Monday Motivation: Symbiosis Literary Festival 2021

The importance of Literature need not be emphasized. We all know that Literature is a store of a wealth of the past, present and future. Reading literature, whether it is English or regional definitely broadens one’s mind and gives one a different perspective. To promote the importance of Literature, Literary Festivals have been conducted for several decades. Initially, they were in the form of small groups, maybe reading for each other to something as large as the Jaipur Literary Festival that became very popular and also popularised Literary Festivals.

Though we have seen in the past that Literary Festivals were attended by senior people, many times even by people who had retired and had time to sit through the programme, this has changed now and we see more and more youngsters taking interest in Literary Festivals.

Symbiosis International University, through the Symbiosis School of Liberal Arts, started the Symbiosis Literary Festival (SLF) three years ago. The main objective is to make young students interested in literature, students not just from humanities but even amongst students from engineering, medicine, design and other disciplines.

We have had excellent participation of students and the younger generation from all across India and even other countries in the Symbiosis Literary Festival. These last two days were a ‘literature treat’ for all those who participated. The SLF has seen stalwarts like Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, Rishi Kapoor and authors like Pawan Verma, Manu Pillai and others addressing the SLF in the last two years. This year SLF was one more ‘Literature Treat’ for all those who participated.

The first day of the fest was inaugurated by Shri Javed Akhtar, our chief guest for the third time! The fact that he feels that he shares a strong bond with Symbiosis encourages us and motivates us to think that we are certainly on the right path of creating emancipation and not just education. It is our collective thought that literature is the best way to learn from. This was followed by a wonderful discussion on the much debatable topic- Decoding China: From Tiananmen to Galwan, where we had the opportunity to engage with some of the best speakers and stalwarts of the field such as Mr Vijay Gokhale, Amb Gautam Bambawale and Mr Ganesh Natarajan. Some insightful questions such as “Are we in collateral damage in the inevitable war between the US and China?” were raised and the discussion that ensued was replete with anecdotal as well as historical evidence. This discussion brought a thought to mind that the youth of India and China should come forth in exchange of ideas both academic and otherwise, and universities at large should be the facilitators. Towards the end of the day, another interesting discussion took place with writers Swati Jain and T. N. Hari on their book Diversity Beyond Tokenism; Why being Politically Correct Doesn’t Help Anyone. I am glad that Swati discussed cases studies on discrimination against women as many of us are or have been subjected to it at some point in our lives.

As an educational institution, we at Symbiosis are conscious of the fact that we are not just educators but mentors for the students. However, students in their formative years spend more time at home than in the educational institution and therefore parenting becomes important. Our next session was thus dedicated to this thought as we talked to Dr Manisha Pathak Shelat and discussed her book Raising a Humanist: Conscious Parenting in an Increasingly Fragmented World.

Day two started with Amb. Pavan K. Varma talking about his book The Great Hindu Civilisation: Achievement, Neglect, Bias and the Way Forward. His thoughts and words reinforced my faith and belief in the fact that many of the achievements made by great Indians over the past centuries were perhaps only hidden and brought to light by others, and deserve their due credit.

Though the day started on a serious note there were light-hearted moments shared on the interesting topic of The Role of the Internet in Indie Music, followed by an interesting talk on ‘Romance in the Digital Age.’ The laughter and cheer in the voices of these young influencers were contagious. The small insights shared were truly informative and engaging.

Festivals such as the Symbiosis Literary Festival that bring together eclectic and intellectual minds is what we in the realm of academia live on and draw our strength from! With this, the 3rd Edition of the Symbiosis Literary Festival 2021 came to an end. The amazingly engaging and honest words from stalwarts from across varied domains have surely motivated and inspired me to fare through an entire week, if not a year. I am already waiting for the next year’s edition where we hope to have many more speakers and if all is well then perhaps meet the speakers and audience in person.