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Mapping Literary Contours

The Kumaon Literary Festival saw its first edition last year in Dhanachauli, is back with its second edition this month, to be held October 11 onwards.

Written by Pallavi Pundir |
October 6, 2016 12:00:55 am
literary-talk-759 Festival founder Sumant Batra.

What better place to be a literary recluse than a scenic and quiet retreat in the hills? The Kumaon Literary Festival, which saw its first edition last year in Dhanachauli, in the lap of Kumaon, is an ode to the importance of the “necessary environment”, as late poet Robert Creeley put it, to secure an artist “in the way that lets him be in the world in a most fruitful manner”. Furthering that agenda, the five-day festival is back with its second edition this month, to be held October 11 onwards. This time, the festival will be held at the Jim Corbett National Park and Dhanachauli.

“The focus remains on the quality, rather than the quantity,” says Sumant Batra, festival founder, about the line-up, which has grown from 108 speakers last year, to 135 this year. Speakers include Magsaysay Award winner TM Krishna, who will deliver the keynote address, among authors such as Amish Tripathi, Jerry Pinto, Hindol Sengupta and Rakshandha Jalil. Those from the publishing world, such as Chiki Sarkar of Juggernaut, Anant Padmanabhan of HarperCollins and Aditi of Vani Prakashan, are also a part of the line-up. From the region, which the festival attempts to put on the literary map of the country, one will see authors from Uttarakhand, such as Ajay Rawat, Anup Sah, Deepak Rawat and Mona Verma. The sessions will range from politics and poetry to literature and cinema.

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“It’s not just an event, but an ecosystem of its projects, activities and initiatives as well. It’s a platform to disseminate those ideas that we had launched last year,” says Batra. Three projects were launched — Fellow of Nature, in partnership with the French Institute in India, Wildlife Trust of India and others; Women Unlimited Series, in partnership with United Nations Women; and Literary Bhagidari. “Fellow of Nature, for instance, is to promote nature writing, which used to be the rock ‘n’ roll of literary writing some odd 40 years ago,” says Batra. The winner of Fellow of Nature South Asia Short Story Award in Nature Writing was announced last week — Meghna Pant from Mumbai.

Keeping in mind the current climate, however, the festival board members have decided not to have Pakistani authors. Afia Aslam, Ali Akbar Natiq, Ameena Saiyid, Asif Farrukhi and Asif Noorani will not make it for the festival. “Some have got their visas, while some were unable to. But, at this point, with what’s happening around us, we have decided not to have them at the festival,” says Batra.

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