9.00 am, April 22, 2016. It felt like I was ready to take on the world with my premier co-owned and organised event – WIC India Dehradun Literature Festival. Nervous and excited I stood on the stage at the host venue the World Integrity Center, contemplating, if things would change hereon for me from all aspects. I was to open the festival welcoming the authors, guests and the audience and was excited to witness the first-of-its-kind festival for book lovers in the city of Dehradun.
10.30 am on the clock when we opened the doors for people to start taking their seats at the open air venue inside WIC covered with pink and white coloured shamiana with the 12 feet backdrop displaying the logos of organising partners and Springhead Communications’ right on top. In PR, our job is to be the backend support for our clients, but here I stood ready to take on the challenge of being at the forefront of things. It was nerve wrecking and at the same time a high that could only be felt with substance consumption. The stage was set, I was ready to roll. Next 48 hours was a test of time for me.
I chose to be the stage host and moderator over the next two days and made sure every single person visiting was engaged during the sessions. Stage fear does not bother me as I have been a theatre person since the age of five. The biggest challenge was to pump up the energy levels in school kids who were present in the audience as the festival’s objective was to encourage the young generation to get back to reading books instead of wasting their time on social media gossip and stalking. I did convincingly, as critically shared by most present there, managed to keep the adrenalin rush (high on books and authors) going.
I was also moderating a session at a festival for the very first time and was dreading if I can live up to the expectations of everyone wanting a sensible conversation for an hour. The session was titled ‘Humanotions – From 2 Hours a Day to 24 Hours a Day’. To be honest, I had not much time to plan the moderation points, so I chose to go impromptu. A packed house with more than 300 people in the audience, eagerly awaiting to see and listen to 3 young best-selling authors, Durjoy Datta, Sumrit Shahi and Novoneel Chakraborty. We got on with the session and ranging from love, sex and dhokha to extramarital affair to a serious on-going issue of rapes in our country were well-captured during the session. Impromptu works well with me is what I realised by the end of it.
What truly transpired of it all was managing the expectations of the authors, the guests and most importantly the young and restless audience which primarily comprised of school and college students. The vision for this festival was to motivate and encourage younger generations to hit the bookstores and get back to real reading rather than only social (online) media all day long.
As the saying goes ‘all’s well that ends well’, I had never been at the backend as well as the forefront of an event other than my theatre days. This is a different ball game altogether. We had a crisis that struck us on Day 1. It was warm in Dehradun and all of a sudden during the later half of the day, it started pouring but the team at WIC never lost the plot. The show went on; we moved to an indoor venue and the most awaited session of this festival of the best-selling and award-winning author Ashwin Sanghi had more than 500 in the audience cramped up to hear him speak moderated by the founder of World Integrity Center – Nazia Izuddin.
What we had not accounted for was the weather change and a rock band performance to close the first day, which was in the open venue which could accommodate 500+ people. Since it kept drizzling, the sound systems had to be packed of even before the sound test could happen. For a brief moment, it stopped, the band went on stage for the sound test, as they began, the showers came down. This went on for 2.5 hours before the skies cleared out and the band hit the stage with a limited number of people in the audience. Day 1 closed on a high note.
Day 2 was a challenge by itself. The shamiana, backdrops, chairs, sound equipment, and everything outdoors had to be spruced up before the 10.00 am. It being a long weekend and zillion weddings in Dehradun, logistics suppliers were in a fix to give us the required time. The WIC logistics person single-handedly managed all aspects of logistics and in a true sense he used ‘Jugaad’ to get everything up and running by 9.00 am. The session began at 10.30 am, and I was on stage to open the second which had doubled audience after much buzz created in the local papers. Day 2 was the final day of the festival and as it drew to a close by 5.00 pm, it was feeling of contend that swept me. I felt I had added another but a noticeable feather in my hat. I realised that being high on life does not need any substance consumption; it’s to plan and execute things with much desire and commitment. Not for a moment, I felt through those two days that what I have I got myself into. NOT A SINGLE SECOND. It was an accomplishment for me to have taken up this challenge and over-delivering.
Text by Subhashish Bharuka
Images courtesy: Subhashish Bharuka
The author is the founding CEO of brand and media consultancy firm Springhead Communications. In 2012, he began his public relations consultancy which now offers 360-degree marketing and communications services. This April he co-created and organised the first edition of Dehradun Literature Festival in partnership with the World Integrity Center, Dehradun.