By Aminah Sheikh

Author of the bestselling coffee table book – ‘The Indians’, a lawyer of international repute Sumant Batra’s dream is to mark Dhanachuli (in Uttrakhand) on the culture map. And this he hopes to do through his various literary initiatives, Kumaon Literary Festival (KLF) being one of them. Close on the heels of the second edition of KLF, Sumant gets candid with Kitaab.

Sumant Batra
Sumant Batra, Founder of KLF 

What gave birth to Kumaon Literary festival (KLF) and how do you view it as being different from the other festivals held in India? 

In strive for economic growth, the creative aspirations of the people of India have remained unarticulated. A nation that invests in cultural development as much as it does in economic growth tends to be a happier nation and achieves sustainable development. Creative industry feeds into the country’s soft power. Given the challenging times we live in, there is a need for investment in the creative industry. The idea of KLF stems out of this very belief. There is a whole eco-system comprising of projects and activities that are not limited or confined to the 5-day festival. The institutionalised approach is aimed at maximizing impact, optimize on resources and aim for measurable and tangible outcomes that are in addition to the festival.

KLF has had a successful inaugural last year. How do you see the second edition panning out with the festival being held at two different locations?

It was less than two years ago that I presented the idea of KLF to the world of literature. We could see the green shoots emerging at the end of the first season of the festival last year. The second edition is bigger in design.  Our focus, however, remains on quality than quantity.  This offers challenges of mobilising financial support. We have, however, held our ground, avoided commercial temptations and continue to navigate our way through pitfalls. There are mammoth restrictions and logistical constraints in organising a festival of this scale in a village that is part of an eco-sensitive area.  We have stayed respectful towards the restrictions and observed applicable guidelines.

Which are some of the books slated to be launched at KLF?

Lata- Sur Gatha – the biography of Lata Mangeshkar by Yatindra Mishra, The biography of actress Rekha by Yasser Usman, Shadows of the Northland by 14 year old Vishwesh Desai, and three more.

KLF LogoThe second edition of the YES BANK Kumaon Literary Festival (KLF), that will be held from 11th to 15th October 2016, will feature an interesting mix of voices from all kinds of backgrounds and spectrums.

According to media statement by KLF, the festival shall play host to many famous names from the worlds of literature, publishing, cinema and politics. Authors like Amish Tripathi, Ravi Subrimanian, Preeti Shenoy, Jerry Pinto, Tuhin Sinha, Shinie Anotny, Hindol Sengupta, Dr. Rakhshanda Jalil, Nirupama Dutt, and many others have confirmed their presence for the festival. Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Justice A K Sikri, Justice S K Kaul, Shahid Siddiqui, Swapandas Gupta, Priyanka Chaturvedi, Nupur Sharma and other names from the world of politics and law have agreed kindly to be a part of the festival. Biographers like Sathya Saran, Aseem Chabra, Jai Arjun Singh, Akshay Manwani, Yasser Usman, Gautam Chintamani have all consented to be present at the Festival. Many speakers like Afia Aslam, Ali Akbar Natiq, Ameena Saiyid, Asif Farrukhi, Asif Noorani, Dr. Sabyn Javeri, Mohsin Sayeed shall all come from Pakistan to attend the festival. Speakers like Ajay Rawat, Anup Sah, Dr. Shekhar Pathak, Deepak Rawat, Mona Verma, C S Tiwari, Hridayesh Joshi, Sanjay Panday and others from the Uttarakhand heartland are going to be present at different sessions of the festival.

The first three days shall be held at Jim’s Jungle Retreat in Jim Corbett National Park, while the last two days shall be a closed door event at Te Aroha in Dhanachuli.

Thought-provoking panel discussions

The second edition of the Festival shall have sessions on a wide range of subjects.

Following are some of the highlight sessions of this edition of the festival:

Sumant Batra, Founder of KLF launches four important social projects initiated by KLF at the curtain raiser event including Fellows Of Nature (FON)
Sumant Batra, Founder of KLF launches four important social projects initiated by KLF at the curtain raiser event including Fellows Of Nature (FON)

“Nature writing was once considered to be the rock and roll of literature. In the last few decades it has shown a steady decline. There is a pressing need to restore this literary art. The best way to do it is through stories.”

— Sumant Batra, Founder, Fellows Of Nature

Fon_logoLike all extinctions, nature writing’s gradual disappearance represents a profound loss. Writing in this category is born out of love, respect, and awe of nature. It finds its subject during days of close observation of the beauty of the natural world. Writing about the close relationship between humankind and nature plays an important role in creating interest and building respect for it amongst book lovers and others.

The FON SOUTH ASIA SHORT STORY AWARD an initiative of Kumaon Literary Festival (under the umbrella body of NHP centre) was launched on February 15, 2016 amidst enthusiastic readers and writers at the Oxford Bookstore (Delhi) with the objective of promoting nature writing and building a community of nature writers. 

Submission of short stories based on the theme of nature is invited from South Asia region in accordance with the contest guidelines set by the FON steering committee which comprises of the lead project partners: The French Institute in India; Wild Life Trust of India; Wisdom Tree publishers, Kumon Literary Festival and the Taj Colloquium. The committee is chaired by the founder of FON, Mr. Sumant Batra and also includes Indian author and poet Sujata Parashar who is spearheading the project.