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Published on: 08/16/15 10:28 AM

Books: The Hindu`s Lit for Life Fest, 2014: Sidelights

The Hindu’s three-day Lit for Life Fest, 11-13 January 2014. 

I will confess: I went for Colin Thubron.


The takeaways from Day One of the Lit for Life fest for me was Pablo Bartholomew’s deeply disturbing Bhopal Disaster slideshow offset by his ponderous, dispassionate commentary.

Barkha Dutt talked of women in India getting pawed every day and claps echoed around the hall, making Naomi Wolf`s jaw drop. `What was that about, `she asks, mystified. `People agreeing with the statement,` replies Barkha, deadpan.

Ashwin Sanghi and Ravi Subramanian making a strong pitch for self-marketing your `products` aka books (still not convinced, though). Radha Thomas and UNK rocking the after-session. And oh, that litfest staple: interminably meandering comments posing as questions during the open sessions.

Lit for Life Fest, Day Two. Colin Thubron delivered an absolutely spiffing talk and made mention of the `spartan comfort of travel.` Talked about his latest book `To a Mountain in Tibet.` Ooer, lovely. Went to gush in a slightly restrained (!) manner about his latest book to him but ended up discussing how many Indians had Western monikers like Sheila. 

W. Dalrymple gave us yet another splendid history lesson, this time of British perfidies in/on Afghanistan, wrt Return of a King. The slides were as engrossing as his narrative.

The rest were also-rans. I also discovered that the venue was rather like the trick mirrors room. You met friends once and never saw them again. Others, you looked out for but nary a sight of them. Wherefore art thou, Sonora JhaManjul Bajaj and Zara Khan

The third and last day of the Lit for Life fest.

Kamalahasan deconstructed the One Hundred Crore Club of Bollywood in the most pithy manner, to an expectedly packed hall. He also used the word `intra-mural` which I had to immediately look up.


Naomi Wolf got more than she bargained for when she threw open her session for comments rather than only questions (sigh) and a strange and creepy gent deluged her with info (if one can call it that) about the `Indian perspective` (?!) of the `vahjeena.` Took us all a few seconds to get what he was referring to.


Rujuta Diwekar took a class (well, she kept asking us questions!) on fitness. Excellent class, though, and as always, her fitness tips are extremely followable.

Four authors on the shortlist read from their books and whaddya know, the fifth and absent one, Anees Salim, took the Lit for Life Prize for Vanity Bagh. 
Epiphany: all the books on this year’s shortlist had a strong thread of sadness running through them.


However, the day belonged to our de facto Tiger Man and national treasure, Valmik Thapar,  who had us at the first jaw-dropping slide of that magnificent beast. His bookTiger Fire promises to be a treat.

All in all, a good time.


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Sheila Kumar • August 16, 2015

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