ALF: A 3-day Literary Correspondence
Updated: Nov 27, 2022
Written by Aishanya Gupta and Diya Mahesh
Ashoka Literature Festival (ALF) held its second offline edition on the 11th, 12th and 13th of November 2022. The campus observed the return of this festival after a 2-year hiatus due to the pandemic. To commemorate the festival, the organisers arranged a fortnight of events leading up to the actual event, with activities such as reading circles with professors, games, movies, and a lot more.
The campus was decorated with literature-themed memorabilia, and students of Ashoka and other universities were busy attending the plethora of events that the Organizing Committee planned.
The atrium and mess lawns were set up with stalls that were manned by clubs and small businesses, including a merch stall that ALF had set up. Books by the authors that attended the events were also on sale, as were other souvenirs of the event.
On the morning of 11th November, Reddy’s Auditorium was brimming with renditions performed by all the Vistaar choirs, formally marking the beginning of the Ashoka Literature Festival. Day 1 saw panels with esteemed guests, talks, workshops, events and competitions.
The panels were focused on a multitude of topics, ranging from literature and art, dance and language to law and history. The panellists included many members of the Ashoka Faculty, such as Navtej Johar, Ranjit Hosokte, Sanjukta Dutta, and many more. The Center for Studies in Gender and Sexuality (CSGS) hosted a panel about the Language of Desire, with the passionate activist Natasha Narwal. Attendees of the Literature Festival were also invited to watch the celebrated dancers, Rama Vaidyanathan and Divya Goswami, perform a captivating piece after a conversation about the convergence of dance and literature.
The day was packed with competitions organised by the students. It encompassed the idea of literature and its different mediums, such as poetry and comics. There was also a spirited, literature-centric game of Jeopardy, which tested attendees' knowledge of popular book series. The participants seemed excited to be a part of the festival and took home books as prizes.
Day 1 ended with a performance by the Dastangoi Collective. Dastangoi is a form of Urdu storytelling, and the performance at ALF told the audience stories from the Partition. On a more lighthearted note, the Collective also showcased a folklore piece, marking the day’s end.
ALF continued to be, as it has been over the years, “a celebration of engaging and thought-provoking discussions” on the second day of its performance. Student volunteers along with faculty took charge of hosting a total of fifteen events – book talks, literary workshops, and holistic seminars circling around accessibility and identity – simultaneously in different venues on campus.
Neuroscience and entrepreneurial strategies were some of the more popular themes students and participants of the festival engaged with, in the presence of authors of high prestige: Arvind Sahay, chair of India Gold Policy Center, as well as Ujwal Kalra and Shobhit Shubhankar, high-achieving consultants from the renowned firm, Boston Consulting Group.
The much-sought-after event, “Music and Storytelling”, with Ehsaan Noorani and Madhavan Somanathan was successful in portraying a more powerful relationship with music. Bollywood insights on the part of Noorani and Somanathan’s classical musings with his guitar around the world, helped the audience feel closer to music than they had ever felt before.
The day ended with as much vigour as it had commenced. A final performance, “Narrativizing Nautanki”, was put up by Devendra Sharma, a fifth-generation performer and Professor of Performance Studies at California State University, and their troupe.
The third and final day of the event was met with the same enthusiasm as the first two. Attendees were in store for a talk by the well-known Australian philosopher Peter Singer. Although virtual, attendees had the opportunity to interact with Singer about his ideas about charity and morality.
Panels on Day 3 were highly anticipated, especially the one about Morality and Desire with the popular social media influencer and author Leeza Mangaldas. Orijit Sen, the author of River of Stories, participated in a conversation about graphic novels, and their growing popularity as a medium of literature in India. On a similar tangent, there was also a talk about magazines as a medium and a zine-making workshop. Arpita Das, a professor from the Undergraduate Writing Program led two panels on bibliotherapy and intersectionality. She was joined by various authors and specialists.
The festival came to an end with a performance by Abhinaya, the Dance Society. Many members of the society put on performances, ranging from contemporary to classical dance, and moving interpretive dances based on literature. Abhinaya contributed to a meaningful and riveting end to three days that were truly chock-full of events that helped students gain a deeper understanding of literature and its meaning today.