Your absence was noticed Chief and the Good Lady of the Lit Fest expressed her disappointment that you did not attend even one event in the celebration of books and authors that took place recently in our city. She took The Man from Madras Musings aside and asked him if you, Chief, have taken umbrage over something. MMM, you will be glad to note, assured her that such was not the case. He is also glad that this was indeed so, for he understands that you had intended to attend at least one of the gala dinners after you had dropped in at a wedding reception on one of the evenings. But what, he understands, shot your time schedule to pieces was the non-appearance of the bride and groom till well past everyone’s bed time and there you were, along with several others, clutching your gift and wondering as to what had happened. And so all is forgiven, Chief, and the Good Lady of the Lit Fest is happy and reassured. But you did miss something spectacular, Chief, for this year, in MMM’s view, the Lit Fest attained what is often referred to as a critical mass in numbers.

Talking about Lit Fests, they are breaking out everywhere like a rash. In the days of the Empire, no Indian city was a city unless it had a municipal market, a station, a college, a club and a law court, all looking rather like each other, apart from the Jubilee Memorial Watering Trough and statue to Lord Something-Or-Other. Now, our cities are incomplete if they do not host a Lit Fest. It is the next ticket to social standing among metros. While the one in Chennai is definitely a cut above in terms of its organisation, punctuality and the profile of speakers, it too has the same oddballs in the audience who appear to have nothing more to do in life than flit from Lit Fest to Lit Fest. It sometimes occurs to MMM that Lit Fests are nothing more than a national version of our city’s music festival where the same faces follow the same performers from venue to venue.

The cities that do not have Lit Fests are an insecure lot and efforts are on to get them on to the bandwagon. Anybody who is considered to be somebody is being roped in to organise one. Even MMM, Chief, (and don’t laugh at this), has been receiving requests. The other day, MMM was called to the telephone and the voice at the other end asked MMM to stand by to receive another call from a poet residing in the erstwhile capital of a princely state known for its culture, arts and, most importantly, the festival of nine nights. MMM stood by and was rewarded by a call from the rhymester. His city, announced the man, had no lit fest and could MMM help.
He, the poet, was interested in meeting up with a software billionaire from the same town, who in MMM’s view is a dreadful bore and a prat, and just because of his success in his business thinks he has a solution for everyone of our country’s problems though it must be said to his credit that of late he is rather silent. His wife writes books or, at least, thinks she does. MMM has read one and came away realising that he had till then thought otherwise about her writing abilities but was now wiser. And so, MMM had to disappoint the poet. The poet was somewhat sore about his town not being able to soar in literary lore. But then MMM could do no more.