October 29 saw the third annual appearance of Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest at the NCPA. This year’s line-up has something for everyone — book lover or not. Each day is packed with interesting sessions and live performances.
The evening acts promise a wonderful marriage between literature and performance. While contemporary dance pioneer Astad Deboo and his troupe’s acclaimed rendition of Tagore’s poems will mark the finale of the festival on Sunday. Gillo Theatre Repertory, who work exclusively in Theatre for Young Audiences, will perform Kyun-Kyun Ladki (Why-Why Girl) inspired by Mahashweta Devi. Chris Larner’s poignant play about euthanasia, An Instinct for Kindness will bring to Mumbai an award-winning production which earned rave reviews in London. Actor Naseeruddin Shah will present a project he has long dreamed about — an enactment of Vikram Seth’s poems from The Beastly Tales and stories about author James Thurber’s dogs.
Given this sharp precipice of literary creativity, which allowed me little toehold, largely because my difference could not be countenanced in standard class or post/colonial terms, I latched on to the odd book that I could relate to. The most enabling was VS Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas. I picked up a second-hand copy from a roadside stall. I was doing my Inter at the local college in Gaya. I doubt I had heard about Naipaul. Even if I had it must have been fleetingly. What struck me was the context — provincial and seemingly unstructured — in which Mr Biswas struggles to live and write. I could identify with it; identify much more with that Caribbean space than even with RK Narayan’s Malgudi, which exuded a suggestion of structure and calm that was often missing in my small town space.
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