It is, therefore, no surprise that even though 100 percent literacy level in the country is slated to take another 50 years, the festivals for literature (Lit Fest, as they are popularly called) have arrived on the scene with much fanfare.Take, for instance, DSC Jaipur Lit Fest. In less than four years, the event has grown to be one of the five biggest in the world along with Edinburgh, Hay-on-Wye, Sydney and Berlin. “We are at the top spot in Asia,” says Sanjoy Roy, managing director of Teamwork Productions that produces the Jaipur Lit Fest. “Last year we received 32,000 visitors (the press estimated this to be 50,000). This year, we have increased the capacity in our venues to accommodate 7,500 people per hour. We shall continue to create an experience which is sexy, fun and blows the mind with new ideas and thoughts,” says Roy. Noted writer and co-director of the festival William Dalrymple, pitches in: “It has become a massive enterprise today.”Jaipur festival is not a lone case. The Mumbai Lit Fest, the Hay Festival, the evolving Kovalam and the Bookaroo (for kids) are other shining examples of where the literati are headed in India. Expect more in future because, as Roy puts it, “A good festival drives business.” Figures vouch for his claims: Book sales in the 2007 DSC Lit Fest were 3 lakh and they crossed 17 lakh in 2010. Book sales at the Hay Festival this year was 3.5 lakh. “A Lit Fest will contribute to the spurt in India’s vibrant publishing industry and stimulate readers. It gives them an occasion to discover new writers, open their minds to new writing and brings to the fore the writing from different languages which are now finding translations into English and other languages,” reasons Roy.For Peter Florence, founder director of Hay Festival, Lit Fests were a natural progression of Indian writing. “We’ve been taking Indian authors around the world for years, and it seemed natural to celebrate literature in their home country too,” says Florence, who was encouraged by writer and MP Shashi Tharoor to come to Kerala. “People in Kerala just joined in and made it theirs from the get-go. It’s about willingness to share stories and ideas. This works just as well in Malayalam as in English,” says Florence, who feels India was a natural country to hold a literature festival since “India is more rooted in its stories than any other culture”.
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