needs tremendous clarity on what one wants to write. Writing well is a organised effort and any organised effort requires clarity. The same will hold true for whatever you wish to do, if you’re clear in your mind you will achieve it, big or small.
Then, you must find what they say is your style, your voice. You cannot imitate your way to greatness. You must find yourself. And the same goes with life. Find yourself and be true to yourself, whatever you are, pluses and minuses and you will find that once you accept yourself as yu are, the world accepts you.
Writing is all about honesty. I think you cannot lie to yourself on paper. The more honest you are to the story, to yourself, to whatever writing you do, the more people will connect with you. People cry because they sense the same emotion with which you wrote, honesty can be felt over paper, over years. The same holds true for your life. Be honest to whatever you are doing and you will be a content person.
Writing is also about total responsibility. You have to take responsibility to every word you say. It can be seen in good light or bad light but it is your thought and there is no one to blame. I think if you take this one quality into your life you will be highly successful. Responsibility, total responsibility is about excellence. It is about putting your signature on every deed, on every act and every thought of yours.
It is about hard work. And discipline. You will write until you are satisfied and even if you do 200 drafst you may not be satisfied. I did about 150 on the first and 100 on the second. And you do it for the love of it, not because there are fat advances waiting for you. It is a hard work that you will enjoy. Perseverance is one of the great qualities of champions and writing teaches you that. In whatever you do, this quality will help you. It’s not that you will have successes all the time. Success comes when you refuse to give up.
And maybe lastly it is about belief in yourself and your idea. Your belief that somewhere someone will enjoy that way you write, will feel the same honesty, the same aha you did when you wrote. That someone will write in and say ‘ you made my day’. And it is this belief that will sustain you through rejections after rejections, criticism after criticism that you start doubting. This life is not for those who doubt themselves based on others frivolous opinions. This life is for you to stand by your belief however high the stakes are.
Keep these qualities with you in all that you do. Write, play, work, whatever – be clear, be yourself, be honest, take complete responsibility, work hard, believe in yourself. Nothing can be out of your reach then.
Remember then, that we are all the medium. We are here to express ourselves fully. What we express ourselves fully with is what we must know. Whether it is cricket, dance, engineering, research, social work or a combination of all. Be open to be the medium. Do not doubt. Do not shirk from your potential. Follow then the path of being the 100% you, the fully realized you.
It is what I expect from all you. Nothing less.
For CBITs literary club I will gift my two novels and I would love to have you mail me as many reviews of the novels as you can because I would like to put them on my blog. Here are the books.