5 - 7 December 2019 , Thu - Sat @ The International Centre Goa

In conversation with speakers at GALF

The 7th edition of Goa Arts & Literature Festival (GALF), organised by International Centre Goa (ICG) in association with Goa Writers Group and Directorate of Art & Culture, will be held from 8th to 11th December, 2016. Every year a number of eminent artists and writers attend the festival. It’s a platform where writers and readers come together to celebrate literature, art, music and films.
As part of our advanced awareness and publicity for GALF, we present the responses to five questions from speakers at GALF this year.

1. Name the books that set you free as a human being.
Tony Martin: Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. The book is the Gospel of Individualism. Howard Roark was my first big influence.

Patricia Sethi: Erica Jong’s The Fear of Flying and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique.

Sathya Saran - Rebecca, which I read in school. It told me not to place too much importance on what others thought of me. A lesson I have to teach myself often.
- The Sound and the Fury. Read in college. Showed me there were ways and ways of writing, and all of them could work if there was a story to tell.
- The Prophet. Gifted to me by my cousin who wished to teach me that even in a marriage, or a close relationship, there was need for individual space. It also gave me the mantra for bringing up my son.
- An Equal Music. Echoed my own need to weave music into every step of my life
- Heidi. Because it underlined my own love for the mountains.

G N Devy - Shyam-chi Aai (in Marathi) by Sane Guruji , Hind Swaraj (in English) Mohandas KaramchandGandhi Crime and Punishment (in Russian) Dostoyvesky.

Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar - None yet, for I am too stubborn.

Benyamin - It was not a sudden process by a book but by many in gradually. If I short list it: Jean Christophe by Romain Rolland, Last Temptation of Christ and Report to Greeco by Nikos Kazant Zakis, Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo and certainly Bible too.

Landeg White - Derek Walcott's In a Green Night, and all subsequent volumes, along with Conrad's Nostromo.

Palash Krishna Mehrotra - JD Salinger’s Nine Stories, Raymond Carver’s Cathedral, Dom Moraes’ My Son’s Father Amit Chaudhuri’s Afternoon Raga and Pulp’s Different Class. Also, the poetry of Jeff Nuttall and William Wantling (Penguin Modern Poets 12).

Asha Aggarwal - The book that set me free as a human being is "Are you there God, it's me Margaret" by Judy Blume. I read it when I was 12 and going thru puberty. That book sparked my love for reading. I began writing at about that age as well.
Karan Mahajan - "Humboldt's Gift" by Saul Bellow. "Portnoy's Complaint" by Philip Roth. "The Puttermesser Papers" by Cynthia Ozick. "Midnight's Children" by Salman Rushdie.

Geetanjali Shree- This is not my way of thinking, but some books that deepened me would be Gora by Tagore, Animal Farm by Orwell, Mahabharata, The Idiot and Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, Saraswatichandra by Govardhanram Madhavram Tripathi, Dilo Danish by Krishna Sobti. But I insist these are books that seriously stayed with me, I don't know about freeing me, and these are only some of many!

Sampurna Chattarji- Sorry to disappoint you – but I never needed a book to set me free! I felt free inside from the moment I was conscious of what “freedom” might mean. It’s the way I was brought up by my parents, at par with my brother, no restrictions, no curbs on what I might want to do or be. But as a kid, I do recall reading a series of books by Joy Adamson: Born Free, Living Free and Forever Free – about the author’s experiences of raising a lion cub, and something about that world stayed with me. I realised even if I could never be close to that kind of wildness, I would always like to keep a space for wildness inside me – something untamed and forever free.

Nabina Das - It's difficult to name just one book or even a few books. All my childhood I read in three languages. Most major poets and writers in Bengali, Assamese and English formed my reading menu. Reading War and Peace on my 13th birthday did shake up my world. The poetry of Pablo Neruda and Nazim Hikmet in translation and Langston Hughes, short stories of Mahashveta Devi, and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez set my mind abuzz as an adult. Not sure if all this freed me per se, but certainly formed a process within to think freely

2. Are literary festivals Readers/Writers forums?
Tony Martin - Literary festivals provide a platform to writers (who are mostly big readers). Literary festivals should be held in every taluka to inspire potential writers and promote reading among our youth.

Patricia Sethi - For the most part, this appears to be the case. Perhaps they could attract a wider spectrum of artists, professionals and intellectuals in general.

Sathya Saran - A bit of both. Each section learns to understand the other.

G N Devy - In some sense, but not entirely. Books are the real forums for writers and readers. Festivals are forums for books.

Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar - I am not sure, but they are entertaining and stimulating.

Benyamin - Certainly it is. No writer knows, who are their real readers and what are their views on the writings. Literary festivals are giving a common platform to interact between them and share their reading experience. They are the real critics who encourage and guide us in future writings.

Landeg White - I like the Goa festival for the intimacy it promotes between writers, and between writers are readers.

Palash Krishna Mehrotra - Yes. But lit fests also attract plenty of cranks in the audience. Every once in a while at a lit fest, I find myself talking to someone who has no idea what he’s talking about. It’s a delightful experience. Quite innocent really.

Asha Aggarwal - I think Lit fests are writers forums for the simple reason that when one attends a lit fest , they get to know the writer. Not just what they wrote, but who they are.

Geetanjali Shree - Yes, in part adequate, part inadequate ways! Put another way, I would say they are that but other things too - a commercial mela, glitterati effects etc!

Sampurna Chattarji - A “forum” is a place where issues and ideas can be debated and discussed. So, yes, some lit fests do allow that kind of interaction between writers and readers. Some are more carnivalesque, too hectic to allow any real conversations. What’s valuable for a writer is always to meet his or her readers, in the flesh - it can almost seem unreal! It feels good to know one isn't writing into a vacuum... that "real people" are out there, reading and engaging with one's work.

Nabina Das - I'm sure some are. Yet some are really just festivals, a carnival. And then there are shows where only stars of literature regale, irrespective of the needs and desires of readers and emerging writers.

3. Share an idea that has invigorated you lately.
Tony Martin - I am energetically working overtime to complete my latest book called Legends of Canacona in the hope that the lives of the legends will stir and reinvigorate our youth to reach out for the stars to shine in the galaxy of the greats.

Patricia Sethi - Prime Minister Narendra Modi's quest to eradicate corruption in the country.

Sathya Saran - Just today I met a group of younger journalists, who are dong out of the box things. Like running their own websites and video channels. The ideas made me think of pushing to find new frontiers, myself.And at Kumaon met an elderly gentleman who had gone to the mouth of the Brahmaputra and travelled with a team all the way down to where it meets the sea! I would love to be able to do that, and I felt I could.

G N Devy - Fascism is not good for anyone.

Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar - An Elephant.

Benyamin - No writer can write genuinely in a safe zone that set by a mind of consequences, if someone wants to write genuinely, honestly and strongly they have to move from the green zone to a dangerous zone that don’t care about the consequences.

Landeg White - The realisation that Camões fled Goa because he was (almost certainly) being pursued by the Inquisition.

Palash Krishna Mehrotra - I have to rule the world. I will rule the world. By world I mean my country, my town, my house, my room. No, but seriously, I just recently discovered that one doesn’t have to be in a dark space in order to write about the dark spaces of the mind. Earlier, if I wanted to write about murder, I’d go and murder and then write about it. I don’t kill people anymore.

Asha Aggarwal - An idea that has invigorated me lately is to have more Senior citizen clubs in India. I lost my mom 2 weeks ago. She was 77, healthy, and dynamic. She died peacefully in her sleep. My father now lives with me, he's 86. I see him pining for company. As we live busy lives, we aren't able to spend that much time with him and I think if he had a place to just hang out every evening, something to look forward to, he would be occupied. They have these facilities abroad, we need them here.

Karan Mahajan - That we must put an end to the nation state as a mental concept.

Geetanjali Shree - That between the two 'permanent' points of birth and death, each one of us lives so many lives and deaths, which might even be unrelated to each other.

Sampurna Chattarji - The idea of collaboration. With other poets, other writers, practitioners in other art forms. I find it unlocks rusty parts of my brain, unpicks habitual patterns, provokes new approaches to my own medium of poetry.

Nabina Das - My current work, a poetry manuscript tentatively titled "Anima Stands in the Bazaar", is inspired by folk oral literature of Assam and its adjoining regions. The latter comprises of stories, songs, poems and proverbs. The more I have delved into them, the more they have invigorated and inundated me with ideas. This is what I'm incorporating in my new work right now with much joy. So, if one wants an "idea", it's great to go explore local myths and lore and see how much re-interpretation one can attempt.

4. What was the most satisfying experience of your writing career?
Tony Martin - Every piece - be it a middle, investigative story or a book - is like a baby. Still for me my full page feature "Penguin Alcohol -- Showcase of Corruption" in the GT that won a court case will remain unforgettable and most satisfying.

Patricia Sethi - My journalistic career: a breakthrough interview with President Fidel Castro which ran for a once in a lifetime five-page spread in Newsweek magazine. The first and only American journalist to be allowed into the Panjshir valley of Afghanistan aboard an MI-24 Hind helicopter gunship. Felicitated by the then Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar for my journalistic career on my return to Goa.

Sathya Saran - When today, almost a decade and more after writing my column in Femina, i meet women who tell me a certain column helped them, or changed their life, or gave them inspiration when they were low! For me, it is the most rewarding of rewards.

G N Devy - My next book. The word 'most' in your question is difficult to respond to.

Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar - Receiving feedback from complete strangers who I do not know at all, who told me how much a work of mine touched them. It is amazing because I do not know where they got my email ID from. But they made the effort of finding my email ID and wrote to me. I have received such feedback for my writings on my hometown, Ghatsila: "Not Just One", which was published in The Hindu Business Line BLink; and "Ghatsila: A Nostalgist's Map", which was published in Mint Lounge and Livemint.

Benyamin - Very Honest and heartfelt comments from thousands of readers that says they moved by my words. One young man told me that he was about to commit suicide but he decided read my novel first and do. He read the novel same night and changed his mind. That is one among many.

Landeg White - Reading before a burkha-clad audience in Sharjah who were disappointed I was not an anarchist.

Palash Krishna Mehrotra - In my late twenties, when I wrote my first story ‘The Other Evening’ (published in Penguin India’s First Proof 1). I knew I’d found my voice. I knew I was on the boat. I had my oars. Now, I had to learn how to row.

Asha Aggarwal - My literary career, so to speak, has just begun. The most satisfying moment was when I held the book for the first time. Seeing my face in the cover, smelling the pages, reading my coauthors stories, that was the highlight of my career.

Karan Mahajan - Sitting one table away from Robert Caro at the National Book Awards this year.

Geetanjali Shree - Being told in many different cultures/countries that the very personal and 'Indian' mother I wrote about, in my first novel Mai, is someone they recognise better now in their society and have learnt to revere more after reading my book!

Sampurna Chattarji - The firsts were very satisfying – almost deliriously so! The first ever book I published (Abol Tabol, my translation of Sukumar Ray); my first poetry book (Sight May Strike You Blind) and my first novel (Rupture). I will never forget the experience of holding each book in my hand – and despite my 14 books thus far (one of which is an e-book only) – that thrill is unforgettable.

Nabina Das - I'm not sure I have arrived at that experience yet. Perhaps never will. But every time any poem of mine speaks to me after writing, rewriting and further introspection, I feel an elation.

5.Describe Goa in a twitter post.
Tony Martin - The land that spells peace, hospitality, beauty and grandeur - welcome to Goa.

Patricia Sethi - Goa is my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

G N Devy - Multiculturalism at its best.

Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar - It is difficult to describe Goa in a single Twitter post.

Benyamin - Indian Taste in European color.. !

Landeg White - I've visited Goa only once but I like the description "India for beginners."

Palash Krishna Mehrotra - The last time I was there was 20 years ago. I believe the sea has dried up since. Can’t wait to see what’s up on the sea-bed !

Asha Aggarwal - Come for the Sun. Stay for the Fun.

Geetanjali Shree - A feeling of dissolving into nothingness in Goa's vastness and nature and at the same time feeling more uncluttered, solid, clear.

Sampurna Chattarji - Goa: "where the voices are familiar and the feelings warm" - lines from my novel Land of the Well (HarperCollins) which is set in Goa.

Nabina Das - Goa is a sea-aria where the overtures are its people with eternal song in the hearts.