A festival of people and literature
Hari Mohan Paruvu used to be a tall, strapping young fast bowler. When I met him recently at the Hyderabad Lit Fest, I realised that he was still a tall, strapping fast bowler, though looking slightly older than when he played in the Ranji Trophy during 1985-87.
Hari has become a successful author and life coach, with his books and his movie, his lectures and workshops for cricket aspirants and yes, dance students! I first met him at the Chennai launch of his first novel The Men Within, and remember walking up to him and telling him how much I enjoyed reading the book (though I don't trust my memory any more). We met again at two book events at Hyderabad (the release there of my Third Man) and Chennai (a discussion on Hari's 50 Not Out and Third Man) moderated by our common friend, the brilliant Krishna Shastri Devulapalli (though anyone who knows Krishna knows that he is incapable of moderating anything).
As I said before, I owed my participation in HLF 2016 to Hari's efforts and he also conducted my panel with admirable flair. I also caught a brief glimpse of his workshop focussing among other things on goal setting for youngsters in the same festival. Hari made me feel welcome at HLF and also took me to Vidyuth Jaisimha's cricket academy, where I struggled to bowl one good ball in six deliveries I attempted, and he gave me evidence that he can still bowl impressively. Looking at him I had no trouble believing his account of his regular stint bowling in the nets, even if he is himself more than 50 not out today. We had a long and meaningful conversation with his efforts towards sports promotion and teaching of life lessons based on his cricket experiences, and hopefully, our paths will intersect in this regard some day.
The organisers of the festival were a friendly and helpful lot who made the delegates feel at home. Prof. Vijay Kumar was a cheerful, sprightly presence throughout the festival, and Jayesh Ranjan IAS was again a most helpful head of the organising committee. The theme of the festival was most thoughtfully inclusive of the marginalised, such as dalits and transgenders, the differently abled and the differently oriented. I was heartened by the overt support HLF extended to free speech and dissent, nowhere better exemplified than in the pride of place given to Nayantara Sahgal. The sessions featuring Kiran Nagarkar and Pervez Hoodbhoy of Pakistan were brilliant examples of discourse that rose above jingoistic noise(More about these in the next instalment).
Meeting Amala Akkineni after a considerable gap was one of the highlights of my HLF experience. I first met her when she was a teenage student of Chennai's Kalakshetra, one of the brightest talents to have learnt bharatanatyam there, and I watched her grow into a fine dancer, film actor, and burgeoning champion of animal welfare, before she moved to Hyderabad. Listening to her speak at HLF was a revelation: her espousal of the cause of animals and our ecology is marked by such wit and wisdom.
My FB friend Subbarayudu Kameswara did me proud by attending my panel discussion and getting his copy of my book signed by me. The learned professor was soft spoken and modest to a fault. My former State Bank colleague BS Prakash was an enthusiastic visitor to the Lit Fest and possibly its biggest buyer of books. I cannot thank him enough for the trouble he took over me during the three days.