Aditya,Anandita and Arundhati dress up for Mama De's big night! And what a super fabulous night it was! Warm and wonderful all the way. The Vintage Veuve Clicquot definitely helped set the mood for a truly sparkling evening.... and the Tribute itself was powerful and inspiring. I was even more touched and impressed by the informal tributes paid to me by two good friends - Alex Kuruvilla and Tasneem Zakaria Mehta. In the beautiful and accomplished Tasneem's case, our friendship spans three generations. I knew her parents well. I know her even better. And our daughters are best friends! Like great Champagne, even deep friendships improve with time!
This appeared in Asian Age today....
Why Lit Fests are no different from Fashion Weeks…
It was inevitable. The last Jaipur Jamboree received so much media play, it inspired every other city,town,taluka and hamlet across India, to get into the act and announce a Lit Fest to call its own.Today, there are almost as many Lit Fests in India as there are new authors. Which can be seen as a good thing or a bad thing. A few years ago, something similar happened to Fashion. After the early success of the first few Fashion Weeks, suddenly, every other week became a week dedicated to fancy frocks and killer heels. Encouraged by the excitement being generated in the press, several eager sponsors jumped into the ring and voila – we had a Fashion Week sprouting up in any city that had a mall, or was dreaming of getting one. Self styled fashion designers were immensely encouraged by what was seen as a huge boost to the desi darzi brigade. Today, one Fashion Week flows into another seamlessly and we have a year long calendar crammed with fashion. Nobody can actually tell the difference between these assorted weeks… which is also fine. For they are no longer about fashion. This is a fascinating phenomenon: Just like the IPL is not really about cricket, and Fashion Weeks have little to do with fashion, we now have Lit Fests that aren’t about Literature. My worry is this : while the IPL in its sexy avatar has thrown up a galaxy of young, gifted cricketers who have made serious money, neither the glamourised Lit Fests nor the frenzied Fashion Weeks have pushed the cause of poor, over worked and underpaid authors and designers. There are many more of us in the literary maidan these days… but how many of our tribe can claim to have hit jackpots? What have these high profile Lit Fests really done to upgrade the lifestyle of those who are up there on the stage, morosely reading from their latest tome? Apart from the firangi stars who have already made it big ( but, who, out of habit , still cadge free drinks from fawning local acolytes), the rest hang about hoping to strike better deals,receive higher advances, manage superior distribution – the usual grouses of authors the world over.
The story of J.K. Rowling is an exceptional one. It’s worthy of several books. And bio pics.How she made it as the most successful writer ( in terms of earnings) in the history of publishing, starting off as a broke single mother, is by now the stuff of legend. With her first adult fiction (“A Casual Vacancy’) declared a best seller before a single copy hit bookstores, the Rowling juggernaut continues to move on. As the Newsweek reviewer pointed out in a piece aptly titled From ‘Potter to Pagford’, Rowling’s kid- lit was not written exclusively for children. The more important question: Did Rowling need Lit Fests to sell her books? Nope. It’s Lit Fests that needed and will continue to need Rowling.
I am an incorrigible Lit Fest hag. I love the circus. Meeting readers is the bonus. Meeting other authors? Let me put it this way…. every big ticket writer holds his or her own nightly durbar. These are amazing occasions! You go at your own peril. Once the official sessions are done, it’s time to relax and diss. Publishing gossip dominates with anxious questions revolving around whose book has sold how many copies, whose foreign rights have been acquired at a record price, and which young thing is doing which big shot agent/ mentor/ publisher/ co-writer/ editor. This is the best part. There’s nothing like a monumental bitchfest to keep the ponderous, pompous authors from boring everybody with their genius. With hilarious and frequently scandalous, side shows galore, Lit Fests have acquired their own sheen and allure. Just like those Fashion Weeks, during which warring designers frequently indulge in very public spats. These meltdowns are far more riveting than anything canny organisers can dream up. Now that Lit Fests have started attracting sexy supernova celebrities from Delhi, Mumbai, London and beyond, what’s the bet there will be sponsors galore lining up to keep those thirsty throats from drying up? Free booze is by far the most inspirational element at Fests of any kind. Designers, models, writers, painters….it’s hard to tell them apart, which is how it should be. They dress alike, look alike, talk alike, perhaps even think alike. In fact, the scenario is so confusing these days, one has to stop and ask, “ Errrr…. excuse me…. is this the lit fest venue? Or am I at Fashion Week?” Even if someone does clarify, it hardly matters. The audience remains the same.
Let’s see… at last count, I have been invited to five Lit Fests. I am tempted to attend all of them. I have a new novel to promote. And an older list to keep flogging. The brand new book jacket is looking good. But my worry is about my own jacket! It is sooooo last season! Nobody will notice the design of the new book. But everybody will comment on my dismal design sense. I’m faced with a major dilemma. Should I aggressively invest in the book? Or save it all up for a better investment in the latest ‘It’ bag? My practical self tells me to go with the bag. It will get widely photographed ( thank you, Hina Rabbani for an invaluable tip) even if it isn’t a limited edition Birkin. As for the book….maybe I should get a sharp and savvy designer to launch it at the next Fashion Week?
Sethji as a show stopper? Why ever not?