We were all informed that our reading group would be having its meet on 8th Dec’19 and this one was our 2nd Anniversary meet. When I decided that I would like to attend this event, I was a bit unsure. This would be my first time ever when I would be attending an event where there would be readers all around . I didn’t know what to expect, what sort of people I would meet, how was I supposed to interact with the fellow attendees and so on.
Nevertheless, as they say ‘there is always a first time’ and I decided to attend this to get a feel of such events and also to decide if it would be worthy and beneficial to attend more such sessions in the future.
So here we were ( Me and my daughter) in The Maharashtra Mitra Library for the 2nd Anniversary Meet of Did You Read Today (a group for voracious readers on Facebook). It was not a very huge place and the room was occupied to a certain extent .The chief organizers of the event Mrs. Prabha Kishore and Lt Cdr. Bijay Nair ushered us in. It was a room filled with strangers for me. However, the key motivation for me was to hear Mr. Shiv Aroor, Defence Journalist cum Author ( one of my favorite authors ) speak a few words.
The evening began with a welcome address from Lt. Cdr. Bijay Nair, followed by a video that showcased the activities of ‘Did You Read Today’ ( DYRT) since its inception two years ago. An idea which was thought about by 2 buddies over rum, has resulted in a group of 5000 members now. Bijay elaborated on it by sharing with us as to how and what kind of activities had DYRT been involved in and also telling us about how the evening would progress. It was a privilege that Cdr Rajeshwari Kori, the first Lady Officer to be posted on board a ship had agreed to attend this meet and was amidst us. He went on to introduce the first guest author of the evening.
It was time now to hear our guest authors speak. The moment that I was looking forward to, had arrived. Mr. Shiv Aroor began speaking about his journey of writing, from Operation Jinnah to India’s Most Fearless Part 1 and Part 2. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that it was divine intervention that a humble offhand blog written by him about an Air Force Pilot led to these two books on our Military heroes. He shared his experiences about meeting the families of brave hearts who had made the supreme sacrifice and how after each chapter he would take a break from writing further because it would be too overbearing to go on with it. While he was narrating his experiences, I noticed a few of them in the audience were actually weeping. I cannot fathom whether it was the storytelling acumen of Shiv or whether it was the grief of the family of the brave hearts that brought this reaction. The questions and answers followed. A brief talk but he had the audience hooked to him
The next Guest Author was Raga Olga D’Silva, the author of Untold Lies. She started off speaking about the story of her life, which went back close to 20 years and how her life had turned around for better when she had walked out of her marriage after her realization that she would probably be happier with a woman as her partner. Her book Untold Lies, a description of this journey and more. She was asked questions pertaining to LGBT and the acceptance for it in our country, the diversity and inclusivity for them in India v/s other countries and so on. While much is read about LGBT and their experiences, to hear someone speak about it in person is a different thing and outlook altogether. It was a narration of the strength, the fear, the challenges, pressure from the society, the judgements and the freedom despite all of it.
Smita Glk Parikh , our third guest author for the evening, the first woman Radio Jockey (RJ ) of Mumbai spoke about not a book, but about the Lit o Fest that she has started in Mumbai, the reason which prompted her to do this and also about how this Lit o Fest encourages new authors. She urged the audience to follow Lit O Fest and spread the word about them because once a work was submitted to them and approved by them, they would be featured / published. She added that they encouraged new authors to the extent that even books at manuscript stage get included at the Lit o Fest. A wonderful piece of information for all aspiring authors. She also presented certificates/ awards to the winners of the poetry competition. Another interesting aspect about her was that she is a Hindi writer, a refreshing change from the burgeoning lot of English narrators.
The winners of the competition Esha Dholakia (first place) Nandini Dholakia and Adv Swati Kumar (second place) recited their poems. In the absence of Swati, Nilesh recited her poem. The talent of these writers was extremely amazing.
There was also a recitation by Rhyan Ansari, who read out his award winning story. An amazing bunch of kids. The future of the literary world I guess is in safe hands and no signs of dwindling soon. Kudos to the parents of these kids who encourage them to pursue their interest and don’t just brush them off as unnecessary waste of time.
The guest authors too were presented with a memento of appreciation for their willingness to be a part of the 2nd Anniversary Meet of DYRT.
There were awards of appreciation presented to a select few people whose contribution was extremely valued by the members of DYRT. Swetha Amit and Manasi Samudra as the Best Contributor towards Reading and sharing book reviews,
Nilesh Samant as the Best Contributor towards writing ,
Sachin Shanbhag for Best Innovative award Secret Santa
Hemanta Kumar Pati for Debut Author Launch
Renata Pavrey for Best Literary
Esha Dholakia and Sanskriti Rao for the Best Upcoming Talent.
Last, but not the least, the most important, the erstwhile Mrs. Prabha Kishore, the backbone of both ‘Did You Read Today’ and ‘Did you Write today’ was presented with an award too.
Time for some tea and talk
We all had our fill of photo sessions with the Guest Authors and they even signed our books for us.
After such a literary evening, our taste buds were not to be left unattended, hence the evening ended with a cup of hot steaming energy infusing tea (not that we needed any energy) accompanied by some snacks.
Hats off to the organizers for this event. One can only imagine the hard work, the time and the efforts that must have gone into the planning, coordination and organization of this event.
My apprehensive evening had turned into a fulfilling one and I came back vowing that I should try not to miss the future meets of this wonderful group.
It is heartening to know that a group of people on Facebook can be so passionate about reading and pushing everyone towards it that they take time out to conduct such events, despite being busy professionals. There is still hope for more population to get added to the world of readers. Smartphones and PS4s, well the competition from books is here to stay. We aren’t giving up yet.
More power to the gang of Did You Read Today. Keep reading and make sure Everyone Reads. This amazing bunch of people can be reached at https://www.facebook.com/groups/298335837333979/permalink/762347777599447/