Some interesting conversations, a couple of fun readings, lots of rain, half an alphabet soup of security agencies and event organisers who need a crash course in Event Management 101.
That, in thirty words, is pretty much what Kovalam Literary Festival- Edition III that happened this past weekend was.
What I really enjoyed about this year’s festival was the change in venue — from the beach village of Kovalam, in Trivandrum’s suburbs, to the Kanakakunnu Palace in the heart of the city. This meant that people could drop in for a session or two, leave and return later for another session. And there were people who did just that — I for one.
Given how accessible the palace is, there were also people who came in for a ‘feel’ of the festival, decided it wasn’t quite their scene and left. The sad part, however, was that despite the change in venue, participation levels were still rather low; better than previous years, perhaps, but still low.
I’d expected at least a couple of hundred people to turn up. But I don’t think there were ever more than around 150 people at the festival, including the medium-ish posse of security men protecting Daman Singh, daughter of India’s Prime Minister, who read at the festival. I must confess that the rather lukewarm turnout on a long weekend puzzles me.
The festival sessions themselves were standard lit fest stuff; some entertaining and thought provoking, others not quite so. The hard part though was figuring out who was going to read or speak next as the festival schedule had undergone some pretty drastic changes, especially since a couple of authors did not turn up. But these schedule changes were really not communicated to the audience.
So there were no information boards or posters with the revised schedule. And things sort of chugged along.
Most of the time though, the really interesting things were happening not inside the main hall of the palace, but in the bandstand alongside it. Tea, smokes, cutlets, biryani and eclectic conversations. Conversations on how going for a run is the best way to orient yourself to a new city; on memories dredged up by the smoke from Pakistani Gold Leaf cigarettes; on how green Kerala is; on the hazards of being an artist or writer with an even more famous artist or writer as a spouse…
And that, perhaps, is where the Kovalam Literary Festival really came into its own — in the interesting conversations that happened outside the festival halls. For you never know just what those discussions may have sparked off.