Saturday, September 26, 2015

GITAM School of Technology - Student Literary Festival Lavz-O-Philia gets 1000 + registrations

When I was invited to a literary festival (the second in my life, the first was by CBIT a couple of years ago) as a guest speaker, I knew my job was to quickly speak some stuff in an ever rising din of youthful energy and get out before the students throw me out. Student festivals, even the literary kind, are full of energy and adrenaline and one cannot expect them to sit quietly at 10 in the morning and listen to a boring speech. My brief was clear - 20 minutes. And that appeared too long.

Lavz-o-Philia - what does it mean - stumped me. Later Namrata, chief ed of the newsletter explained to me - 'lavz' being 'words' in Urdu and 'philia' being 'love of' in English. Akhil is the man though - a pleasant, eager and energetic 3rd year civil engineering student and the one who did all the work as far as getting me there was concerned. He wants to write a book. I saw the flyer he sent me - interesting programs. Picture Perception, Short Story writing, Lit quiz, Short Film contest, Debate, Poetry recitation, paper presentation, Skits, Treasure Hunt, Spell Bee, JAM, Group Discussion and Dialogue (as per the schedule given to me). But what caught my eye was a Rs. 200 registration fee. A lit fest and entry fee. Will wonders never cease? How do they think they can get away with something like this?

When I told friend Ramaraju that I was heading to lit fest in an engineering college he was shocked. What lit festivals? In colleges? Do they read books at all? etc. I was not too sure what to say but let me give you a wonderful statistic.

When I got to the impressive campus on the 24th morning I saw a huge throng of students trying to register - it was as if they were selling tickets to a rock concert or something. The registrations kept piling on and on until they apparently  touched some 1000 or more. While waiting I had an interesting conversation with English faculty Ms. Savitha about lit fests, Indian writing etc. Very nice.

Our inaugural session which was to be in a room with a capacity of 120 was hopelessly inadequate so we shifted to a place that seems to be an under construction building - a bit like the place where Shahrukh Khan and band practice music in 'Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na'. Some band was playing before I entered. Some intros and then I was given the unenviable task of keeping a 1000 (ok, say 500 then) students entertained for 10 minutes.

My speech covered four aspects.
"Good morning,
It's a great pleasure to be here at a student lit fest for more than one reason. 

(The Cruel Friend)
Yesterday I was telling a friend of mine that I was invited to a lit fest being organised by an engineering college. He was more than sceptical. Do they read? Do they buy books? etc. Now I thought that was a cruel thing to say since I am trying to make a living writing books. I thought that the attempt at organising a lit fest was brave but I never expected anything like this. This augurs well for writers and the lit world in general that we have so many youngsters interested in lit events - you travel 20 kms from the city and pay 200 bucks as an entry fee.

While here let me also carry out a small poll.
How many of you read books regularly? (some 25 hands)
How many write? (equal number)
How many wish to write novels? (fewer, say 15 hands)
How many wish to write movie scripts? (some five)

My small survey done, I moved on to the next topic.

(The Lit Divide Must End)
This event also transports me back to my engineering college days when we used to have lit fests. Then lit fests were plagued by the lit divide between the lit types and the non lit types. The lit types were the ones who normally sat up front in classes (and had glasses) and they normally also somehow surrounded themselves with all the pretty girls in college - that's the lit types. The non-lit types were the rest of us (ugly, non-front row sitting, no glasses) including complete philistines like me, fast bowlers and back benchers and such. So sharp was the divide that they were pretty hostile and would not let us in - if they had a chance. We were not very interested in the actual lit events but were more interested in the pretty girls who came from other colleges. So we sat across the tables - the lit types and the non-lit types - and stared at each other with great hostility. Why I am telling you this is that I was prominent among the non-lit types which is the irony. Here I am having written a couple of books and being invited to lit events. I don't know what the lit types of my time are up to now but the one connection to anything lit from those days is me. The conclusion - end the lit divide. You never know where the next lit talent could come from.

(What writing is about)
Why should you end the divide? Because you should all write. And why should you write? Because writing is about organisation of thought. Organised thought is the one thing that can make all things clear for you. Don't ever think that writing is about creativity or some abstract thing like that - it's purely organised thought. So I urge all of you, lit and non-lit types to start writing, privately and publicly because its a great habit that will help you in your careers.

(Why being organised is not bad)
Why should you get organised? Because it gives you clarity and discipline and will cause you to move forward confidently. We normally don't move forward because we don't know what's ahead. All of the above traits will help you in whichever career you wish to take up. In fact writers normally write about things that bother them so I urge you to write about things that bother you. You will find answers, clarity and who knows, maybe even a best seller might come out of it. So write. About exams, about preparation, about career choices and all other stuff that bothers you and you will be better people for it.

(What should be done now -oops, it's five parts!)
Write. Journals, blogs, books, articles, scripts, poems...anything. Just go for it. Wishing you all the best."

I was felicitated with a shawl, a bunch of fresh fruits (instead of flowers) and a memento. I also released a newsletter called KNOW (Knowledge, News and Other Whacky Stuff) along with the editorial team minus the chief ed Namrata who was busy someplace else. And then I headed out. On the way out I met a young aspiring writer who asked me lots of questions about whether one should read etc to become a good writer (in my opinion, yes, it helps to read good works so you know how the masters think and how they write).

Things do look bright. Kids pay 200 bucks (they can buy all my books for less than that) to register in a lit fest. Wow. I met two students, Akhil and Sai Riddhi, who confessed they want to write (and many in the audience who raised their hands at my question. I met the Director of HBS on the way out and hope to interact with the MBA students sometime. Overall a nice, fun and energising experience.

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