“As a gender women are fighting invisibility on all fronts. To have a festival dedicated to our own sex is a luxury. We come there with no chip on our shoulder, we air our collective grievances and applaud how far we’ve come in terms of art and literature. All conversations centre around constructive clairvoyance— how the path ahead looks for women in all fields. Shaili and Kiran have a futuristic blueprint with this festival,” says Shinie Antony, noted author and co-founder of Bangalore Literature Festival on the 3rd edition of the Women Writers Fest in Bengaluru.

As our social lives evolve and keep pace with technology; writing, books and literature are thrust to the periphery, to the fringes of human activity. Now effort must be made to reclaim the spaces literary activities have been ejected from. One way to do so is have authors, poets, actors and intellectuals meet their audience. And literary festivals as institutions perform an admirable service of bringing entertainment and illumination to the curious or discerning reader through the medium of authors themselves.

Women Writers Fest was an experience where I could enjoy the depth and diversity of female thought, intellect and expression. – Lakshmi Sankar

Each Indian literary festival has evolved its own idiom and its signature. Of them all, Women Writers Festival by Shethe People has been both extremely focussed and optimal at delivering on its promise. The mind boggles. Unlike any other literary festival of significance in India, this is a multi-city, multi-focus set of events. The core team travels and organises events mainly with local talent in a range of cities and this demands the marvel of management and teamwork.

The fact that the fest is exclusively an event around women does attract its share of criticism. Primarily it is about safe spaces. While women professionals are expected to fit into the gaps of male “intellect” dominated spaces of public discourse in literature, essentially women-centric discussions draw together the best that women offer to the world of words. In a society devoid of affirmative action, this festival tries to rectify the lopsided reality of the book world.

ALSO READ: Women Need To Tell Their Own Stories: Author Shashi Deshpande

Proceeding from the clearest concepts often steers an enterprise towards success. The organising team here, led by SheThePeople.TV founder Shaili Chopra and Ideas Editor Kiran Manral have a tight array of intriguing sessions backed by strong women writers or achievers, all spread over a day. This year’s Women Writers Fest at Bengaluru was both a continuation and the next step up from last year’s event. As AndaleebWajid puts it: “This was my first experience at Women’s Writers’ Fest and I think it’s a much needed space that lets women be heard.”

To have a festival dedicated to our own sex is a luxury. We come there with no chip on our shoulder, we air our collective grievances and applaud how far we’ve come in terms of art and literature. – Shinie Antony

The day’s proceedings began with a spirited discussion on How Green Was My City, the ecological challenges that our city faces. The Power of Women Writing Women: Female Characters had writers Shinie Antony, Preeti Shenoy and AndaleebWajid elaborate upon their craft and the importance of creating strong female protagonists as role models. Interlocutor and writer of note Kiran Manral helped literary giant Shashi Deshpande recount her journey as an author and why women must necessarily tell their own stories.

ALSO READ: I Use Feminism To Filter Out The Muck: Rachna Singh

A blockbuster panel of Bangalore’s finest including Lakshmi Sankar, Vasanthi Hariprakash, SadiqaPeerbhoy and Usha KR sat with moderator Vani Mahesh to dissect the changing cultural landscape of the city. New star on the horizon and local talent Kubbra Sait spoke to KiranManral about her journey as an actor in a remarkably articulate and candid discussion. The panel of publishers’ representatives Ajitha GS, Deepti Talwar, Karthik Venkatesh, Archana Ramachandran was popular and informative for the literarily-inclined audience many of whom dream of being published someday. Writers, ArunaNambiar, Devi Yeshodharan, Rachna Singh and Sajita Nair spoke about feminism through the lens of their characters and body of work. The event ended with a group of poets reading from their works on the city, situating the female experience in it.

In all it has been an exhilarating experience and all of us in Bengaluru are richer of it. Lakshmi Sankar of Atta Galatta, the bookstore café and interactive space, is full of appreciation: “Women Writers Fest was an experience where I could enjoy the depth and diversity of female thought, intellect and expression. It was a place where we could heal, grow and evolve and learn.”

ALSO READ: Bengaluru Cheers For Women Writers’ Fest With A Packed House

Nandita Bose is a Bangalore based writer, poet, book reviewer and occasional feature writer for newspapers and portals.

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