Celebrating Literature Through Discourse

A look into the recent Times Literature Festival held at Jayamahal Palace grounds


Manimugdha Sharma, in conversation with Jairam Ramesh and Vaibhav Purandare in the Times LitFest 2020

Udbhavi Balakrishna

Bangalore: “The greatest disservice we would be doing is to allow ourselves to be reduced to a desert in which only one type of idea flourishes, only one type of scholarship flourishes,” said Jairam Ramesh, former Union Minister and author, while delivering his keynote speech at the Times Literature Festival, held here recently. Literary enthusiasts and bibliophiles were present at the event to listen to and meet some of India’s most acclaimed authors, thinkers, and performers who came together to celebrate literature.

This year marked the sixth edition of the Times Literature Festival. The two-day festival brought together on one platform over 70 speakers and several hundred pieces of literature. Besides book-launches and signings; authors, ex-diplomats, and journalists engaged in conversation about diverse topics such as biography, mythology, romance, crime, history, marriage, and mental health.

The grounds were divided into four venues : The Lawn, The Tent, The SBI Hangar, and The Peepal Tree. While the first two venues were outdoor, the SBI Hangar was a roofed facility that included a book signing area and a book store. One could listen in on a discussion and get their book signed by the author present in the room. At the Peepal Tree, book reading and talks were held. Different workshops were also held here which focused on subjects such as fiction writing, cartooning, parenting, and interactive storytelling.

Boasting a very special list of speakers, the festival drew considerably large crowd on both the days. One of the talks was about the relevance of political biographies: a conversation that included Jairam Ramesh and Vaibhav Purandare with moderator Manimugdha Sharma.

Talking about the rise of the East India Company was William Dalrymple, in conversation with Manu Pillai. Another highlight of the day was the discussion on ‘Literature as a tool of dissent’ between Hoshang Merchant, T M Krishna, Vivek Shanbhag, and Pallavi Arun about the launch of T M Krishna’s book Sebastian & Sons: A Brief History of Mridangam Makers. The first day’s events came to an end with an engaging performance by renowned playback singer Usha Uthup that got the audience to its feet.

On the second day, discussion about breaking myths was led by Chetan Bhagat and Ashwin Sanghi. Another conversation about the resilience of India’s secular fabric between Adithya Sondhi, Aakar Patel, and Sudipto Mondal along with Keshava Guha attracted a large number of audiences. A stand-up comedy performance by Papa CJ managed to tickle the funny bones of young and old, leaving them with much to think about.

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