Sunday, December 21, 2014

Best Time Ever at the Utkal Literature Festival!

I was invited to Bhubhaneshwar for the Odisha Literature Festival organized by the New Indian Express, last year and promptly developed a soft spot for the beautiful city, designed by the German architect, Otto Konigsberger in 1946. Although not as exquisite as Pondicherry which never fails to make me feel a pang of regret that the French lost the Carnatic wars and failed to make the rest of the deep south as gorgeous as that gem of a union territory, Bhubhaneshwar has more than its fair share of charm going for it. Consequently I was thrilled when the opportunity to visit presented itself to me  via the Utkal Literature Festival. The second time around my attraction for the city of temples blossomed into full blown love.

As the tourism guides will tell you, Bhubhaneshwar completes the Swarna Tribhuja or "The Golden Triangle" of Puri (Jagannadh temple), Konark. I had already visited Puri and Konark last year. This time around I completed the triangle with a visit to the Lingaraj temple. There is no doubt about it... Kalinga architecture is absolutely incredible but it is just too bad that the walkways leading to all three destinations are choked up with all manner of refuse running the entire gamut of grossness from the filthy to the unspeakably ugly. Exactly when did Indians start embracing their inner pig with such gusto?

That major grouse aside, it was a blast exploring the city and pigging out on asli Odia street cuisine like gupchups, chicken pakodas, mutton chops, chenna poda and authentic rasogollas with fellow writers Alaka Sahani, Kavita Kane, Satyarth Nayak and Sujit Mahopatra.

The sessions were pretty interesting as well. It was a nice initiative to highlight Odia literature and writing. There were some intense moments between the Odia writers and Odias writing in English but they blew over  without anyone coming to blows over it. In my opinion, events like ULF are a great way to bridge the yawning gulf between Indians who write in English and those who are proficient in their respective regional languages. After all, writers irrespective of the langauage they prefer communicate through their stories and the good stories always transcend the words used to frame them. It is to be hoped that someday such festivals become the norm in Tamil Nadu as well where language remains a very sensitive issue.

Lastly, do check this out. It is an interview I did for the Telegraph. Really enjoyed it, although I do wish their photographer had not gone with the pic where my admittedly wonky expression has prompted a whole bunch of people to wonder aloud if I had crapped my pants! (For the record, I sorta made a face because I hate cameras and posing :( The painful part is that there were tons of other photos where I smiled sweetly for the intrusive lens or at least managed a more normal expression :) ) Oh well!


laidback said...

Pity that The Hindu does not encourage local talent whether in Tamil or Tamil writers in English.

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