(This should actually be titled “Lekhana: A Literary Weekend – bits of Day One”, but that looks weird.)
The events started at 5 pm, but I walked in at 6 (or so), thus missing the inauguration and the recitations. I did catch most of the panel discussion:
“The City in Literature”
with MK Raghavendra moderating for KR Usha, Anjum Hasan, Saniya and Zac O’Yeah.
I must admit that I’m a little biased against the panel subject – I feel like there’s a lot that’s been said about cities that we’ve heard or read already. Somehow, undirected discussions about the city seem to miss the actual people in the city, treating the city like they are self-embodied things of concrete, dust and ethereal culture.
(Also, everytime I see KR Usha [whom I do love, in a wholesome sort of way] in a group discussion, she is talking about the city. Author typecasting!)
To sum up:
KR Usha talked about how fast Bangalore is changing, and how one evokes a city not through its buildings but through the quality of life and experiences of its people.
Zac O’Yeah finds Bangalore constant change disconcerting, but does find that the action sequences in a Kannada movie seem like they can only happen in Bangalore.
Anjum Hasan enquired whether it really is necessary to write about a place, whether the characters of that place are aware of themselves in connection with their location or not. She reminded us (via Flaubert) of the displacement that is sometimes necessary to write about a place authentically, and asked, Why should we write about Bangalore? Sometimes we don’t have to!
KR Usha said that the panel topic limited the discussion a bit and talked about Nabokov, who felt that an over-adherence to realism in placement is fruitless, and can lead away from the central objective of a novel, which is to describe the human condition. “But the modern novel needs context!” Conundrum.
Zac O’Yeah said that all this aside, one must still try to grapple with the city, as a way to show one’s love for the place, to create, to evoke an image of the place that you love.
MK Raghavendra said that “evoke” was the crucial term here – one must evoke a place, not necessarily describe it, in order to bring it to life.
Anjum Hasan admitted that she – after all – prefers the highly descriptive novel, but still loves, for instance, Jane Austen, who never really spent much time physically describing a place, but rather the mindset of her characters, evoking the culture of their times.
I didn’t take detailed notes for the Q&A session, partially because I was sitting next to a guy (a reporter?) who took notes and grunted/exclaimed his agreement and disagreement with everything that was said. It was distracting, and extremely annoying. But in all, the audience – the part that talked – seemed in agreement that Bangalore rarely leaps alive off the pages, that Bangalore is in transition, that Bangalore is not in frictionless coexistence with Bengaluru, tat maybe Bangalore/Bengaluru need not be enshrined in a single moment after all, despite how well people like Dickens managed to enshrine the dirtier bits of London, that Bangalore was once a series of villages with a strong located culture, that we have a unique weather.
Then there was a play.
Munish (I’ve forgotten his last name!!) plays Rajkumar, the “ordinary fellow” who talks to the audience for an hour about his life in order to explain his one, single problem. Ranjkumar’s simplicity and self-aware ordinariness and self-declared happy life contrasts with his rather lonely existence, dictated as it is by his small circle of family and friends.
Rajkumar is exaggeratedly simple, exaggeratedly ordinary. I’m not an avid theatre-goer (is that the term)? I suspect I’d've preferred to read Rajkumar’s heavy-handed monologue. Some of Munish’s actions on the stage seemed a bit heavily scripted, and one knew before hand when certain reveals were going to take place (penultimately). But Munish played this rather one-note character with surprising charm, keeping the audience engaged and interested for most of his hour.
I suppose the play is about the invisible possibilities for art in the seeming banalities of life. Rajkumar’s headaches concerning poetry, how to understand it, how to create it and how to manifest it weave together – for his audience but not for him – his life amongst the people he loved and who may or may not have loved him back. Art remains the (unappreciated) reward for Rajkumar’s average life, and he seems rather overly cheered to be done with it for good.
The play ends beautifully – one feels a bit as if the entire hour has been crafted for that last minute – and I don’t think any of us regretted the hour.
(I think I knew Munish when we were in school together. That part was strange. Irrelevant to this post, but strange.)
I’m hoping I’m in time for tomorrow – I intend to be there the entire day, though I might not attend everything. Here’s the schedule - maybe you’ll find something you’d like to see?