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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Friday, August 11, 2006


There were so many people who made this place special. I simply had to utter something and the fantastic Festival Director Jill Eddington would have it organised. It was amazing how she had everything under perfect control despite being on her feet pretty much all day and all night long.

There were many other folks who had been just email addresses for the longest time.

You know how it is, someone writes to you, you write back, then you meet and its a complete revelation. Just about everyone I met in Byron packed energy - loads of it. The publicist Jeni Caffins told me about her three hour commute to be a part of this fabulous writers festival. Here we speak of distance and anything longer than 30 minutes is already way too long! Here was Jeni - her car all packed, taking each drive in her stride.

Speaking of strides - the ones who really warmed my heart were the volunteers. They were everywhere, including the car park, braving the snapping cold wind and the rain, making sure you got the place to park. It was amazing how they managed to that without that trademark coffee cup getting the blood flowing through their hands, that sure did a lot of talking.

Then there were friends old and new. Janet de Neefe, looking far more relaxed than she ever would during the Ubud Writers Festival, Nury Vittachi chasing after your funny bone, the spectacular Dewi Lestari flexing her vocal chords, Richard Oh surprising us all with his racy tale. The amazing Irina Dunn who showed up at some of my sessions.

Then there was the audience, who would thank me after each session when the writer had done all the talking! There were others who would walk to me while I was criss crossing through the marquees, my camera and the bags in tow "I just wanted to tell you how nice it was to hear you. What is your called?" Could I have asked for more? SIGH about the book.... or lack thereof.

Though nothing quite beat the experience of exploring the places closest to my heart. It all happened on a rather cold afternoon with Christopher Kremmer and Adib Khan. Kremmer's book 'Inhaling the Mahatma' is a tribute to India, it is the people in the book who made it brim with life. My favourite was Hari Lal - partly because he hails from Dehra Dun, partly because he was at peace with his own self. Both Chris and Adib were insightful and they packed the session with style, substance and wit. Getting the right mix of all three as festival veterans will tell you is rare. What made this session even more memorable was the audience who sat through it even as the marquee howled under the pressure of that unrelenting rain. Bala and the kids did too - what would we be without our families?

The most easterly Indian Sandy Gandhi got the Q & A going and we ended up being pals as well. The biggest surprise was to come in the days after the festival when Sandy landed up at our door, with tons of gifts in tow, telling us to get ready for a ride of her 'hinterland'.

So it was that we discovered the most Easterly point of Australia with Australia's most easterly Indian. The lighthouse which sits on a steep peak packs enough winds to blow someone Sandy's size off her feet. After escaping the whiplash, we almost saw Dhruv flying off in search of his plastic ball. While this may look like any other lighthouse, this one is a really functional lighthouse. If you looked far enough you could get what could pass as reflections of the humpback whale. There were surfers, gliders and all manners of adventurers taking in the sea in all its forms. If this was a post-card, this was would be called that picture perfect moment. Sandy's presence made it more so.