GROWING IN POPULARITY... The Dubai LitFest has carved a niche for itself in a very short time. Book lovers wait their turn for autographs from their favourite authors at last year’s Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. — KT Photo by Juidin Bernarrd
On the evening of the 17th, I sat quietly by the waterfront, gazing at the reflection of the coloured lights on the restless water below. With every passing ripple, the pattern changed, morphing into something new, different and even more dazzling than the previous one. Rather like the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature itself.
The occasion was the launch of the 2015 Dubai LitFest scheduled for March 3-7 next year. This event, a mere baby seven years ago and little more than a speck of vision in the eyes of a handful of people, has – under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai – grown into an event to savour and cherish, the envy of several older film festivals across the world. What this event lacks in history, it makes up with innovation, organisation skills, style and a youthful dynamism that is the hallmark of the country itself. In partnership with the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, ‘Eafol’ has carved a niche for itself in a very short time and is aiming to win for the third consecutive time, the distinction of being the best literary festival of the Middle East.
I wondered about the changing patterns in my own life. As a young lad with no particular leanings towards any subject while at school, I moved into the commerce field simply because it repelled me less than science.
Somehow I became a chartered accountant and then quickly realising that neither accounting nor audit was my cup of tea, shifted into banking and then into private banking. Somewhere along the way, I started writing and here I was at the launch of Dubai’s literary festival, watching Isobel Abulhoul Festival Director — a British national — speak a whole passage in what seemed to me, most perfect Arabic!
I have a two-way association with this event, in a sense. One, as a writer and author, however tiny a drop in the whirlpool of world literature. And the other, as a gold card holder of Emirates, the title sponsor of this wonderful event!
I had the privilege of being part of the Dubai LitFest three years ago shortly after the release of my first book. It was a matter of no small amusement to me that my own session was scheduled at the same time as Chetan Bhagat’s. I remember joking to my wife that if his session had been earmarked for a different time, all those hundreds of visitors would have been at my session!
Following the session, it was autograph time and to my absolute horror, I found my name tag next to his. I had this chilling, nauseating vision of hundreds of eager youth lined up in front of him and none at all in front of me. Luckily, he was held up elsewhere, so I sat there nervously signing the few books that were presented to me.
I have written more books since, but I still feel as diffident in the company of literary folk as I did then. The more I learn about the literary world, the more I realise how much there is to know and understand. The literary world is like a tunnel through wonderland. It takes you deep into its never-ending path alternately comforting, enlightening, shocking and regaling you with its prose and poetry, grit, zest and flamboyance. Appropriately, the ‘theme’ for the upcoming festival is ‘wonderland’; one that appears suitable to both literature and the city that is its host.
After we had the pleasure of listening to a few dignitaries, it was time to disclose the names of the authors for the 2015 festival. This, sometimes referred to as ‘The Big Reveal’ is looked forward to eagerly by book enthusiasts. And the ‘reveal’ came in the form of a film featuring the names of some hundred participants along with a few words from some of them.
Some names, I was familiar with – the name of Nigerian author Chimananda Ngozi Adichie stands out in my memory – but given the vastness of the world of literature and my own ignorance, there were several that, though obviously well known to sections of the audience, didn’t ring a bell in my mind.
Even as I heard gasps, whistles and cries of joy as the names were being announced (I think some women even swooned) I was desperately googling up a few of the names on my iphone.
Eafol2015 is going to be something to look forward to. Please mark your dates!
P.G. Bhaskar’s most recent book ‘Mad in Heaven’ has been published by Harper Collins. Please visit www.pgbhaskar.com to enter his world
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