It’s that time of the year when every state in the country is hosting a literature festival — abound with prominent authors, electric panel discussions, mesmerising cultural performances, and so on. There’s the evergreen Jaipur Literature Festival, the more recent Kolkata Literature Festival, the Delhi Literature Festival, and many more that are worth travelling for. By Adila Matra

Kerala Literature Festival

But Kerala Literature Festival (KLF) takes the cake, primarily for its stunning location along the shores of the shimmering Arabian Sea, in Calicut. Touted as the fastest growing literature festival in the country, the fifth edition of the literary festival took place earlier this month, from January 16 to 19. Here’s what you missed at the second largest cultural gathering of the country.

Kerala Literature Festival

Eclectic Panels

From sessions on history and politics, helmed by big names like author-historian Ramachandra Guha, Shashi Tharoor, Kapil Sibal, and Karan Thapar, to discussions on sexuality, poetry, and the art of writing, headed by young intellectuals, Kerala Literature Festival pandered to the boomers and millennials alike. While Nandita Das got vocal about her tryst with the life of Pakistani writer Manto, Manu S.Pillai conversed with Shashi Tharoor on where India stands in world politics. It was a mixed bag indeed!

Kerala Literature Festival

Broken Sea Bridge

One of the most striking vistas at Calicut beach is the ruins of the century-old broken bridge that juts out into the sea, its blackened, rickety beams, seemingly melting into the horizon. The structure, along with the nearby lifesize ‘#KLF’ sign offered good photo ops during the festival. Many participants also lounged here in between sessions, enjoying the cool sea breeze, and even took afternoon naps.

Kerala Literature Festival

Street Treats

Pickled pineapple, mango, carrot, cucumber, papaya, and watermelons are common beachside staples in Calicut. So is their own version of chuski, topped with khus khus, peanuts, and tutti frutti. For lunch, the food courts by the beach sold Calicut’s well-known biryani, which is more than enough to lure you back to the coastal town. The afternoons at the festival were mostly dominated by chilled glasses of soda lemon sherbet. Seaside festivals do have its own advantages!

Kerala Literature Festival

Celebrity Spotting

Literature festivals are a great place to spot your favourite celebrity. Kerala Literature Festival was no different. From comedian Papa CJ and YouTuber Lolakutty to actor-director Nandita Das and high-brow politicians like Shashi Tharoor and Kapil Sibal, the festival ground was teeming with who’s who of the cultural world.

Kerala Literature Festival

Author Signings

The festival ground was thronged by bibliophiles who had arrived to scour for books by their favourite authors. The book stalls here sold books authored by its speakers, and there were regular author-signings too. Books of authors like Devdutt Patnaik, KR Meera, Perumal Murugan, and William Dalrymple topped the list.

Related: The Kerala Literature Festival To Be Held In Calicut Is A Booklover’s Dream