Monday, January 26, 2015

The Hyderabad Literary Festival 2015 - Fleeting Impressions.

I went to the Hyderabad Literary Festival at its best venue possibly - in terms of accessibility - the Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet, which is bang in the middle of everything. In terms of romance I think I liked Taramati Baradari best but it was far away from everything. Aashiana was good but it had its usual space constraints.
Nice design! My shadow looming over HLF

Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet, or HPS, Begumpet as we know it, is a large campus. It was originally called the Jagirdar College and was a college for the children of the nawabs. So much of what HPS has reminds you of stuff you have read about in books like Tom Brown's School Days  - huge buildings, corridors, large grounds, trees and an old world look and feel of strength and silence about it. Its perhaps the best venue for a high profile activity like the Lit Fest and all steps must be taken to make it the permanent venue for the Lit Fest. Its good for all concerned.
Bad pic of the HPS forecourt

I visited the venue on Day 1 to meet Krishna Sastry Devulapalli who had a session on Food as a identity. And Chitra (who has a session on the last day). As always Vinod and I caught up first, had chai (oops, chai got over! - how can chai get over?), went to Krishna's session, met them, met Daniel, and went off to have coffee at Minerva.
Krishna in session

On day 2, I met Praveen, who was at the venue. He bought a copy of 50 Not Out at the bookshop (which had the slowest billing process I ever saw). We took some time off and walked around the campus. I have two great cricketing memories here at HPS, Begumpet, so I wanted to visit the grounds.
From the bookstore

At the ground behind the school, an inexperienced David-like All Saints team beat a Goliath-like HPS, B in a league match in 1982. We were in our 10th class. Ehtesham was our captain, Masood, Suresh and Srinivas Chakravarthy made up our claims to state players. The rest was rookie players. Me in my first year at school cricket, Michael, Farruk, Abdul Rub, Subodh Bhatnagar, Iftekhar, Rajesh, Joel, made up the rest of the team. HPS, B had the fearsome Hariprasad, captain of the Under 19, team, big hitter and someone who had already played Ranji Trophy. In filmi style our Rector told us before we left for the game that we must win and if we win we can ask for whatever we want. We did not believe for a moment that we could win.
Near the cricket grounds

HPS packed us off for 121. In 3 overs before lunch they rattled off 30 for no loss - Hariprasad looking ominous. The rest of their team was making fun of us and hinting that they could go home while the top two batsmen finished the game. First over after lunch I get wicket one, third over I get two, fifth Hari falls to Chakravarthy and then the cat is among the pigeons. HPS got bowled out for 70, one of the biggest upsets that season. I got 5 for 25, Chakravarthy 4 for 19. Rector treated us to dinner and a movie!
The cricket grounds where we beat HPS

I wanted to see that ground. So we walked behind after convincing the security guard that we were old students who wanted to see the ground. We were old and we were students so we did not lie in that sense. But looking at the grounds brought back all those memories. More than that, the environment gave me a fragrance of the old days and it was refreshing to get a whiff of life in today's suffocating mix of of strong aromas.
The pavilion

The other ground up front where most literary activity is taking place was where we played many games. But one which we played against Andhra Bank is what I remember. We were in our Intermediate. MCC was led by M.L. Jaisimha and our regular motley crew of seniors and juniors. We got few runs and Andhra Bank was cruising along comfortably. In my second spell when Andhra Bank needed another 10 runs or so I found superb rhythm and made life terrible for the Andhra Bank men. I got two wickets but I still remember the rhythm and the way they hopped about.
The lovely old world feel

Anyway, back to the literary festival. I liked the standees. They say the school looks beautiful when lit up at night. Food arrangements were not great. One thing people must remember is that food is a great attraction and stress buster. Good food will always have happy people. Hyderabad has enough options for all sorts of food and if thought out well, or given out on contract, this big aspect of any good experience could be easily taken care of. From our chote samosa, to lukmis, to Irani chais to biryanis, Hyderabad is all about its food. It just cannot be ignored.
The canteen that serves pav bhaji
But the venue offers so much. Large grounds to walk about, catch up and meet. Would be great if this did become the permanent venue.

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