Hyderabad got its own literary festival thanks to the efforts of Muse India and the OUCIP (the Osmania University Centre for International Programs, formerly known as ASRC) and it got off to a great start today at the Green Park Hotel in Ameerpet. The multi lingual event is spread over 3 days, 10-12 December, which is a great time to visit Hyderabad, so all of you you who wish to participate next year, do set this event on your itinerary. The event was attended by many heavyweight writers and poets - the keynote address was by Keki Daruwala, poems read by the doyen of Indian poetry Padmabhushan Shiv K. Kumar, Prof Udaya Narayana Singh, Prof. K. Satchidanandan, Ms. Mamang Dai and several other distinguished names, as well as a host of young writers and poets. Participants converged from across the country with writers from Assamese, Bengali, Gujrati, Hindi, Maithili, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Tamil, Telgu, Urdu and English.
It was by sheer luck that I got to attend the festival, which I wanted to very much anyway. I had somehow missed the fact that today was the 10th, the day the festival started, so when I got a call from Mohana Krishna, who was a panel member to speak about 'Celebrating Creativity' along with author Vamsi Juluri and dancer and choreographer Padmashri Ananda Shankar Jayant, to be present during the panel discussion I instantly jumped at the offer. I went to Green Park well in time for the panel discussion and met Mohan, Sagar, Srinivas Avasarala , the actor and a highly promising screenplay writer, and Rasana Athreya, a writer and editor who did a great job on my second novel 'If You Love Someone'. The panel discussion was moderated by the Chairperson, Prof. K. Satchitanandan, Malayalam poet and former Secretary of Sahitya Academy, and raised several interesting points. Mohan, while speaking of creativity in the medium of cinema mentioned that three of his movies were based on books - the first 'Grahanam' was an adaptation of Chalam's short story 'Doshagunam', 'Ashta Chamma' the runaway hit was loosely adapted from 'The Importance of being Earnest' by Oscar Wilde and now 'Golconda High School' is based on my novel 'The Men Within'. Of course he also mentioned that I was present so it called for a bow from me, which I took.
But what I was not prepared for was when one of the organizers, Prof. T. Vijay Kumar, Jt. Director, OUCIP, and a cricketer who had played for Nizam College in his younger days, while concluding the panel discussion, spoke warmly about me and my book. He mentioned that it was an unusual genre to write, a sports novel, and that it was now being made into a movie titled 'Golconda High School'. It was only later when we met did he say that the late Mrs. Meenakshi Mukherjee had given him a copy of 'The Men Within' which he enjoyed, just as his daughter and son did. I was particularly happy when he said that his son, who was eight when he read the book, read it cover to cover, despite not being a great reader of books. And when he said that his son still reads a few pages of the book every now and then, it did make all my effort seem worthwhile. Eight, is the youngest ever reader far as I know, for this book, and I would like to meet him sometime.
Other than the fun and banter with Srinivas Avasarala who is hilarious, and Sagar and Mohan, who were their usual jovial selves, I met Vamsi Juluri, who teaches Media Studies in San Francisco now, and is also the author of the recently released 'Mythologist'. He was very generous and gave me a signed copy of the book which I shall read and review soon. I met several others, including T.P. Rajeevan, who writes a column in the New Indian Express as well. Others I saw or met briefly were Shiv K. Kumar, Anand Vishwanatha, Rama Rao garu from Vizianagaram, and Sridala Swamy the Hyderabad based poetess and writer.
I do hope I get time to go back to the Festival tomorrow or the day after because I really enjoyed being there. It had a nice mood, interesting people and more importantly a warm vibe. I missed my friend Vinod Ekbote of course, who was busy with his job. He would have really loved this Festival. It would have been even more fun with him around. But as I see it, this Festival has all the makings of growing into something really big. Hyderabad is centrally located, the weather in December is absolutely fabulous, there is great talent in this part of the country, much to see and do here, and I see no reason why it should not become the best Literary Festival in the country. I congratulate Muse India and OUCIP on this endeavour and wish them great success in the future as well. I for one, am going to attend it every year.