It’s a special year for the Khushwant Singh Literary Festival (KSLF), which began three years back in the pristine settings of the Kasauli Cantonment at the legendary Kasauli Club. This is where Khushwant Singh had his summer home and did most of his writing. This year, 100, marks a celebration that encompasses the life and times of Khushwant Singh and commemorates landmark years of seminal events, as KSLF (October 9 to 11) attempts to capture and celebrate the facets and interests of an extraordinary man who lived till his 100th year.
“A man of discipline and industry. He wrote every day of his life. For nearly 70 years,’’ recalled Rahul Singh, who shared many anecdotes and stories about his father, at the preview of the upcoming festival. ‘Fresh springs of Himalayan thought’ is the tagline for this centenary event, with the festival striving to be 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 will celebrate the life and work of Khushwant Singh and commemorate other centenaries and landmark events that changed the course of people’s lives and our world forever,’’ reflect those who have made this festival possible.
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One century deserves another…The spirit behind 100 great Indian artists will be Dr B N Goswamy’s tribute to art lover Khushwant Singh. 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.
The festival also celebrates the lives of India hands and India lovers on their sesquicentennial, Rudyard Kipling and WB Yeats. Earlier, the Moghuls raided and also ruled across three centuries and this epic journey also unfolds courtesy Alex Rutherford, while eminent physician Farokh Udwadia unravels the mysteries of art, mind, medicine in ‘Suffering and Creativity.’
KSLF is never complete without friends from across the border. And this year is no different. The Pakistan contingent is present in full force with former US ambassador, Begum Abida Hussain, former foreign minister, Khurshid Kasauri, parliamentarian Fakir Aijazuddin, also a novelist, and Mehr Tarar with her first novel, narrating personal stories of courage and conviction.
Think Pakistan, and 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, Govind Nihalani and Om Puri.
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. Listen to Farooq Abdullah, A S Dulat, Wajahat Habibullah. On a brighter note, they 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. The speakers and interlocutors will unravel these journeys and more.
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 will give an insight into his experiences with recent military conflicts and diplomacy.
Poetry, love, longing, Urdu— these words defined Khushwant Singh. 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 Singh’s favourite Allama Iqbal will be unveiled in Shikwa and Jawab-e-Shikwa (a complaint to Allah and his response) by Javed Akhtar, Syeda Hamid and others. Punjab’s Singing Guru, highlights of five centuries of timeless wisdom will unfold here with Bobby Bedi, Kamla Kapoor and India’s High Commissioner designate to the UK Navtej Sarna.
Here, 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 us, but the very survival of our planet. How much do we know about the wild fruits of Himachal? Pradip Krishen launches ‘Delhi Through the Seasons’ by Khushwant Singh, an exquisite production he did not get to see.
This festival is dedicated to the ecology of Kasauli, summer home to Singh and an inspiration for his writings for over half a century, and now the verdant venue for the literary festival held every October in his name.
“At KSLF 2015 we hope to amuse, provoke, engage and inspire. The magic of KSLF will continue in the years to come as a meeting of minds celebrates the power of ideas that can transform our lives as well as raise awareness for causes,’’ reflects Rahul Singh.
The festival opens at the Kasauli Club on October 9 at 2 pm and closes October 11 at 6 pm. Evenings are for music, dance and sharing notes…