I started my working life as a journalist in 1995 before starting Gameplan, a sports marketing company in 1998. Over the next 12 years Gameplan became and still is one of India's top companies in this field. In 2012, I decided to go back to my first love literature to start the Kolkata Literary Meet. My confidence in my entrepreneurial abilities and my belief in the fact that a voracious reader can run a festival ensured that I took this professional leap across from sports to books! My engagement with the arts and the history of Bengal also manifests itself in Byloom, a handloom and handicraft store in Kolkata that has now become a necessary pit-stop for all those visiting the city.
Summary of work
Since 2012, the Kolkata Literary Meet (KLM) has stood for free expression and yet chosen quiet, reflective discussion over high-octane debates to achieve this. The festival has hosted dissident Chinese writers but equally, has also given a voice to regional writers from all over India. A strong programming in Bengali as well as the conviction to showcase writings from other regions in India has given the festival a distinct identity. KLM has over the years explored the linkages between literature and performing arts with musical and choreographed depictions of works from classical literature. I would like to think that the Kolkata Literary Meet is not self-conscious. Instead it thinks for itself and works out of a feeling of knowing what readers want and what audiences would find thought-provoking. Today, we also run a festival in Bhubaneswar, the Bhubaneswar Literary Meet, that reflects the same philosophy has KLM.
Summary of work to develop
I would like to develop a network of ideas-based programmes that uses the arts to create a dialogue between cultures. The world is changing rapidly and concepts that were unthinkable are now expressed and celebrated in the name of patriotism. This is a challenge for India and indeed several other democracies. An event which goes beyond a literature festival, perhaps more like a biennale is what a city of ideas, which is what Kolkata is, needs.
Equally, Kolkata has been badly mauled by the flight of industry and jobs from here over the last five decades. There is a need to have festivals and spaces that reinstate some of the city's self-belief. This was the second city of the empire, today it's not counted among the top four cities of India. This hurts, and in a small way, we hope events like KLM will make Kolkata's citizens feel better about their city.