The 12th edition of the Khushwant Singh Literature Festival was a top seller event, with some 300 attendees, a host of celebrity speakers, some honest conversations. The Kasauli Club played a memorable venue with unforgettable memories. We bring you an overall perspective in this brief chat with Rahul Singh, son of Khushwant Singh, the prime mover of the festival.
How was the event this year? Compared to past editions? I thought it was most memorable in every way!
This was the 12th Khushwant Singh Litfest (KSLF) and in many ways the most memorable. The opening morning session was a full house, a rarity. The speaker was Dr Prabhakar, who happens to be the husband of the Union Finance Minister. The last session, too, a play with Juhi Babbar playing the main role was also packed, another rarity. Also, for the first time General Ian Cardouzo, got a standing ovation for his moving tribute to the Indian army.
How did the sponsors go this time? It was elaborate and must have been expensive?
Sadly, we were very short of funds and perhaps did not make enough effort to get the necessary funds. Even now, we would welcome some generous contributors to give the Khushwant Singh Foundation, which is a non-profit and tax-exempt status. Even the Himachal government gave us nothing and we have helped put Kasauli on the tourism and literary forefront.
It’s not easy to do such events anymore, simple as they may appear! How is your experience?
Very difficult and sometimes humiliating to raise and ask for funds. I wish a large corporate house, after doing its due diligence, would give us enough to form a corpus, the interest of which would pay for KSLF.
How do you see the event capturing the spirit of Kasauli and of your father, especially this edition, with your choice of speakers and their subjects?
A major purpose of the KSLF is to reflect the passions, concerns and values of Khushwant Singh. Also, bring the beauty and history of Kasauli, a military cantonment in the Himachal Himalayas alive to the audience. Kasauli is a very fragile ecological region, as was seen with the recent catastrophic landslides and floods in Himachal and Uttarakhand. You meddle with nature at your cost. We always have a session on ecology or on climate change and global warming. Since Kasauli is in a cantonment, the KSLF is dedicated to the Indian soldier and sessions on the military always take place. My father’s other concerns were the education of the girl child, closer Indo-Pak ties, and of course, promoting literature and a love of books. He also was a great humourist, so we try to also have a session on humour. Not easy!
We plan to have a Litfest in London, which would be the fifth there (two were online because of the pandemic). London was where my father went to university and got his law degree from Kings College. He was also a great admirer of British values and its democracy. A KSLF in London also enables us to get Pakistani writers to interact with Indian and other writers, thereby improving ties between the two countries, which my father was very keen on.