IT was a perfect morning for conversations, reflections and discussions, as Literati, organised by the Chandigarh Literary Society, had the audience hooked at the idyllic Lake Club, the venue of the literature festival. The November sun, glistening waters of the Lake, and a cover of green had both the authors and the audience deeply absorbed in sessions on various subjects and themes.
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Inaugurated by VP Badnore, who talked about the need to promote young writers through such festivals, the keynote address was delivered by Commonwealth Writers’ Prize winner Indo-Canadian author Shauna Singh Baldwin, known for her books, ‘The Tiger Claw’, ‘What the Body Remembers’ and ‘Reluctant Rebellions’. Baldwin talked about ‘Making Positive Change’ and the need for change in today’s turbulent times.
“Change begins with oneself and only you who can take yourself out of darkness towards a new beginning. We have to define the change and as writers we have added responsibility to bring about change. The need of the hour is to enhance the entire society, not just a section,” remarked Baldwin. In a later session, Baldwin spoke at length about ‘Reluctant Rebellions’, a collection of 15 speeches and essays written between 2001 and 2015.
Charting her personal journey as a writer, Baldwin, who has been an IT professional for more than 30 years now, brings to the fore her experiences as a South-Asian woman born in Canada, married to an American, living in the US, with strong emotional connections with India. Baldwin reflected on the process of writing, and the importance of research and editing in making a book relevant to readers.
“It’s also important that people buy books, to encourage writing and publishing. We cannot download music and books,” said Baldwin, who also engages in many culinary experiments. Festival Director and Chandigarh Literary Society Chairperson Dr. Sumita Misra brought poetry centre-stage, with poets Satish Gulati and Pankaj Rag, and Madhav Kaushik as the moderator of the session ‘Parvaaz’.
Dr Shyam Bhat, acclaimed psychiatrist and author of ‘You Will Love Again’, unfolded ‘Mysteries of the Mind’ in an absorbing session moderated by Suparna Puri. “Clinical depression affects the brain, body and mind. Mental illness is present in all walks of life, because we are living in complex times. Depression is not a mood change; it is an illness, for the brain is an organ. And sadly in India there is a 40 per cent genetic disposition to depression,” said Bhat.
Our lifestyle, stress levels, ambitions, and insecurities are some of the factors that contribute to our state of mind. “There is a need to be satisfied with our place in the world, be more connected to people, and involve ourselves in real relationships. Human beings and our minds are so complex, so there are no simple answers to many questions that concern our mind and brain,” added Dr Bhat, who says psychiatrists need to focus on an integrated approach of using medicines, psychotherapy, mediation, yoga et al to treat depression.
As for his book, Dr Bhat pointed out that in the course of his experience as a psychiatrist, he observed that one of the most common stressors is heartbreak, and the book looks at many aspects of love and our relationship with it. “It is fundamental, and the most important emotion. And as far as my work is concerned, I am privileged to be a psychiatrist, for it gives me a window into life.”
In another session, ‘Punjab Cinema: Storytellers Return’, Gurpreet Ghuggi in his inimitable style talked about the importance of storytelling in Punjabi cinema and its relevance today. “Punjabi cinema has come a long way, and we are proud of its serious and meaningful content.”
The evening ended on a humorous note with Radhika Vaz, a writer and stand-up comedian, who has written ‘Unladylike: A Memoir’, engaging the audience with her wit and stance on life and its varied shades.