If you carry a notebook (and a pen), you’ll find yourself scribbling notes or writing down a line that grabs you, a word you need to 'google' or a sketch you wish to doodle
1. For the love of poetry: The world stops when a poet recites. And you should too. Hear Adonis recite some of his great works of poetry, and even if you don’t understand the words, try to appreciate the musicality of his verse, and in the use of language. Adonis is the greatest living poet in Arabic and he insists on not having screens with translations for precisely that reason. Catch rare appearances by our very own stars too: Helal Hafiz, Nirmalendu Goon, Kaiser Haq, Asad Chowdhury and many others. Catch performance poetry and original voices flying thousands of miles to recite their works. Catch Jerry Pinto, Sophia Walker, André Naffis-Sahely, Bigoa Chuol. And there’s Nabaneeta Dev Sen. I rest my case.
2. Challenge yourself I: You of course know which genre, which speakers and which sessions interest you, and poetry may not be your thing. But dashing in and out of sessions won’t get you a real flavour; instead challenge yourself to stay put till the end of a session and maybe you’ll end up appreciating something you thought was not your cup of tea. If you carry a notebook (and a pen), you’ll find yourself scribbling notes or writing down a line that grabbed you, a word you need to “google” or a sketch you wish to doodle. Trust me, it’s all very useful, and you’ll thank me one day.
3. Challenge yourself II: There’s another way of challenging yourself. Catch a session that features Lionel Shriver, Lawrence Osborne, Garga Chatterjee, Roderick Matthews or Sudeep Chakravarti whose book I’m eagerly looking forward to, simply titled The Bengalis. You may not agree with everything they say but it will do two things to you. First, you’ll wake up hearing some original ideas, and second, it’ll make you think, ponder and read, all of which can only mean good things.
4. Aim, focus, shoot: Take a selfie, take lots of pictures and win a prize too. Take a selfie with a writer you enjoyed reading or would want to read after hearing him/her speak at the festival, but ask for permission. Not everyone likes to be selfied but most would be happy to be photographed with you and your friends. When taking photos, please refrain from using flash inside the auditoriums but please do tag us (#dhakalitfest) and if we like your capture(s), we will reward you with multiple and attractive prizes. We will be checking every picture uploaded on social media with the hash-tag during and after the festival. So click away and Tweet us, Facebook us, Instagram us. We would love it as much as you!
5. Book signing and quick chat: A very pleasant moment for a writer is when a reader has requested to sign a copy of their book. It is a win-win situation: The writer is happily signing, and it is a perfect moment to ask them a question or give a compliment. Of course, the signed copy then becomes a prized-possession on your shelves, which someday could and should turn into your family library. Alternatively, if you want to make someone feel special, gift him or a signed copy made out to him or her.
6. Team DLF office: Come say hello. Meet the team behind the operation — it’s not just the three directors you see, it’s a full team of talented individuals who are extremely crucial to the success of the festival. Maybe you have a suggestion for us, a fantastic idea that could be implemented next year, maybe you want to join us or maybe you just want to say thank you — whatever it is, we would appreciate it in writing. You can support us in many ways and one cool way would be to buy a few items from the DLF merchandise, which would be available at the DLF office on site.
7. Making movies: As well as plays, Sir David Hare writes screenplays and you have probably seen them: The Hours, The Reader, Denial and many more. Esther Freud’s first novel was turned into a blockbuster hit: Hideous Kinky. Ben Okri wrote the script for a mesmerising film on the life of musician Raymond Borremans. The relationship between the written word and the screen has never been closer. Read the book first, though, and make your movie in your head, and do it right inside the festival premises! A moment of quiet contemplation by the pond, under one of the big trees to read, imagine and dream might be the much-needed antidote to break away from the festival frenzy, even if for a few minutes.
8. Alt-stuff: The spiritual songs early in the day will set you in the mood, while you sip some gorom cha or down a double-shot espresso, and start marking all the sessions you want to catch. Plan your day. Maybe you are curious about all the alternative panels DLF has to offer: Andrew Feinstein on the global arms trade, Sandro Kopp on the portraits he sketches and the story they tell, Tamanna-E-Lutfi and Nayma Hoque on being the two female pilots in South Asia to first fly the Bell-206 helicopter.
9. William Dalrymple on the Koh-i-Noor: You must know this by now, that Dalrymple is one of the most brilliant speakers on history you will find on stage today. Together with his impassioned delivery, he knows exactly how much to share and when, a master in the art of holding an audience captive, all on tenterhooks for the next slide or story. On a side note, don’t miss an exhibition on site of his black & white photography, which is beautiful. And if you get a chance, maybe ask him how he knows Tilda Swinton from his childhood?
10. Tilda Swinton! Tilda Swinton — in Dhaka! Last not least, you don’t want to miss the Oscar-winning, multi-faceted, supremely gifted actor and artist, the White Witch, the Ancient One, etc. Not only Tilda will be in conversation with me, discussing Performance as Authorship, she will also read from the works of late John Berger to introduce the documentary that she made on the man, and for which we obtained the rights to screen at the festival. It’s free and all for you!
Ahsan Akbar is a Director of Dhaka Lit Fest. All views expressed in this piece are his strictly his own.