“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel” -Socrates
The 7th edition of the Khushwant Singh Litfest has just come to an upbeat close in the charming cantonment of Kasauli. The weather has been a perfect 19 degrees with the sun shining warmly on the excitement below.
KSLF 2018, from Friday to Sunday, October 12- 14, combined the passions and concerns of late writer, Khushwant Singh, who did much of his work at his family home in Kasauli. This year’s overriding theme turned out to be rather prescient: “Strength of a Naari – The Rise of Women in an Age of #MeToo”.
The 3 days were infused with the bon vivant spirit, irreverence and infectious humour that characterised the writings of Khushwant Singh. Riveting discussions ranged from the oratory skills of Shashi Tharoor, to the witty Navjot Singh Sidhu; Karan Thapar, with Mani Shankar Aiyar playing Devil’s Advocate for a change; filmmakers Saeed Mirza and Sudhir Mishra, and discovery of the year, Manu Pillai,
Since Kasauli is in an extremely fragile ecological zone, the preservation of our environment and of our heritage – man-made and natural – has been a recurring theme of our litfests. This year the focus was on water with Jutta Jain Neubauers exquisite books on the stepwells of Gujrat. Light was also thrown on some hidden treasures of the Himalayas and the Great Himalayan National Park by Sanjiv Pandey, who began it all and made it a UNESCO World Heritage site. Also Bikram Grewal, Dr M.K. Ranjitsinh of Wankaner and Vinay Tandon. .
But 2018 has truly been the Year of Women, with the Supreme Court passing bold judgments on triple talaaq, adultery and the opening up of a male-only temple to women. In a blockbuster panel of Salman Khurshid, Shayara Bano, Masooma Jha, Harinder Baweja. That women’s rights are indeed human rights were highlighted by Maaja Daruwala, daughter of FM Sam Maneckshaw, and Prem Shankar Jha. Amrita Pritam’s centenary was celebrated by TV artiste Divya Dutta, and other writers. And a host of others on their books pertaining to women, past and present. Naman Ahuja, Wendell Rodrigues, Gurcharan Das, Saeed Mirza, Sudhir Mishrawere some of the men celebrating the rise of women.
KSLF has certain “firsts”. The first to be named after a person, the first and possibly only litfest in Himachal, the first dedicated to two causes dear to Khushwant Singh’s heart, namely the education of the girl-child and the ecology of Kasauli. The KSLF also bows its head to the great Indian soldier.
The festival actually opened with an event for school children. At KSLF we believe that meaningful learning for life is a creative process. Knowledge and skills cannot be downloaded, only to press control, alt, delete after the exam is over. Still, the most valuable learnings are lessons from life. Khushwant Singh’s musings on life are recorded in some memorable pieces. “How to Live Long and be Happy” keeps surfacing on social media. “Dealing With Adversity” is another. “Some Codes to Live By”. And many more.
Some of his spirit of mentoring youth was infused into the festival. Through the ‘Joy of Learning’ contests. Conducted across a 1000 schools in Himachal, with 10,000 students, and some from Punjab, the kids just had a blast! Drawing their favorite subjects, or writing on their passions. Ranging from The Strength of a “Naari” in the age of #MeToo, to the critical environmental issue of managing water in Himachal, or the hidden treasures of Himachal and the Himalayas. Some of their caricatures on KS can beat our top cartoonists. .
Our eminent judges were Naman Ahuja, Mark Tully, Nivedita Menon, Seema Anand. Lady Sandra Lean, Bachi Karkaria, Shobhaa De, Vivan Sundaram, B N Goswamy, and others have judged these in the past.. Prizes were distributed by noted artist Jaideep Mehrotra, film makers Saeed Mirza and Sudhir Mishra and author Anuja Chauhan.
The event has also impressed our former Honorable President, Shri Pranab Mukherji, whose letter of appreciation is attached.
All this is possible this year thanks to the encouragement by the Himachal government, department of Language, Art and Culture, headed by the effervescent Purnima Chauhan; annual contributions from “Education World” And the efforts of Lila Kutty, Rachna Chinnoo and Ashima Bath. And Rakesh and Minakshi Kanwar who raise the bar year after year on Himachal schools participation.
The Khushwant Singh Litfest is run as a not-for-profit and also supports the Higher Secondary School in Ghanol village, outside Kasauli. We have funded basics like footwear for poor children who walk barefoot to school for 2 hours each way; we fund a library full of story books in English to help develop a love for a language that is a key to raising their socio-economic status; we give scholarships not just for studies, but for art, sport, music, creative and other endeavors. They have contributed to water conservation in Kasauli and to the Wounded Soldier and War Widows Foundation, among a host of other areas. Each year they struggle for funds to keep the love of literature alive and support these worthy causes. Donation details are available on their website, kslitfest.com
The Joy of Beauty ART COMPETITION
Topic : Conservation of the fragile ecology of the hills
Ist – Simran, Blossoms Sr. Sec. School, Patiala
IInd – Phurichaya Ruangthong , Auckland House, Shimla
IIIrd – Palakpreet Kamboj , Pinegrove School , Subathu
Consolation prize – Sanjana , Blossoms Sr Sec. School, Patiala
The Joy of Words ESSAY COMPETITION
Topic : Strength of a Naari in the age of #MeToo
Prakriti , Auckland House , Shimla
Sharlene, Auckland House , Shimla
III rd Prize
Ankur, Kasauli International Public School
Muskaan, St Mary’s Convent School, Kasauli
Prize Distribution by
Ist by Lt. General Alok Singh Kler
IInd by Brig Vikram Sharma, Patron Kasauli Club
IIIrd by Mrs Charanjeet Singh, owner Meridien Hotel
Consolation by Anuja Chauhan, author
Judges Judges of Essay Competition
Amount given (both competitions) courtesy Education World
Ist : ₹4000
IInd : ₹3000
IIIrd : ₹2000
Consolation : ₹1000