The Story of GLF
In February 2013 a group of friends decided to create a literature festival for popularising Gujarati language and literature. They wanted to once again make it ‘cool’ amongst the youngsters to speak, read and write in Gujarati.
The impressions of Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) had also inspired many debates. But the subsequent thoughts took a little different shape. ‘Let’s not blindly do what others do. Let’s do something that also promotes Gujarati language and literature’. Besides, the language witnessing a decline in quality of literary works coming out, was a serious concern.
Gujaratis have easily embraced English and Hindi languages.
But it is happening at the cost of their own language – Gujarati. The language, though continues to be widely spoken, is losing its sheen as a representative of a culture that should inspire youngsters. Many see this as an early spell of doom for the language like its happening to many other regional languages. But these friends felt that popularilising it a again is a matter of presenting it in a more contemporary manner.
For several years, they witnessed with great concern and frustration, the deteriorating levels of Gujarati being spoken and written by young Gujaratis, Including themselves. Even journalists, whose bread and butter is writing, were witnessing a fall in the language skills in their own profession.
But as they saw that majority of students who failed in SSC in Gujarat did so because they had failed in their mother tongue ! Gujarati language, they felt it was evident that the time had come to address this issue actively.
There was unanimity among these friends that popularizing Gujarati language needed newer approach. Lest we wanted the culture and identity to be lost in the melting pot of globalization. They took it upon themselves to design an enjoyable event and not a preachy one. They decided to execute it as well. It was agreed that the festival will never exclude anyone on any grounds – it has to be the most inclusive event. It has to emerge as a platform where everything Gujarati finds its space.
It was ambitious to say the least. None of them were litterateurs themselves, most were journalists, entrepreneurs and literary enthusiasts. And no one had the experience of planning an event of this scale, but wanted to create the best experience for participants in their limited means. But when ignited minds, convinced about a cause and purpose come together, they create history. And thus GLF was born.
After months of planning in 2013, the first GLF was born as Gujarati Literature Festival in January 2014. To let people know that GLF has space for other languages too, the following year it was given a more inclusive title – Gujarat Literature Festival. With no change in commitment to Gujarati and sufficient space for all languages, it connected immediately with all.
It was driven with the overriding idea of making Gujarati language and literature, ‘cool’ for the youth. To motivate them to read, write, translate – basically tell their stories and hear those of the others. We also felt that unlike other literature festivals which were strictly focused on book writers, or those which were wedded to promoting the literature of a certain medium, GLF was born as a medium and genre-neutral festival.
GLF expanded the popular definition of literature from printed text in books to include all forms of literary storytelling and more.
It was conceptualised with the idea of ensuring that the literary pursuits give financial dignity to writers, poets and to make it a profitable proposition. To achieve this end, it was decided that every single Gujarati writer or creator who goes on stage ought to be financially remunerated. And this was at a time when these enthusiastic bunch had no clue how to raise money. But they knew that they were raising the bar and it is not going to be easy even for them in future as it was about raising expectations and norms.
The task of raising money has proved to be the steepest. But as they say, when you are determined, the universe conspires to make it happen. With little to spare, first GLF happened out of nearly empty pockets and personal contributions.
The three-day event – morning to evening – hosted over 120 authors, veterans and young writers, film writers, poets, playwrights, journalists, columnists, bloggers, Dayro artists, singers et al.
It was a runaway success. Our goal that youngsters should attend the event, was achieved. Over 50% of attendees were under 30 years of age. Entry to the festival was kept free after registration on GLF website and on the spot. Some of the events were webcast live on the Internet and they generated a viewership of over 7,500 in US, UK and Australia to name a few places.
The festival has expanded and evolved every year to include technological advancements and keeping up with global trends and the youth’s requirement of knowledge and education. The number of attendees of the event has grown manifold every year. But, GLF is not just an event. It is a movement. It is the faith of lakhs of our followers from across the globe, in the cause of the movement, that we wear with great pride on our sleeve and humbly accept the responsibility of it.
And so the founders prefer to stay away from the lime-light, except when essential. It helps them to ensure that the festival doesn’t deviate from its focus. The idea of this festival was never to ‘make profits’ as a commercial event, but generate sufficient surplus to stay independent and make a difference.
Gratitude and Acknowledgement
GLF will always be grateful to dozens of people and organisations who backed it generously in cash, kind and support. Sponsors who wholeheartedly supported us deserve a special mention. They are Piyush Desai, ParimalNathwani, Pranav Amin, BrajeshBajpai, Urmila Kanoria, BhagyeshJha, Vishnu Pandya, Chiranjiv Patel, Priyanshi Patel, AbhayMangaldas amongst many others, many who want to remain unnamed.