The Stage Is Set For Second Edition Of Pondy Lit Fest

The Stage Is Set For Second Edition Of Pondy Lit Fest

by Ajit Datta - Sep 20, 2019 01:02 PM +05:30 IST
The Stage Is Set For Second Edition Of Pondy Lit FestThe logo for the literature festival.
  • The vision of the literature festival is to create a platform for the foremost thinkers to come together and find ways for India to achieve its full potential.

In less than 10 days, the second edition of the Pondy Lit Fest will take place. Our team, a small and very dedicated group of friends, is spending sleepless nights trying to ensure that the festival goes off seamlessly.

We are working on several fronts simultaneously — from speakers to venue management, from answering all the queries we are receiving to a comprehensive publicity campaign, from fundraising to ticketing — with the hope that every piece of the puzzle eventually falls in the right place.

This is the second edition of the festival, and there is no doubt that we have come a long way. Our line-up of speakers this time outshines last year’s line-up. The venue is a much larger one, with several amenities. Many like-minded people have offered their help and support to us. The cherry on the cake is that several sessions will be televised.

The hurdles we faced in the run-up to the first edition of the festival could have potentially put an end to the festival for good. My colleagues and I had never organised anything so daunting before, and the onslaught against us brought with it the kind of challenges that we had never encountered before.

A section of the media and the intelligentsia systematically worked to shut us down before we could even begin. Politicians threatened us with violence. The venue partner attempted to sabotage the festival by throwing us out on the street hours before the festival began. The effort to damage and demoralise us could not have been more concerted.

Clearly, some interests perceived our festival as a direct threat to the fortress they had so painstakingly built for decades. They believed that they were the sole custodians of truth, and just like politics, media, pop culture and several other walks of life, they were entitled to hold a monopoly over literature festivals too, forever.

Unfortunately for them, times have changed. Their fortresses began falling one after another, and perhaps the Pondy Lit Fest was destined to break their literature festival fortress. And break the Pondy Lit Fest did.

Many in the audience who had attended literature festivals before told us that what they witnessed was unimaginable. Literature festivals were supposed to speak about communalism, and India’s poverty and backwardness. They were supposed to be a pessimistic gathering of elites, passing sermons and sipping champagne.

But here was a literature festival that spoke about India’s economic prowess, its military might, its history and culture. The air was optimistic and unapologetic. The definition of ‘literature festival’ in India had changed.

When the festival was initially conceived, the idea was for it to revolve around the concept of ‘Bharat Shakti’. The term ‘Bharat Shakti’ was coined by Sri Aurobindo when he wrote, "India is the Bharat Shakti, the living energy of a great spiritual conception, and fidelity to it is the very principle of her existence”.

The vision of this festival was to create a platform for the foremost thinkers to come together and find ways for India to achieve its potential in every walk of life, in the light of what Sri Aurobindo had written.

When the foremost thinkers of the country agreed to be a part of this festival and came down to Pondicherry (Puducherry) to speak, it was a giant step for India in the game of narratives. When they spoke unapologetically about India’s inherent greatness and how we would go about realising it, it was a giant victory for India.

Our resources were limited, and our setting was modest, but we set the narrative. People thronged the halls to listen to our speakers, and in the days to come, our content received lakhs of views online. The festival had placed itself on the map.

The successful emergence of an alternate perspective in the domain of literature festivals is a positive beginning. The inroads have been serious enough to send a chill down the spine of those who believed that their so-called intellectual supremacy would prevail forever.

One can perceive it from the narrow prism of ecosystems and proclaim that these beginnings are necessary. One can perceive it from a much broader perspective too, about where the country is headed and whether every voice deserves to be heard or not, to arrive at a similar conclusion. Therefore, it is imperative that the second edition of this literature festival be a roaring success.

With less than 10 days to go for the second edition of the festival, we would like to believe that the spectacular first edition was just the beginning. We would like to believe that this festival will grow every year, that this festival will not just make a mark in the country’s intellectual discourse but dominate it. For a festival like ours, the second edition is probably the most critical edition in our evolution.

I would like to take this opportunity to invite the readers of Swarajya, our social media partner, to the Pondy Lit Fest 2019. The brilliant minds who will speak at the festival are not have-been luminaries, but people who understand ground realities. Many of them are lawmakers and policymakers, men and women with real power and the capacity to bring about real change.

Do go through the speakers’ list on our website, there is no way you will miss this opportunity. In the spirit of our literature festival, we have kept entries completely free of cost. We hope to see you in Pondicherry, for it is your participation that will determine if this festival survives the test of time.

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