Come winter and Delhi gets into a celebratory mood. From Food fiesta to Art fairs, Music concerts and Fun carnivals– there’s something for everyone to enjoy. This is also the time when the city plays host to some of the popular literary events and festivals of the country. Despite my preoccupation with my work and forthcoming novel, I was keen to attend the two Write India sessions at the second edition of the Times Lit Fest, Delhi held at the India Habitat Centre (IHC) on 25th November. Receiving an invitation by the gracious hosts added to my enthusiasm and I decided to attend the event. For the uninformed, Write India is a unique platform which inspires and promotes storytelling. Launched last year, the initiative is the brainchild of Vinita Dawra Nangia, Associate Editor of Times of India and herself an acclaimed author and columnist. Vinita is also leading the initiative as its Director. The model is based on a nationwide short-story contest in which submissions are evaluated by leading Indian authors. Last year, 11 prominent Indian authors were invited in their board to help the Write India team choose the top 111 entries. Out of those 33 have already been published. Several others are in the process of being published. In Season 2 they currently have 10 celebrity writers in their board with each writing a passage of a short – story which will be opened to public for completion. Every month one winner will be selected from the entries received with the help of the ‘Celebrity Author of the Month.’
Upon reaching the venue I headed directly to the Authors’ Lounge as there was still some time left before the session began. The place was teeming with known and unknown faces. I said my hellos to a few, spotted Vinita standing with a group next to the buffet table and joined her. Over juice and coffee, I enquired if she’d read any of the stories from Season 1 herself. She shared that all the top stories, which undergo several rounds of sorting by her diligent team, are read by her. ‘There’s a careful selection criteria for the stories, and several cross-checks along the process to ensure not a single good story gets left out,’ Vinita said. We were still talking when some of the other Write India panellists joined our table. I got an opportunity to catch – up with Ravi Subramanian and Anand Neelkanthan also. Moderated by Vinita Nangia, the first session comprised of popular fiction writers Ravi Subramanian, Anand Neelakantan and Ashwin Sanghi. They not only shared some relevant tips on writing but also entertained the audience by exchanging remarks in a good-humoured and teasing way amongst each other. Ravi and Ashwin were both of the view that it is important for author’s to play an active role in marketing their own books. Anand revealed that he does not like watching the serials he writes for. During my brief interaction earlier when I’d asked him what he looked for in a good short story, he’d said that the story should not bore him and must leave an aftertaste. Almost the same sentiments were echoed by Ravi. The second session was also moderated by Vinita and had Namita Gokhale, Shobha De and Manu Joseph equally delighting the audience with their candid views on writing and their own works. While Namita asserted, ‘the future belongs to the nano story,’ Manu Joseph was of the view that a writer should not worry about the form and instead just choose the genre and ‘let the words flow.’ When Vinita probed De about her response to trolls, the latter said that she does to respond to them ‘…as they are faceless cowards.’ About writing her stories she revealed that she ‘…lets the character/story grow on its own.’
I was happy that the weekend afternoon had been well – spent. However, what made me happier was the thought that writing is no longer exclusive to those holding certain degrees et al. Thanks to initiatives like Write India, anyone with a passionate heart and a powerful imagination will now get an equal chance to be recognised as a storyteller or a writer.