Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

I'll be grateful if you...

Jan 16, 2014


The three keys to become a published author…

There are many reasons, creative people of Chennai eagerly wait for the Hindu Lit For Life Festival, that started happening annually since 2010. Some of them, are there to get their 'fix' of 15 seconds of fame by standing up and giving their piece of ‘Gyan’, instead of asking questions, or proudly claiming to be better than those on the stage and some are out right blatant, promoting their blog or whatever they do, crying hoarse that no one is listening to their pearls of wisdom. But thankfully they are less in numbers and are contained by the sheer power of brilliance that Nirmala Lakshman and Hindu Team, brings forward on the stage.

Anita Ratnam at Hindu Lit For Life 2014 Chennai

Then there are other sort; Eager and enthusiastic aspiring author, that’s looking for guidance, help and inspiration to be the writer they want to be… to nurture their passion of words, ‘Beyond Words’ to see that it gets to see the light of the day. And this tentative and eager crowd has been the strength of the festivals vibrancy. And to this and this type alone, Naresh Farnandes said…


Yes, that’s the first step to get published and as the festival moved on, to Day Two and Three, it was getting to be quite clear that...

a) Writing is tough

b) Publishing one’s book is a hard journey that needs constant motivation and adrenaline rush on regular basis.

Samantha Shannon

And when I heard Samantha Shannon (Of 'The Bone Season' fame, who started writing at the age of 15 and signed up in 2012 for 6 figure, book contract even before publishing her first book; even before graduating from Oxford) and Jim Crace (who wrote 11 books and shortlisted for Man Booker prize twice) in their session on “The Writing Life”, it left me wondering whether the modern day Author’s life is hard, boring and mundane – stuck in the room, trying ways and means to wriggle out of the deadlines, stealing few moments of time to self from the hard task of writing… etc etc.

So when I caught up with them after the discussion, and asked, “What about the passion for writing? The writers like Nietzsche who wrote in constant pain, almost blind; so that he can get out the burning thoughts that he has had within or Adi Shankaracharya who supposed to have written more than 100 books (some say more than 800 books) while travelling across India four times ‘on foot’ before the age of 32 years” they replied…

Jim Crace: “Well it’s like flying a kite, you have the Kite, the thread, the spool, but till the time you don’t have the air to lift it up and fly, it’s just lifeless objects lying on the ground. That air is the passion that lets your words fly.”

Samantha Shannon: “Well the passion is what gets you there in your room alone, thinking, working hard and creating a world of your own.”



And this is where this Hindu Lit Festival plays its role so effectively. So here I am writing this note on the Hindu Lit Festival, for all my friends, readers and aspiring writers to GET INSPIRED … by the Thoughts, Ideas and sheer brilliance of authors, artists and creative geniuses’ presence in the festival…

Nirmala Lakshman and N Ravi

As usual, the day started with lighting of the lamp with all the sponsors, Hindu team, the curator Nirmala Lakshman and N Ravi (Editor in Chief of Hindu)… which moved on to a discussion with Aravind Adiga.

An interesting session about the flora and fauna of the south had the surreal landscape etched on the stage with Anita Ratnam (Internationally respected Choreographer and dancer)  along with Revathy Kumar (carnatic Vocalist and Bharatanatyam dancer) providing the colors of emotions…

And as Gulzar Saheb moved on to the stage, it was his simplicity that won the hearts of the Chennai Audience. His words still echoes on my mind that “You will appreciate it (his verse from his latest book Pluto) if you understand Urdu, if you understand Hindi but most importantly, you will appreciate it if you are Hindustani.". Loved it. He then goes on to give one of the most interesting thoughts about reading books online as in soft copy, which he feels is not as good as reading a hard cover… here is one verse that he recited on the stage.

Later on, when I met him off stage and asked one question about his Triveni style of poetry, which is like short verse with kind of painting with words. There has been many poets, like K N Singh, Namawar Singh who worked on such poetry style and called it ‘Bimb Vidha’ and then there’s the most famous style in the world,  iconic Japanese Poetry called Haiku. Since I am passionate about haiku, I asked about the similarity between Triveni, Bimb vidha and Haiku, to which he says it’s totally different and asked me to read about it in his book ‘Triveni’ which I intend to do as soon as I get my hands on it.

This year’s Hindu Lit Fest was peppered with powerful sessions on Women with powerful representatives like Naomi Wolf, who virtually took the shame out of the taboo words like vagina and the Chennai audience broke through their own boundaries and participated in the interaction wholeheartedly.

As the Session ‘Rough Passage: The coming of age of the new Indian Woman’ gathered momentum, Ira Trivedi commented that the roughest passage for women is inside within their own houses. But now it looks like that the Indian women have moved forward and proclaimed that we can’t take this anymore. To this Nandini Krishnan added that, yes, women are starting to reclaim their sexuality, especially in Chennai, to thundering applause from the Chennai audience. 

When Ira Trivedi asked for an advice to the young people, Madhuri Banerjee listed out important things like “have something for yourself, something you’re passionate about, it does not have to bring you money. Love and respect someone else for the choices they make. A great relationship is made by two people who love and respect each other with every choice they make” and yet it was not enough guidelines for some of the male audience, one of them asked the inevitable question, “What women want?” to which Madhuri Banerji said, “If you can make me laugh and make me a cup of tea in the morning, you've won my heart." Well I wish things were that simple…

The session on ‘Making Waves: How to create an impact as an author’ was an interesting combination of different type of authors who, at times, had a totally opposite view on the way. Ravi Subramanian and Ashwin Sanghi on one side and on the other Anita Nair perfectly moderated by Naresh Fernandes. Ravi started the ball rolling with his CEO style of marketing saying that the author should take charge of the book completely. While Anita Nair stressed upon the content itself which has to be good to have a shelf life of more number of years. But Ravi and Ashwin both pointed out that that’s given, you can not market a worthless book or writer in anycase. Ashwin also said that one has to connect with his readers on emotional level and that’s where the social media plays a great role. On the subject of reviews and reviewers, Ashwin Sanghi came up with one of the best onliner.. “Asking to define a relationship between a reviewer and an author is like asking to define a relationship between a lamppost and a dog”

I was really looking forward to the session “Reinventing Mythology: The art of rewriting religious narratives” but it actually fell flat. Not much was talked about Rewriting but the talk centered about the religion itself and the pitfalls it has for the writers writing about it. But the most important thought that came from this session from Veenapani Chawla who shared her insights about the bipolar nature of the brain with the example of the half-man half-woman manifestation of Lord Shiva, Ardhanareshwarar. She says, and I believe that there is a content with oneself that can change itself as it moves through life in living like Arjuna as neuter Brihanahala and then come back to being the man he was. Which parallels with quantum mechanics where a particle can be positive, negative as well as neutral just by the changes of its polarities. Got me thinking about The God Particle… Beautiful concept.

Abraham Verghese
The session with Jim Crace and Abraham Verghese was an interesting combination of different genre. I loved the way Abraham Verghese defined literature. “A literary novel is one that gives you some instruction on life. Fiction is the great lie that tells the truth about what the world is. A literary novel is the great lie that tells you the truth about life.” Where as Jim Crace has a different take on the same. “A good literary novel shouldn't have questions answered but questions posed.” Both seemed to be talking about the same coin but had the perspective of different sides of it.

And the most important session of the day One was “Women in the 21st Century” with two of the stalwarts of their own field Barkha Dutt and Naomi Wolf of “The Beauty Myth” Fame. As Barkha Dutt asked about the ‘Feminism’, Naomi said, “Feminism in the West has been wrongly defined to reflect lifestyle or ideological choices. However, to me, feminism is about people believing they are entitled to basic human dignity” On the topic of Rape, Naomi says "Why are we always looking at women when it comes to rape, why aren't we looking into why men are committing rape? I feel my heart rate rise with anger when I hear about these rape cases. Look at what happens to these young men? How did they get to be so de-humanised?"

Barkha Dutt, as an incisive journalist, swept out the dirt from under the carpet of urban living and commented, “I cannot think of one girl in my generation who hasn't endured some sort of sexual assault at some point of time. We've all had our bottoms pinched, our breasts pawed at and felt all over while using public transport. But we are told to treat it like it’s not all that a big deal because we haven’t been raped.” 

And yes, I do agree to this as it has been happening in the DTC buses of Delhi since ages and its hard to fight it out as the girls, conditioned to remain anonymously suffering, hardly come forward to even support the person who is trying to fight for her dignity. But then I guess things are changing now and how I wish it changes dramatically and fast. I remember Aamir Khan’s and some other well meaning ads on TV but I guess India has still to go a long way on this basic human dignity front.

I really admired Naomi Wolf when she said in response to Barkha Dutt’s question about ’50 Shades of Grey’ book of fantasy, “We live in a society where women are restricted from exploring their own bodies. Women are always being shamed for their sexual lives so I am not going to add to this (by commenting on the book in terms of sexual fantasy of women).”

Naomi has a very powerful take on the disease of Rape that continues to plague our great nation. She says, “It (Rape) continues because these people aren't jailed and prosecuted. Rapists must be arrested and sent to prison! That is the need of the hour. That is first and probably the most powerful step towards stopping rapes. Countries where people have been prosecuted and punished for rapes have lesser rapes”. And I agree completely.

… To Be Continued Tomorrow…

नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya
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