Frontlsit | Curtains on first digital Khushwant Singh Litfest lifted

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Reminiscing the idyllic environs of Kasauli amid the coronavirus pandemic, the first digital edition of the Khushwant Singh Literary Festival, which otherwise happens to be the ninth edition of the literature festival, streamed off on Friday evening, with the focus on ‘A New Life’. Even though the amphitheatre of the Himalayas was missing, hundreds of viewers thronged the social media platforms as Rahul Singh and Bachi Karkaria set the ball rolling.

The inaugural session on ‘The Art and Science of Giving’ saw Sudha Murthy of the Infosys Foundation delve deep into the philosophy of philanthropy.

In conversation with writer Chetan Bhagat, Murthy underlined the importance of personal involvement in acts of charity. “More than your money, it is your effort and involvement that matters”, she said.

She recalled how it took her 18 years to transform the lives of 3000 ‘devdasis’. “I went to see them as a school teacher without disclosing my true identity. They abhorred me initially but accepted my diligence and commitment to serve them and this became a theme of my book, Three Thousand Stitches.” The title derives its name from a quilt they all did for her, 3000 of them each stitched a line!

In an engrossing one-hour session, Bhagat touched upon various facets of her personal life as much as a distinct touch of femininity that Murthy has demonstrated since her childhood days, yet defying traditional social norms.

When asked about her experience of living under the shadows of a celebrated personality like Narayana Murthy, the Padma Shri awardee said everybody has to run their own marathon in life. “Lord Krishna was for what he did, not for whom he belonged to,” she added.

The day’s second session, ‘Staying at Home, Remaking the World’ had world-renowned traveller and author, Pico Iyer, with his friend Russ Lewin in conversation with Ankita Mukherji.

Iyer said staying compulsively with his mother since the last six months opened new vistas of knowledge for him as he realised, “many virtues in not travelling.” It afforded him a period to reevaluate himself and opened new doors and windows. “Virus season opened eyes to beauty nearby,” he said, recalling how challenging it had been to travel from Japan, where his family is, to the US to his mother. Quoting Dalai Lama, Iyer said amid the uncertainties of life one must not give up hope.

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