I wrote this for you, Mamma—for being insufferable on Day 1,
And for my friends—silver and gold, and platinum.
16 November, 2017. Thursday
Today is the day! After a year's wait! Truth be told, I think Dhaka Lit Fest to bibliophiles like me is what Eid or Christmas is to many—something you look forward to throughout the year, something for which you buy dresses and make elaborate itinerary, something that just has to be flawless! Now that Day 1 is over and I am back home, properly fed, and in the serene tranquillity of my study, I must note down today's highlights before they drown in Day 2's adrenaline rush.
Rain rain go away!
I can't remember checking the Yahoo weather app this frequently, ever. Yes, last couple of years, DLF took place on extremely sunny days. I (naïvely) assumed that a bit of drizzle will cool the heat off and lock the dusts from the Bangla Academy premise. Boy, was I wrong! Today, the weather turned out to be as temperamental as those that the Lintons and Earnshaws experienced centuries ago in another country and clime.
Ceaseless drizzle? Check.
Murky grey sky? Check.
Sticky yucky mud? Double check!
Silk and Suede
Speaking of mud, you MUST NOT wear fancy silk sarees in “London weather," nor suede slides. For the last 5-6 years, I've been basking in the glory of being reasonably graceful in saree. Along came a windy day and I was this unruly-haired, muddied miss!
Some people give this cute grandpa vibe—with their silvery locks and twinkling eyes. Adonis definitely is one of them. His session with Kaiser sir was mesmerising although half the time was lost in translating to and forth. Aah, how I longed to understand the French conversation!
The Swan Lake
You know that quaint little pond in Bangla Academy? In my head, I named it The Swan Lake since the academy has a big flock of swans—along with cats and dogs. A dog and her chubby little puppies won the hearts of the literati in DLF 2015. However, these swans are not necessarily of the “cutie pets" variety. In fact, these scandalous villains took particular pleasure in biting and pulling at the couture panjabees (and sarees) of fest-lovers. I have now lost my faith in the goodness of swans. Sorry, Tchaikovsky!
N.B. My editor later pointed out that those hooligans are actually geese, not swans.
We are all mad here; complete bonkers, as Lewis Carroll might have said!
When you work at academia and/or print media, that sort of becomes the motto. It is hilarious to see the esteemed colleagues in their element—the sweetest professor might be a mischievous speaker, the grumpy editor might turn out to be as giggly as a teenager, the almost quiet poet is probably the most articulate one. Isn't it beautiful when people show their true selves?
The best part of DLF is possibly that delightful moments are spread in every little nook and cranny of the beautiful academy... the wafting aroma of coffee, constant clicking sound of cameras, sniffing books discreetly, the shiuli-tala, the music, the bright neon coloured stalls, the light-shows after dusk, the reading tent, the old world charm of the main hall, even those scoundrel swans. Oops, geese!
It is already so late! Goodnight, Diary. Tomorrow is Day 2 and I simply can't wait!
17 November, 2017. Friday
I woke up with this excruciating toothache, Diary.
Not sure whether I'll have any wisdom or not, but I certainly am having my fair share of pain. Between the DLF, dentist, and the comfort of my bed, I am afraid I am going to opt for the third one.
18 November, 2017. Saturday
Rain or shine, ache in tooth or heart, no way I was going to miss the closing day of DLF; so I set nonstop alarms from 9 a.m. onwards, and, as an additional measure, asked a couple of trusted early-birds to give me wake-up calls. And there I was—all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed by 10.30 a.m. to frolic in another day full of books, ideas, love, light, sights and sounds! In no particular order, the treasured moments of the closing day are listed below.
Shoutouts and hugs (and evil eyes)
How many people can recognise you from behind in an over-crowded auditorium and call out musically? Not many, I am sure. And hence, I consider myself awfully lucky—my circumference might be small but the people in my life are priceless gems! Not to mention, the academia of Bangladesh is a small pond where everybody knows everybody. You either get a hug or an evil eye!
Of all three directors, I personally enjoyed his sessions and speeches most. There is something undeniably infectious about him that not only cheers up the audience instantly but also radiates in the entire fest arena!
Make new friends and ...
Big gatherings (of like-minded) are always a great window to make new acquaintances and catch up with the old ones. But there is something different in the very air of DLF—everything seems nicer and prettier and happier... or perhaps it was simply the beautiful autumn weather. Today, I have met virtual friends for the first time and it felt like I knew them since childhood, also, old friends who gave the biggest hugs and measured how long my hair had grown in the past two years. I even met and managed to converse “sweetly" with a friend-turned-enemy (because of her blatant social climbing)!
I loved every moment of the DSC lit award and the closing ceremony—not because it was the award and closing ceremony of DLF 2017 but because it felt very warm and heart-felt and was COMPLETELY devoid of lengthy boring speeches! The short-listed authors or their representatives reading excerpts of their creations was a real treat, and among the 5 nominees, the youngest one, Anuk Arudpragasam won my heart. I was quite happy when my favoured candidate actually won the prestigious award—though his bashful postures while receiving the crests was a smidge baffling. He seemed more like a child having a timeout in a corner of the stage. My confusion, however, was instantly cleared during his wonderful acceptance speech. The Story of a Brief Marriage is about the heart-breaking genocides of Sri Lanka during its civil war, but you can hardly be buoyant and enthusiastic when you win an award for writing about something so upsetting and heart-felt.
Books, Books everywhere!
Without any shred of doubt, books are the best part of any literary festival—books old and new, classics and contemporary, books smelling like heaven, tiny books, hard-covers, books with fancy dust covers, books fresh out of the publishers, books with yellowing old pages. This year, I went out of my comfort zone i.e. classics and fantasy, and grabbed anything and everything that caught my fancy. I even bought An Unsuitable Boy. My boss is going to be so mad—he really hates Karan Johar. And I will guarantee you this—I haven't done this much weight-lifting since I was about 75 kg!
It was a magical three days; I stayed back for a long time after the closing ceremony—absorbing every last moment of it—sitting on the ancient steps of the Burdwan House. Couldn't agree more with one of the directors, DLF is something we wait for the entire year, and when it ends, we are left with this tremendous sense of happiness, contentment, and melancholy—all at the same time.
Until next year...
T. S. Marin is obsessed with books, old and new, lit fests, and reads anything and everything within reach. She teaches English at Primeasia University and is the Sub Editor of the Literature and Reviews pages of The Daily Star.