Owing to the restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 edition of the Delhi Literature Festival (DLF) has gone entirely virtual. A stimulating line-up of artists, actors, critics and authors has been coming on to DLF's digital stage through the course of the ten-day long event to discuss their writing processes and inspirations. The ninth edition of DLF has witnessed voices from multiple genres in literature bringing to the fore a host of topics from religion and spirituality to young adult fiction and biographical non-fiction. The festival is being conducted on the video conferencing platform Zoom and live-streamed on DLF's Facebook page.
On the penultimate day of the festival, two sessions were scheduled in the evening featuring authors Arpit Vageria and Tahira Kashyap Khurrana, who discussed their latest books.
In the first session, Vageria talked about his work, The Girl Next Door with blogger Tanya Sachdev, a novel set against the backdrop of the pandemic and the nationwide lockdown. The book makes for a tale of modern love, which simultaneously illuminates the experience of being closeted at home during the massive health crisis. Through the course of the talk, Vageria discussed how his novel came to be, and how many of his own life experiences go into the stories that he writes.
"I would like this book to be the first-ever lockdown love story in India," he recalls thinking while discussing the story with his publisher. The word 'lockdown', even before it took effect in India had fascinated the author and he was keen to write a love story that unfolds over a period that is so urgent, and present and therefore extremely relevant. The only twist in his story, he said, was that when most people around the world were trying to find their way home, his protagonist, Ishaan, was dreading the prospect of going back to his family.
Along with novels, Vageria has also been writing for reality television and drawing on the difference between the two mediums, he explained that TV is a very sensitive space to write for. "Screenwriting takes a lot and lot of your time," he remarked, it is difficult to work on a novel while writing for the screen. At the same time, it is so sensitive a medium that a channel would not hesitate to omit certain portions from a script if they appear to be upsetting for the viewers. This can take away some of a writer's 'humour,' he concedes, but then, "you think about the money from TV shows, it's an amazing amount of money in comparison with novels." Even the best of the authors in India, he added bluntly, would not be able to earn as much as one TV writer would make with one show.
The last session on Day 5 of the DLF was a stimulating discussion between the bestselling writer, Khurrana and RJ and journalist at The Quint, Stutee Ghosh around the work, The 12 Commandments of Being a Woman. Khurrana's book is a walk through all the ups and downs of being a woman, the power of feminine energy and the deepest secrets hidden away in a woman's heart. In her conversation with Ghosh, the author and filmmaker talked about the honest writing that has defined her 2020 work, practicing Buddhist philosophy and being a 'motor mouth.'
Emphasising on the experiences which have led up to the book and the wisdom that hindsight brought, the writer said, "I have always been someone who has taken to writing to express." Even in times of self-doubt, writing was a solace for the author so when she lays bare even the funniest and most embarrassing details of her adolescence, she remarked that what was in fact ruthless was how she acted when in doubt and that "I was doing myself a favour right now by admitting that I was in deep (expletive) at that point."
When the conversation inevitably turned towards cinema, she elaborated on her collective, Indian Women Rising, a platform created with Guneet Monga and Ekta Kapoor to shine light on female filmmakers in the industry. She elaborated, "I openly admit that most of our films or our writing or whatever, is about two sets of women, either they are revolutionaries or they are tragic queens, drama queens: there is nothing in between. Where as our lives are full of colour, there is so much to us." The collective then, she said, is an attempt to encourage women to tell stories through their lens.
DLF will go on from 19 February to 28 February. To take a look at the full festival schedule, click here.