|Vikram Seth at the poetry gala|
The Hay Festival in Kerala may have begun a trifle strangely, with a lullaby, but on day two it was buzzing with action.
In one of the first sessions of the day, Kerala’s own Paul Zachariah set the tone in a discussion that was reflective, thought provoking and great fun. And things sort of stayed that way through the rest of the day.
Most sessions were packed and I guess that several hundred people attended the 15-odd readings and discussions that were held on day two. Overall, the turnout was quite impressive.
Some of the organisational glitches that dogged the first day seem to have been ironed out. However, the folks at the ‘information’ counter still seem a little uninformed at times.
What I found most reassuring and encouraging is the response that poetry — in Malayalam, English and Welsh — evoked. If O.N.V. Kurup read to pretty much a full house in the morning, it was almost standing room only at the poetry gala in the evening, with readings by Vikram Seth, K. Satchidanandan, Tishani Doshi, Gillian Clarke, Menna Elfyn, Paul Henry, Vivek Narayanan and C.P. Surendran. And in between, there was yet another very well attended but intimate poetry session with Menna Elfyn, Paul Henry and K. Satchidanandan, chaired with great élan by Anita Sethi.
Arguably, the star of the afternoon though was Bob Geldof. I didn’t actually sit through his session, but it seemed to be pretty well attended with lots of media interest as well.
Early in the evening, the monsoon clouds rolled in. The showers that followed, however, did nothing to dampen the festival’s buzz. Now, I wonder if day three will top that.