THE CENTENARY EDITION OF THE KHUSHWANT SINGH LITERARY FESTIVAL (KSLF) KASAULI, 2015
To live a 100 years is to be blessed. To live on beyond is indeed to be in very heaven. Khushwant Singh did not make it to 100. But then he was ready to meet his maker a long time ago. Whether his maker was ready to receive him, as Churchill said, we will never know. What we do know is that his ideas and his work continue to live on.
100 is a celebration that encompasses the life and times of KS. And commemorates landmark years of seminal events, as we attempt to capture and celebrate the facets and interests of an extraordinary man who lived till his 100th year. The man as a son of his famous father, as a student, a family person. His carefully cultivated public persona, which was completely at odds with the real KS. A man of discipline and industry. ‘He wrote every day of his life. For nearly seventy years’. ‘Fresh springs of Himalayan thought’ is our tagline for this centenary event. Like KS, we too hope KSLF is a vibrant arena of ideas and discussions that challenge, inspire and
force us to rethink and re-imagine our lives on this planet in a completely new way. At KSLF 2015, we celebrate the life and work of KS and commemorate other centenaries, sesquicentennials, and landmark events that changed the course of people’s lives and our world forever.
ONE CENTURY DESERVES ANOTHER
The spirit behind 100 great Indian artists will be the art worlds tribute to art lover KS. His contemporaries and friends, Ismat Chugtai, with whom he shared a common love of Urdu. Bhisham Sahni and he spent their college days in Lahore together. As did Chetan Anand. They were all part of the migration across the border to Delhi or Bombay. We also celebrate the lives of India hands and India lovers on their sesquicentennial, Rudyard Kipling and W.B.Yeats. Earlier the Moghuls raided and also ruled across three centuries. This epic journey also unfolds.
PASSAGE TO PAKISTAN
The KSLF is never complete without our friends from across the border. And this year is no different. The Pakistan contingent is present in full force with ambassadors, foreign ministers, parliamentarians, who are are also novelists. Narrating personal stories of courage and conviction.
Think Pakistan, and the Partition of India immediately comes to mind. The biggest mass migration in history displaced 10 million and changed the course of countless lives forever. Bhisham Sahni, creator of Tamas and fellow centenarian will be remembered by his daughter Kalpana Sahni. The migration or exile of Burma’s last King Thebaw and his queen to remote Ratnagiri is an engrossing and graceful tale that deserves to be more widely known. In Kashmir over 60 years of migrations continue to cause heartbreak.
On a brighter note we capture the man who sailed solo around the world, on a prayer, braving the unknown in the spirit of explorers of the last century; the modern day adventurer on wings who covered a 100 countries outside Indian shores, and the motor enthusiast who discovered India’s 100 best destinations. Our speakers and interlocutors will unravel these journeys and more.
TRIBUTES TO KHAKHI
A treat for anyone with even a passing interest in our culture and history, at KSLF 2015 one can learn about the resourceful Fakirs and fifty years of Sikh rule in the extraordinary empire of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Lahore. A former army chief gives us an insight into his experiences with recent military conflicts and diplomacy. All this against the backdrop of Kasauli cantonment, where Indian military traditions continue to hold pride of place.
A PASSION FOR POETRY
Poetry, love, longing, Urdu. These words defined KS. Only a man with so much love for poetry could write translations from Urdu that are a treat for lovers of the Shayri. The poetic philosophy of KS’s favorite Allama Iqbal will be unveiled in Shikwa and Jawab-e-Shikwa (a complaint to Allah and his response). There you go. Another irony just like KS, an agnostic talking to Allah.
PUNJAB’S SINGING GURU
Highlights of seven centuries of timeless wisdom will unfold here.
PORTRAIT OF A LADY
Any KSLF holds women centre stage. Be it honor killings, rape or Sikh and non-Sikh marriages. Or a fun look at pop culture and the serious job of Parenting in the times of the Kardashian’s. KS’s equation with women is a source of constant interest for centuries to come.
OUR COLD & LONELY PLANET
Eminent activists sound a wake-up call for Himachal, and for our trees, as they explain why it is a red flag issue that affects not only you and your children but the very survival of our planet. How much do we know about the wild fruits of Himachal? We also launch ‘Delhi Through the Seasons’ by Khushwant Singh, an exquisite production he did not get to see. This fest is dedicated to the ecology of Kasauli, summer home to KS and an inspiration for his writings for over half a century, and today the verdant venue for the literary festival held every October in his name.
While we do our bit to save the planet we must not forget to save ourselves. And nothing does our souls more good than a hearty dose of humour. For decades the Sardarji and his jokes left millions of Indians shell-shocked or doubled over in laughter. Often both. At KSLF 2015 we hope to continue in the same spirit: amuse, provoke, engage and inspire.