I’d dreaded this moment ever since I was invited to be a speaker at
the Goa Arts and Literature Festival a month ago and the fact that I
was a few seconds away from what I was sure was going to be my death
on stage was NOT making me feel any better.
Walking up to address a crowd of students is always bit of a tense
couple of moments for me. Children. They’re hard to please and even
harder to entertain, ESPECIALLY if you’re one yourself.
Here I was at the GALF, 2015, bracing myself for the jeers that I was
sure would follow once the students I was going to address realised
that I was barely fourteen, as old as or even younger than most of
I knew I would’ve done the same if I was sitting in the audience and a
scrawny teen mounted the stage, only to launch into a detailed
description of –wait for it- herself.
“Who does she think she is??” I would’ve mumbled to my friends, who
would have eagerly agreed.
Fortunately, though, the kids I ended up having to talk to were WAY
more mature than my peers and myself. They respected me [or at least
pretended to], attentively listened to what I had to say and even
clapped [rather loudly, I might add] once I was done with my egoistic
Feeling thoroughly relieved, I waded through the audience till I
reached my mother and my little sister sitting right at the back.
Grabbing myself a chair, I settled down and let my mind wander back to
earlier this morning, when I was interviewed by a bunch of
media-aspirants and their college professor, which had been one of the
most professional experiences of my entire life.
Enthusiastic twenty-something’s bustled about with make-up kits and
microphones in hand as Genevieve, a bubbly student who was assigned
with the task of interviewing me, sat me down on an oversized couch in
the centre of the room, powdered my face, snapped a mic onto my collar
and proceeded to ask me hundreds of questions about my “life as a
writer,” covering everything from my blogs to my manuscripts to my
meeting with Ruskin Bond and Chetan Bhagat.
It was all over and done in thirty minutes, but it had been a great
half hour indeed.
I was pulled out of my reverie as the Lows, an interesting couple from
Singapore, began an inspiring presentation on their successful book
series “Sherlock Sam” and what it takes to make it onto the “writing
scene.” An hour and several pointers later, everyone filed out of the
hall with rumbling stomachs and several informative pointers.
My mom, sister and I headed straight to the lunch half and spent the
duration of our meal discussing and planning my next session which was
scheduled for the next afternoon.
With a stuffed stomach and a taste of what to expect, we decided to
call it a day and head back homeward.
The sun’s first rays of the day had barely pierced through the
rippling sky as we drove back to the majestic International Centre,
Panaji, for the third and final day of the Goa Arts and Literature
Our car pulled up in front of the now-familiar reception and I hopped
off, my parents and little sister quickly following suit. I sprinted
past Goan literati and book enthusiasts, all the while keeping an eye
out for the Zuari Hall, which is where I was informed my session was
to take place.
Finally finding it, I burst in and hurriedly introduced myself to my
co-panellists; Pooja Nanisi, an Indo-Singaporean poet and Manasi
Sapre, a Mumbai-based murder-mystery author.
If the two of them were surprised that a measly 14-year-old was going
to be moderating their session on “Finding Your Voice,” they
definitely didn’t let it show. Instead, they let me lead them onto the
stage where we each grabbed a microphone and made ourselves
comfortable on the plush sofa.
The next hour passed pleasantly enough; I stammered not once and got
to learn so much about contemporary poetry, writing from within and
what a literary “voice” really is from Manasi and Pooja as they
expertly answered all of my queries.
Feeling triumphant for some strange reason, I shuffled off the stage
and back into a trance as I recalled the dozens of amazing things that
happened that weekend; I witnessed several phenomenal presentations
[like Pantaleo Fernandes and Subodh Kekar’s] met numerous, inspiring
artists from such different walks of life, moderated an entire
sessions all by myself, interacted with hordes of schoolchildren,
became the youngest speaker at the GALF for the second year in a row,
reunited with so many buddies from last year and just had a complete
Honestly, I CANNOT wait to go back next year.