Take Aways from Some Sessions 

Gulzar saab in the Front Lawn of Hotel Clarks Amer, the JLF venue, stole hearts with his inimitable sense of humour, wittiness and the usual baritone voice rendition: वक़्त हमेशा एक सा चलता है फिर घड़ियों के टाइम क्यों नहीं ड़मलते… (Time always moves the same, then why don’t the clocks match the time…) 

Manju Kapur and Devika Rege interacted with Rachna Singh in Afterlives where Kapur recounted how “a book grows organically as I write” because she works on drafts of her novels year after year till “I have a novel that is authentic.” A book, she says is never really finished as creating it so intimate. 

Devika, whose book Quarter Life has been called the study of 21st century democratic consciousness, described the process of researching for the book, which took six years, drawing from the raw material of the world. 

Pawan Verma, who released the book 108 Portraits of Indian Heritage and Culture penned by art historian and curator Dr. Alka Pande, lauded it as being the “magnum opus of our cultural heritage.” Pande, speaking about book, emphasised the fact our aesthetics are very different from the west. “We are different in image –making in India. Our art is internal/inner looking. That is why our sculptures have eyes closed in chintan and meditation.” Speaking about the interconnectedness of art, she said “All Indian art is sacred.” 

“The business of poetry is dangerous. It is always mercurial, molten and unpredictable,” said Arundhati Subramaniam during the release of the book Wild Women on the opening day of JLF. She mesmerised the audience by her reading, “I pestled my heart in love’s mortar …” adding that in Wild Women she talks of disembodied voices of women who 

have an appetite and who have been ignored. 

Reclaiming Hope, a very interesting interactive session on mental health saw some eye-opening insights from renowned doctors Dr. Amit Sen and Dr. Shekhar Seshadri who also spoke their initiatives Children First and Samvad and Neha Kirpal. The need to pay attention to gut health and education that develops egalitarian human beings with an aesthetic sense were pivotal observations made during this interaction. 

A brief moment with Dr. Alka Pande: 

When I asked her how she amalgamated the many roles she balances she assigned it to her “passion for work”. She opines, “delving into it is a therapy.” 

Tarun Tahiliani sent the audience into peals of laughter with his witty observations. In his session in Durbar Hall on the second day of the JLF, he recounted about the change that came about in the Indian fashion scenario with the onset of television. What he emphasised was the way western construct of fashion is different and Indian bodies are different, with two prominent observations: “Women have the ability to transform themselves and women who dress up do it for themselves“and “Social media has trapped people in perfection. It is twisting people’s perception of themselves. 

Mary Beard and Peter Frankopan in their discussion Twelve Caesars: Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern spoke of how Augustus and Caesar created the visual identity of power, of a leader through monarchical representation on coins and portraits. 

“History is not a line of progression. We have to be careful that perspectives have to shift because there is not just one.” Such and other insightful observations like those on how socio-economic conditions are conducive to reading, how power limits writing by limiting access to it in order to  

monopolise knowledge and so on, were brought to the fore in the session The Sea in the Middle: The Mediterranean World which had Brian A. Catlos and Josephine Quinn in conversation with Sanjoy Roy. 

The release of Book of Gold: The Kanchana Chitra Ramayana of Banaras had MAP Director Kamini Sahney in conversation with Philip Lutgendorf. The audience got a 

lot to much upon-how king Udit Narayan of Banaras revived the Ramayana in a lavish project that took 18 years in the form of an illustrated folio and how Ramnagar and Ayodhya were thus brought together. “The Ramcharitmanas is told from four points of view, and not a single perspective that is a narrated which makes it a post-modern epic,” shared Philip Lutgendorf, Professor Emeritus of Hindi and Modern Indian Studies at the University of Iowa. 

There are many more sessions to talk about. But I would wrap-up here with the one almost everyone can identify with- reading comics. Word, Image, Text, the session had Co-CEO of Archies comics Nancy Silberkleit, Sarnath Banerjee, and Kelly Dorji in conversation with Somnath Batabyal. Banerjee shared how comics taught him to quieten himself by giving him a contemplative space. “Comics help me exercise muscle. They are compositional, musical,” he added. Nancy, while speaking of the journey of Archies and how the comics have become diverse, stated something which strikes just the right note on which to end this piece:” Let our young people read. Reading is a wonderful gift.” 

Dr Deepa Vanjani is presently heading the English Department of PMBG Science College, Indore. She has over 25 years of teaching experience at college level and is also a registered DAVV, Indore PHD guide.