I think the very first thing while writing about this year’s Dhaka Lit Fest (DLF) should be to thank the founders, directors and producers of DLF for making it happen after a long three years gap due to COVID triggered circumstances. The 10th edition of DLF which is also deemed as the comeback edition has literally nailed it by offering such a vibrant and star-studded experience to the audience of all stripes and feathers.
In spite of the critical commentary and discussions over the introduction of entry fee for the first time since DLF’s inception in 2011 when it was known as Hay Festival, I personally view DLF as an opportunity to expose myself to an international and multicultural platform which has the clear-cut potential to enrich our learning experiences and make us dream bigger for ourselves. How can more than 170 sessions with 500 writers, intellectuals, artists, academics from both home and abroad including Nobel Laureate in Literature and Booker Prize winners not do that?
If I, being a government primary and secondary school educated audience with characteristic middle class stamp on the face and the way I speak English in regards to accent and pronunciation, say I didn’t feel somewhat intimidated and inferior seeing and listening to a particular class of audience and speakers would be very dishonest of me. But I cancelled that feeling as I always do because I know this is something which resulted from my middle class precarity and endemic to many that can be resolved.
Of course, there are people who carry with them a courtroom gavel and act like mobile high courts. These mobile high courts are few in number but they do operate. You will instantly spot these judges of people even before you have spoken a single word. They have already weighed you in a digital scale by your shoes and modest hoody. And after you speak, they whisper “oh boy! oh boy!” and deliver the full verdict. But I appeal for this “oh boy” and for myself to supreme values of compassion and fellowship. Most people, I believe are good people.
The world is diverse in nature and everyone and everything is significant in the interconnected web of existential dynamics. The best attitude and mindset is a learning attitude and being respectful to others. As long as I am learning I consider my insecurities, flaws, setbacks and traumas as gifts. I personally see DLF as a learning platform which in one hand might trigger a sense of insignificance being among the very big names and big shots but again it also gives an opportunity to listen to the inner workings of writers we read and figure out that the inner journey of each man is almost identical; we overcome our weaknesses, limitations and challenges and we eventually become our best possible version of ourselves. In that one aspect we all are in the same game but in different board.
Moreover, one has to be very appreciative of the inclusive approach in designing the sessions in different venues like AKSB Auditorium, PSR Seminar Room, Lawn, Bardhoman, Cosmic Tent, V Novera Hall and Nazrul Stage. Though it is named as Literary Fest but it covered almost each area of the contemporary world spanning arts, cultures, music, environmental issues, economics, politics and more. All the sessions were full of aura and energy radiated from the enthusiastic audiences many of whom are themselves big names in their respective fields. The chance is that you might be sitting beside someone who you do not know yet and later on be amazed reading his/her bio in the program schedule or in the Wikipedia.
Many people tagged DLF as an elite fest. By the way, we have to be respectful to each other’s opinion. In my view DLF turns into a site of exchange, a very dynamic happening place from where everyone can take something and learn something if we are open to learning. Being in Dhaka we can gain an international scale in-person experience and exposure to world literature and culture, Bengali literature, literatures of other languages and so on. As human being our core value should be to internalize and schematize new experiences within our existing knowledge base for the expansion of horizon.