“Literature is a means by which we may ask questions,” said Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket at The Hindu Lit For Life 2019. This is something that the festival has espoused over the 10 years of its existence by asking questions on stage and off it. Literature also did not mean just fiction (both literary and popular). It encompassed travel, science, politics, art, memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, poetry, food, health, theatre, films … and more.
After a two-year hiatus, thanks to the pandemic, the festival — which began as a celebration of 20 years of The Hindu’s literary supplement, Literary Review — now returns “in a digital format with a carefully curated programme that reflects our much-changed world with sessions on the virus and its impact with leading scientists and medical practitioners, conversations between thinkers and writers on a variety of topics such as films, art and literature, as well as an important conversation on how to navigate these complex times,” says Dr. Nirmala Lakshman, Festival Director and Curator and Director, The Hindu Group.
With COVID-19 still dominating the world, it cannot be ignored. In Lessons of the Pandemic, moderated by Kamini Mahadevan Dr. Gagandeep Kang, Dr. Srinath Reddy and Prof. Arun Kumar take stock of the impact on healthcare, society and the economy and what we need to do to go forward. Mind Matters: An exploration of lifespan mental health in COVID-19 times will have Dr. Pratima Murthy, Dr. Shekhar Seshadri, and Dr. Soumitra Pathare and Dr. Ennapadam S. Krishnamoorthy discuss what the past two years have meant for our mental well-being.
In a related session titled A Viral World, Pranay Lal and Ramya Kannan explain why viruses are indeed necessary and why we need to relook our relationship with them. The other important issue that looms large over our world is the environment. Climate change and human-animal conflict have been in focus for some time and In the Wild: Conversations about Conservation has Neha Sinha, Dr.Sanjay Gubbi and Dr. Mahesh Rangarajan talking about the imperatives of co-existence.
This theme also underlies Amitav Ghosh’s verse adaptation of the legend of Bon Bibi. In Jungle Nama: A story for our times, the author tells Somak Ghoshal about the challenges of writing in the dwipodi-payar metre of Bengali folk literature, the timelessness of the story, and the lesson one can draw from it: of finding a balance and living in harmony with Nature.
What does it mean to be a woman in a man’s world? From mythology to the modern world, three sessions consider this question: Beginning with Indra Nooyi’s sharing her life’s journey and the larger takeaways in a conversation with Vinay Kamath (My Life in Full: Work, Family and Our Future) through filmmaker Sudha Kongara talking to Chithra Mahesh about her experiences in the world of cinema in This is My Story to highlighting the Pandava queen’s place vis-à-vis the other women in the epic in The Song of Draupadi (Ira Mukhoty in conversation with Pankaja Srinivasan).
Books form just one part of the festival. It’s also about people and the world around them. This is what comes to the fore in Shashi and Sashi, as Shashi Tharoor and Sashi Kumar have a candid chat about life, literature, politics and more. Art is one of the aspects that light up life. How, then, can we ignore it in Lit For Life? In Reclaiming Gandhi, artist Subodh Kerkar revisits his lifelong engagement with the Mahatma and examines how art can help spread his ideas. In Sense Smell Touch: Collaborating in Theatre Making, Anuradha Kapur and Deepan Sivaraman suggest that the process of production is both collaborative and individual.
The festival concludes with Running Towards Mystery in which the Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi talks to N. Ravi about transforming ourselves and the world in a positive manner by using ethics and values as tools for now and later.
As Dr. Lakshman said, “The festival extends The Hindu’s commitment to engaging directly with its readers by bringing important and enriching perspectives to them from pre-eminent minds. It is our hope that this year’s digital programme is a precursor to an on ground literary festival in the near future.”
To register for Lit For Life’s first virtual event, visit the official website or scan the QR code The Hindu Lit For Life is presented in association with Rajasthan Tourism. Realty Partner: Casagrand, Banking Partner: State Bank of India, Insurance Partner: Life Insurance Corporation of India, Bookstore Partner: Higginbothams