A PASSAGE FROM INDIA – ANIL DHARKER

A PASSAGE FROM INDIA – ANIL DHARKER

 

I’m a writer and columnist from Mumbai and I founded and run the Mumbai International Literary Festival, which is now 8 years old.

Many literary festivals are fairly similar to each other, so Mumbai International Literary Festival has many things in common with Hay Festival. We also end the evening with a performance, which is in some way related to literature. We don’t do music as such, unless there is a literary connection though. A few years ago, we had an English group doing hip hop Shakespeare or we may have a dance connected to literature in some way. We had India’s modern dance group Astad Deboo dancing to Hazrat Bulleh Shah poems, for example.

I think Hay is wonderful. It’s got so much energy and its huge. Huge. That’s the only word I can use. We thought we were big, but we are tiny in comparison. But it’s not just the size; it’s the energy, it’s the enthusiasm of people.

Yesterday evening we were at the session with Neil Gaiman and Stephen Fry. After that we came out and suddenly someone announced that Neil Gaiman was signing books and there was a virtual stampede. I’ve never seen people running like that after a writer. In India, if it was like a film star or an Indian cricketer then yes, you would have a stampede. Young and old were running with their books to get them to signed.

The other thing I like is that Hay attracts the whole family, which is wonderful because you are catching readers while they are young. Here, there is an element of play and picnics, which is rather nice. Children come for fun and then they get into a workshop, so they are also learning and getting familiar with literature which is the best way of learning of course.

If I could take one thing from Hay? Well, I’d take Peter Florence.