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

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Sleep. Yes, I'm prone to a little craziness. Those of you who've known me long enough already know this. Which is why I find myself dreaming a little dream, thinking green, getting off a jet plane and heading straight to work. Tonight I will crash, maybe not burn. Ubud is still on my mind. Those conversations, those authors, those readers, that 11 year old. There are many, many, many stories playing in my head, as they always do. I don't blog when I'm on the road. I want to absorb it all. I want to talk to people. I want to see things around me, not indulge in the search for wireless connectivity. That's one of the many reasons why when I come back I'm loaded with posts - which for some readers is a good thing. It's a house divided, others would have liked to read it as it happened. I'll try my best, over the next couple of days to recount all that happened in the sessions I attended at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2007. There was a lot. Most of my time was spent working on sessions I was moderating this year - a great mix, the writing workshop and then the conversations that started on a panel and continued till much later.

Christopher Merrill has said this before, in a different context, yet as I start the journey of re-tracing my steps at the fourth year of the festival, it's worth sharing this:
"Did I read every page of every book? Of course not. That would be impossible. But I read enough of each book to know whether it merited further consideration. And what I will remember of the judging process is the glee I felt each day at the sight of dozens of books piled on my doorstep, each an invitation to embark on a new journey. "I have traveled much, in Concord," Thoreau wrote. In these past months of reading, I traveled much, in America-an endlessly intriguing place."

We'd discussed this, among many other issues in the one-on-one with Merrill and one of the things we agreed on was that literary festivals are the best discovery zones. Ubud, the cultural centre of Bali makes that cross-cultural connect in a way no other place can. It's seeped in culture, the people are unbelievably nice, the settings are more than perfect, the mix of authors to die for. As a moderator, I come back each year, humbled by the knowledge that there is so much to be learnt, that people in so many parts of the world continue to battle with liberties that we take for granted. It may be an increasingly globalised world but our approaches will always differ.

Which is why, at the risk of repeating myself I credit the festival organisers again for coming up with such a superb mix of authors, of perspectives, of getting our worlds to meet, of ensuring that East meets West isn't a mere style statement. Sitting with authors like Somaya Ramadan, Richard Flanagan, Lee Hye-Kung, Debra Yatim, Adib Khan, Rosario Cruz Lucero, I realise there are no easy answers to even the most direct of questions.

What's even tougher is finding the right connect for authors of their stature. There are big names, there are established names, there are emerging names. Making panels that straddle the worlds of Shashi Tharoor, Kiran Desai, Peter Goldsworthy with other literary names is no easy feat. Yet, Festival Director Janet de Neefe together with Finley Smith and Karen McClellan has pulled it together to near perfection. They have had the support of the huge pool of volunteers, advisors and feedback has always mattered. I know that, I get to hear the good, bad and ugly sides of my modest abilities as a moderator.

Yet, it is the stimulating discussions, the level of debate and sometimes the strange and the sublime that leaves me pining for more. Then there is Ubud - a place of unmatched beauty. Honeymoon Guesthouse, which increasingly feels like a third home. I can't imagine being anywhere else but there. This time round, my camera failed me. Had been downloading pictures and forgot the memory stick back. Technology being technology, I rather painfully realised that the model I use for my camera is not being used anymore. Thank heavens for the N73 and thanks also to Bala's cousin, Anisha, whose superb photography skills show why you should be there too, if not this year, then the next. If you have more pictures to share, I'll be happy to do the posts. I'm only warming up, lots more in the days ahead.

For the moment though, let these be your inspiration.....