What can a hundred rupees (approximately 0.75 USD) get you? A bottle of water, a snack, some sweets, maybe a short bus ride to wherever and back? That’s not much really. A hundred rupees certainly won’t get you in through the door of any theatre or movie hall anywhere in the country either. But on Saturday April 25, a hundred rupees opened the doors to a literary festival. And it wasn’t just any literary festival but one that brought together local writers from all communities in Sri Lanka to one single venue for an entire day. Yes, a hundred rupees marked its value well that day.
Anyone interested in books and writing had a whole day to spend at a literary event with an added bonus of a sampling of kadala (chickpea) served in a typical gotta (paper cone) all for a hundred rupees.
The Western Province Aesthetic Resort in Colombo that played host to the event was in many ways an ideal location. Two well air-conditioned halls and one open hall, an open air space and a fairly large area for stalls – books and food and resting places, plus the greenery and water features provided a pleasing setting on a sultry Sri Lankan day.
The Annasi & Kadalagotu Lit Fest created a first in many ways. The thirteen events from a book launch, talks with writers, a documentary, publishers’ clinic and panel discussions were spread out across three halls. It was the first literature festival in the country that had such a low entrance fee, enabling everyone from all walks of life to participate in every activity with no extra charges. It was also the first time writers from all three languages of the country Sinhala, Tamil and English came together to talk about all things writing.
Adding to the local flavour were the street vendors who’d set up at the entrance selling hot hot kadala, boiled spicy manokka (cassava), annasi (pineapple), corn on the cob and veralu achcharu (pickle). Discussions flowed, ideas were exchanged, friends met, books bought and autographed, food consumed while the coffee ran out even before the start of the first session.
Kudos to the organisers for all the hard work.
(Images curtsey A&K Lit Fest)