Lit fest opens, sparks fly at some sessions

The seventh edition of the Bangalore Literature Festival opened to enthusiastic crowds on Saturday.

Literature buffs were treated to lectures and debates at multiple venues, and the little ones got special attention, with several sessions being dedicated to children’s books. The two-day festival concludes on Sunday.

At an evening session, historian Ramachandra Guha spoke about the Indian idea of equality as conceptualised by the Constitution. He said neither the Marathas nor Tipu Sultan nor the Moghuls could have come up with the idea since they were all products of philosophies that accepted hierarchies.

When Guha said the Dalits had won equality in the matter of temple entry while the women were still fighting for it, an angry member of the audience defended the restrictions in Sabarimala on medical grounds (“women develop endometriosis if they go there”). Guha said India had to find a way to end social discrimination of all kinds.

In the session titled ‘Is India Illiberal?’ journalist Chidanand Rajghatta, in conversation with Naresh Fernandes, editor of Scroll.com, blamed ‘hyper-social media’ for “polarising our society.”

He described the social media environment as toxic and scary. Globalisation and a fast-changing world, he said, had left a lot of people unnerved in India.

Other sessions were less contentious. Velcheru Narayana Rao, a well-known translator, spoke about how a translation violates the tradition of a language, and at the same time helps rediscover its nativity.

He spoke about his experience of translating pre-19th-century works from Telugu to English. Rao’s translation from the poet Allasani Peddanna is part of the prestigious Murty Classical Library of India. He is also the author of the erudite ‘Text and Tradition in South India.’

Urban Folk Project, a group of musicians, sang a Kannada folk ballad about Princess Renuka transforming into Yellamma.

The project is an initiative by documentary filmmaker Shilpa Mudbi Kothakota, Adithya Kothakota and Sumitra Sunde, who learnt songs from folk singers in the north Karnataka region.

A R Venkatachalapathy, known for collecting and publishing the works of Tamil writer Pudhumaipithan, was in conversation with historian Srinath Raghavan. His book Who Owns That Song throws the spotlight on Tamil poet Subramania Bharati. The rights changed hands when the family was in difficult circumstances. The songs became popular after his death, earning royalty.

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Lit fest opens, sparks fly at some sessions

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