Monday, December 27, 2010

Thoughts on the celebration of words (aka Hay Festival 2010)

As alluded to in the opening post, the Hay Festival in Trivandrum was a total surprise and an excellent example of how some of the finest experiences in life are free.

On hindsight, it didn’t seem as if I was in Trivandrum (or even India)- the entire atmosphere was cosmopolitan and sans any boundaries or walls, with the authors and readers rubbing shoulders with a near total lack of superciliousness. I’ve been to so many events in Trivandrum (even at Kanakakunnu Palace) where I always felt out of place- but here was a festival where I felt a sense of belonging: another Orchard at Grantchester or the quaint Turf nestled behind the lofty ivy-clad walls of New College, where we are transported to another dimension, treading on the steps of luminaries, uninhibitedly discussing on all things under the sun, whilst enjoying a delightful slice of carrot cake or a sip of G&T.

Unlike stiff formal lectures (the local ones also feature a degree of pomposity), the environment was so relaxed. But in true Kerala style, attendees flitted around with some doggedly maintaining conversations with others (in what seemed as a competition with the speaker), the media trudged around with their gadgets, and the cell phones registered their presence.

It was surprising, however, when a sizeable crowd of stragglers did not materialise during the Festival (nor during the concert)- a local adage goes on that ‘anything at Kanakakunnu = a teeming crowd’. I was also surprised that, apart from two instances, I did not run into any Trivandrum acquaintance of mine (a sizeable proportion of which includes university professors and postgraduates of English literature). Alternatively, I may have been too engrossed in the sessions!

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