Lounge Review: Lekhana literature festival, Bengaluru

A literary weekend that engages with local talent; the focus this year is on violence

A dramatized reading of Saadat Hasan Manto’s short stories, directed by Kirtana Kumar. Photo: Anmol Vellani
A dramatized reading of Saadat Hasan Manto’s short stories, directed by Kirtana Kumar. Photo: Anmol Vellani

Name an Indian city without a literary event tagged to its name. Tough, right? But even as we roll our eyes as more and more literary festivals sprout in the country, we must also agree that there can never be enough of a good thing.

Amid this blitzkrieg, refusing to succumb to commercial concerns or to “publishers pushing their ‘author of the month’”, is Lekhana, a literary weekend being organized in Bengaluru by Sangam House, a writers’ residency programme founded by authors Arshia Sattar and D.W. Gibson.

The founders have staunchly held on to the “local” nature of the event, which will be held for the fourth year in a row on 17-18 January, and say they are interested in writers living in the city, and in creating a space to share work and ideas, as writers and readers. Even writers who come from outside are “localized”, says Sattar.

“Lekhana is really an extension of the Sangam House outreach programmes where we’re committed to bringing writers from all over the country and different parts of the world into meaningful contact with local writers. It’s part of our commitment to fostering literary communities across languages and cultures,” she says.

Obviously, the absence of the fanfare surrounding bigger literary events hasn’t made any difference to the audience here. Lekhana was conceived as a biennial event, but according to Sattar, everyone enjoyed the first one so much that “we bit the bullet, and decided to do this once a year; for as long as we can”.

The theme this year is “Narratives Of Violence”. “We live in such violent times and literature, all writing in fact, mirrors the times in which it is created. We are taking a very wide definition of violence—it’s not only about guns and bombs. Violence is anything that stops a person from being who they want to be—so there is gender violence and caste violence and class violence and emotional violence within relationships,” says Sattar.

In a session titled “Translation As Violence”, in which Sattar will take part, the discussion will revolve around “twisting ideas and words to another language, shaping them to respond to another world view”.

Other conversations will include “Writing Violence For Children” (Samhita Arni, Sudeshna Shome Ghosh with Bijal Vachharajani), “Landscapes Of War” (Raghu Karnad, Rohini Mohan and Suresh Menon), “Narratives Of Hate” (Rheea Mukherjee, Christopher Kloeble and Indira Chandrasekhar), and “Shot By A Short Story” (Jahnavi Barua, Shinie Antony and Madhavi Mahadevan)—the last no doubt a doffing of the hat to partners Out Of Print and Reading Hour, magazines that support short fiction.

The two days will also see writers volunteering to read from their books. There will be a dramatized reading of excerpts of short stories by Saadat Hasan Manto, directed by Kirtana Kumar; Mint Lounge columnist Aakar Patel, who has translated Manto’s essays, will be the “respondent”.

Since Lekhana seems to be becoming a permanent part of Bengaluru’s literary landscape, do they plan to make it bigger? “Perish that thought,” says Sattar, “There are enough big festivals around. We don’t need another one of those.”

Lekhana will be held on 17-18 January, 10.30am onwards, at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bengaluru City Campus, Sankey Road. For details visit www.facebook.com/LekhanaBangalore

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