Ooty Literary Festival

September 15 & 16, 2016. Be there!!!

Welcome To OLF


Written by Dr.C.S.Lakshmi

C.S.Lakshmi is a researcher and a writer who writes in a the pen name – Ambai. She is one of the founder trustees of SPARROW (Sound & Picture Archives for Research on Women) and currently its Director.

Just returned from Ooty where a wonderful literary festival had been organized on 16th and 17th September, by the Ooty Literary Festival Trust headed by Yash Muthanna, supported by other trustees Geetha Srinivasan and Gerard Pinto and coordinated by a very efficient convener Greaves Henriksen. A sub-committee consisting of young people like Dr.Meenakshi Venkataraman, Dr.Sheela Nambiar MD, a medical doctor, Madhavi Ravindranath with All India Radio, Ooty and Ms.Shernaz H Sethna managed the sessions in what seemed like an effortless and easy going manner although they must have put in many hours of work to pack so many interesting sessions into two days. With Jerry Pinto as advisor, the festival was a unique one conducted with warmth and camaraderie, Without the buzz of a city and literary stars from all over the world and Indian film stars and an unmanageable crowd hovering around, one could breathe easily and listen to what was being spoken in the sessions with mountains and old colonial structures for company. The venue was the 156-years-old Gothic bu8ilding, Nilgiri Library, tucked away from the main road, hidden by tall trees.
It was mildly cold but the event, the discussions and the hospitality were so warm that often we had to remove our shawls and join the discussions which were not heated but invigorating. A wide range of themes like fiction, poetry, non-fiction, environment, children’s literature, publishing and translation were included and it was a two-day treat one is not likely to forget. Most of us stayed at the Ooty Club, another colonial structure with its long corridors and large halls with hunting trophies and photographs of Britishers riding horses and rooms with fireplaces. Theodore Baskaran was able to tell us about the wild animals that made the hunting trophies and about how these hunting sprees wiped away the gene pool of some of the rarest of wild animals. Ooty Club has a bartender who makes the most wonderful Bloody Mary and in the evenings when the fireplace in the hall was lit up, the ambience became very intimate and casual and the conversation always veered into discussions on life and literature.

Left to Right: Theodore Baskaran, Mansoor Khan, C.V.Ranganathan, Mark Tully and Sheela Nambiar

The sessions began with discussions on non-fiction and there was Mansoor Khan along with Theodore Baskaran, Mark Tully and Sheela Nambiar to talk about the motivations behind writing non-fiction books on development, polities, environment and health. After a while I realised Mansoor Khan was really the ‘star’ of the festival for all of us could immediately think of only Qayamat se QayamatTak (QSQT as people called it), a 1988 film that he had directed on young love. But this was a different Mansoor Khan. This Mansoor Khan was a farmer who had settled down in Coonoor to do cheese farming and to live on a large farm with jersey cows, ducks, chicken and geese. He was at the Ooty Literary Festival to talk about his book ‘The Third Curver’, which critiques the growth model of development adopted in India.

Mark Tully and Gillian Wright

Mark Tully was there with his partner Gillian Wright and regaled us with not only his BBC experiences but also about his personal life which Gillian propped him to reveal. Mark Tully readily shares the fact that he had actually wanted to be a priest and was training in a seminary when a friend invited him for a drink. Mark told him that he must be sober when he returned for the Evensong. The friend persuaded him saying the pub closed by afternoon and that he would certainly be able to return very sober. It so happened that the pub closed only at 6 P.M. and when Mark returned for the Evensong he was not in the best frame of mind. He was thrown out of the seminary. The Bishop told him: You don’t belong to the church; you belong to the public house!

MT Vasudevan Nair and Karthika

The legendary writer M.T.Vasudevan Nair was there and Karthika of Harper Collins was in conversation with him in a session where he was supposed to talk about the Bhima of Malayalam literature. MT read out from a prepared speech and wshen it comes to conversations everyone knows that MT can be a man of few words wshen he wants to be. But he could be a man of such few words we found out only in Ooty. Despite Karthika’s relentless and valiant efforts to make a conversations possible, MT answered in monosyllables or in two or three words. When she asked him about how it was to work with super stars as a film director he merely said: I made them [super stars]. Long questions of Karthika were merely answered with a why, how and so what. The best was the last question asked by a person in the audience who could not resist showing off that he had read Shakespeare, and wanted to know what MT thought of Shakespeare’s lines of life being “ a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” “Why not?” MT said and the conversation came to an end.

Left to Right: Vijay Nambisan, Susan Daniel, Arundathi Subramanian, Gillian Wright and Sajai Jose

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the famous Spanish writer who wrote Don Quizote once said that “ translating from one language to another, unless it is from Greek and Latin, the queens of all languages, is like looking at Flemish tapestries from the wrong side, for although the figures are visible, they are covered by threads that obscure them, and cannot be seen with the smoothness and colour of the right side.” Despite that valiant efforts are being made translate from one Indian language to another and from other languages to Indian languages and from Indian languages to English. The translation session with Arundhathi Subramanian, Vijay Nambisan, Susan Daniel, Sajai Jose and Gillian Wright opened up the world of living with two or more languages and dealing with their sounds, rhythms, metaphors and the struggles involved in transferring them to a totally different English language and still managing to maintain the purity of the original constantly worrying that not the other side of the carpet but the right side is being revealed. Sajai Jose spoke in his soft and warm voice about the experience of translating into English Johny Maranda’s Malayalam novella, JeevichirikkunnavarkkuVendiyullaOppees, considered a Kochi novel, as Requiem for the Living.

Left to Right: Kaveri Nambisan, Devika Rangachari, Anushka Ravishankar and Shobha Vishwanath

Left to Right: Kaveri Nambisan, Yasmeen Premji, Sheela Nambiar, Sangeetha Shinde and Aroon Raman

It was nice to open the world of children talking about what we write for children and Shobha Viswanath, Anushka Ravishankar, Devika Rangachari and Kaveri Nambisan told us how difficult it is to write for children when you don’t want to moralise and want to move away from Panchatantra Tales and Chandamama stories but still hold their interest in these Harry Potter days. The fiction session and Aroon Raman who kept us in splits talking about how he came to write mystery novels- the best was the incident in his school days when he had to borrow on sports day, the shorts of a rather fat boy because the dhobi had failed to bring his and had to do the high jump. He cleared the highest scales and could hear the cheering crowd but realised that the crowd was actually clapping for something else. It the process of jumping, his shorts had been left on the other side of the scales!- and Sangeetha Shinde who spoke in very soft tones about her stories and Yasmeen Premji who spoke about taking twenty years to write a novel which contained the oral histories of her family. Colonel Vinod Bhasker spoke about his book Blue Jeans to Olive Greens and how he turned to fiction.

Left to Right: CS Lakshmi, Madhavi Ravindranath and Col.Vinod Bhasker

Maybe because of the warm comforting shawls we wore in the mild cold and sitting in a room surrounded by mountains, the sessions on writing on environment and the poetry sessions were the most unforgettable sessions. When Theodore Baskaran spoke about sitting by the Devarayan lake with a mist covering the area and watching a skein of geese descending in the mist as the most beautiful moment that led him to writing about wild life, what he said blended with the atmosphere and the rest of what he spoke was sheer poetry. Tarun Chhabra who is by profession a dentist, spoke about his research on the Todas and all of us demanded that he should sign and after reading out the lyrics of the song he finally yielded and sang a couple of lines.

Dr.Meenakshi Venkataraman

I wish when I was a child travelling with my father sometimes to coffee estates in Karnataka for he was an Accounts Officer at Coffee Board, I had known someone like Meenakshi Venkataraman or seen a book like the one she has written on insects, for that would have taught me what it is to love insects. Meenakshi is an ecologist and Secretary of Nilgiris Natural History Society and is extremely unassuming about the path breaking book for lay people all over the world that she has written. Her book on insects, A Concise Field Guide to Indian Insects and Arachnids, is a book meant not just for nature lovers but for those who do not know what treasures nature holds for all of us and in what forms. In a simple and lucidly written note in the book she explains why we should know about insects:
“Insects and arachnids, more often than not, evoke feelings of revulsion disgust and fear amongst the large majority of us. Butterflies, with their striking colours, are perhaps the only insect family that fascinates and beguiles us; the rest do not merit much of our attention. Nevertheless, insects and arachnids play a more important role in our ecosystem than we would like to imagine. Their presence or absence is as good an indicator of its health as that of any birds or mammals. Much of our disaffirming perception of insects and arachnids emerges largely due to ignorance and prejudice and it’s about time that people get to know these organisms better and book at these allegedly obnoxious creatures in a more empathetic light. In India, while we have quite a number of field guides and information on birds, reptiles, mammals and even butterflies for the lay person, we do not have a handy and basic field guide on insects and arachnids. This book seeks to fill this lacuna… There are over 1 millions species of insects and over 100.000 species of arachnids present today, with many more being identified daily. Given such a magnitude, to try and identify every individual specimen is not possible. Instead, an easier approach is to familiarize oneself with the common characteristics and key identification for different families. This book aims to do so – by walking the reader through the different, orders, using beautiful photographs of these amazing organisms- and will help identify most of them out in the field. Arachnids abound just as insects, and this book serves as two guides in one book. Thought we have limited ourselves to insects and arachnids found in the southern states of India, most species are quite ubiquitous and are found through most parts of India. This guide, therefore, can be used quite easily anywhere in India.”
Meenakshi spoke about her book in the same simple and evocatively way the book itself is written. Later when I read the introduction to the book by RaghavendraGadagkar, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science. Bangalore, I realised how much this book would contribute to the future of not only our children but children all over the world. In the introduction he writes:
“ Most people are either smitten by a love for or bitten by a fear of insects- and both conditions are based almost entirely on experiences in childhood. Any child that is encouraged to explore nature with a field guide to insects is most likely to develop a life-long fascination for these remarkable co-inhabitants of our planet. IN India, we have plenty of curious, intelligent children, but we have no field guides to our insects. Armed with remarkable photographs of insects and arachnids by T.N.A.Perumal and others, Dr.Meenakshi Venkataraman may have just begun to fill this lacuna. She has produced A Field Guide to Indian Insects and Arachnids that is sure to convert nine out of ten children who get hold of this book from a hobby of crushing grasshoppers and tying dragonflies with a thread, to a hobby of collecting beetles, watching butterflies and rearing caterpillars. Believe me, this is a service far more valuable to the future of our children than all the coaching classes that are the order of the day.”

Left to Right: Tanya Mendonsa, Vijay Nambisan, Arundhathi Subramanian and Meenakshi Venkataraman

The poetry session with Tanya Mendonsa, Vijay Nambisan and Arundhathi Subramanian belonged to the mountains for they referred to heights one could reach in poetry and the joy of writing poetry. When Arundhathi recited her poems one suddenly felt that one was standing underneath a waterfall which came down with great force and yet when it touched one, it was gentle and caressing. The impact of the poetry session lasted even beyond the session.
In almost all the sessions the discussions always somehow turned to what it was to be a writer and what it meant to write. The writers did not seem to be in an enviable position when it came to either recognition or making a living with the royalties they got. Nor was it easy even for a well-meaning publisher to publish what she considered a good book for the good books had to struggle to make it in a market which demanded popular, easy-to-read books. Finally Tanya Mendonsa had to tell us a joke to conclude the festival. The joke was that god was talking down the road and saw a man crying. He asked him what the matter was. He said he was lame. God touched him and he became Okay. God walked further down the road and saw another man crying and asked him what was wrong. He said he was blind. God gave him sight and continued to talk. He saw a third person crying and went and asked him what was bothering him. “ I am a writer” he said upon which God himself sat down and began to cry!

Writers and Organizers of Literary Festival 2016


In the autumn of 2015, Yash Muthanna came up with the idea of starting a literary festival in the salubrious hills of the Nilgiris. Surprised at the fact that no one else(including herself!) had thought of such an obvious idea before, she set about forming a trust with willing trustees who also wanted to put Ooty on the national (and maybe international) literary festival map. With a whole year before them, they aimed to have the very first lit fest in Ooty by September 2016.

With so many schools (residential and day) in the entire Nilgiri district, books have always been a large part of every student’s life. And with so many remote and not-so-remote tea estates all across the district, reading has always been a large part of one’s life on the plantations too. Curling up with an engrossing book with a cup of piping hot Orange Pekoe tea before a blazing fire place with the South-West monsoon raging outside, is a pleasure beyond compare!

And where would all these books be sourced from? The charming Nilgiri Library of course. And hence, which better place to hold a literary festival than right there; a charming, well-maintained and well-stocked library, which has been a source of books for the residents across the entire Nilgiri District since 1869. It is one of the oldest public libraries in India, housed in a Victorian building with Gothic style architecture in the heart of the town; a truly apt venue for a Literary Festival!

About Us

The people behind the Ooty Literary Festival (OLF) are Yash Muthanna (Managing Trustee), Geetha Srinivasan (Trustee), Gerard Pinto (Trustee) and Greaves Henriksen (Convener). Sub - Committee members are Shernaz Sethna , Meenakshi Venkatraman , Madhavi Ravindranath and Dr Sheela Nambiar.
Advisor: Jerry Pinto

Jerry Pinto is a Mumbai-based writer of poetry, prose, non-fiction and children's fiction, as well as a journalist and lecturer. Some of his books are: Surviving Women. Penguin Books, Asylum and Other Poems. Allied Publishers India, Helen: The Life and Times of An H-Bomb. Penguin Books India, Biography, Reflected in Water: Writings on Goa. Penguin Group, Leela: A Patchwork Life with Leela Naidu. Penguin Group, Em and the Big Hoom. Aleph Book Company, Phiss Phuss Boom, with Anushka Ravishankar and Sayoni Basu. Duckbill, A Bear for Felicia, Puffin India and many more.

Awards: National Film Award for Best Book on Cinema for Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb, The Hindu Literary Prize winner for Em and the Big Hoom, Crossword Book Award (fiction) for Em and the Big Hoom and the Windham–Campbell Literature Prize (Fiction) at Yale University in 2016.


Ms.Karthika, V.K

Dr. C. S. Lakshmi (“Ambai”)

Sir Mark Tully

Mr.M. T. Vasudevan Nair

Dr. Kavery Nambisan

Mr.Vijay Nambisan

Mr.Sajai Jose

Ms.Shobha Viswanath

Mr.S.Theodore Baskaran

Ms.Tanya Mendonsa

Mr.Mansoor Hussain Khan

Mr.Aroon Raman

Lt.Col.Vinod Bhasker

Dr.Meenakshi Venkataraman

Ms.Indu Mallah

Dr. Sheela. Nambiar MD

Ms.Anushka Ravishankar

Mr.Jerry Pinto

Ms.Gillian Wright

Dr.Tarun Chhabra

Ms.Sangeetha Shinde

Ms.Susan Daniel

Ms.Arundhathi Subramaniam

Ms.Amudha Valli

Ms.Yasmeen Premji

Dr.Devika Rangachari


Ms.Yash Muthanna

Managing Trustee

Ms.Geetha Srinivasan


Mr.Gerard Pinto


Mr.Greaves Henriksen


Sub Committee Members

Dr.Meenakshi Venkataraman

Dr. Sheela. Nambiar MD

Ms.Madhavi Ravindranath

Ms.Shernaz H.Sethna


September 16,2016

Session title Moderator Speakers Time
1.TELLING IT LIKE IT IS: The stories behind non-fiction 10 AM - 11 AM
Our panel represents a variety of genres: their concerns span the development of economies, personal health and the TK. C V Ranganathan Mansoor Khan
S Theodore Baskaran
Mark Tully
Sheela Nambiar
2.THE BHIMA OF MALAYALAM LITERATURE: M T Vasudevan Nair V K Karthika M T Vasudevan Nair 11.15 AM-12.15 PM
M T Vasudevan Nair is one of those writers who really needs no introduction. Come and meet the hero of Malayalam letters.
3.WORKING YOUR WAY THROUGH: How writers deal with and set up organisations Madhavi Ravindranath C S Lakshmi 12.15 PM -1.15 PM
Ambai is also C S Lakshmi,the woman who set up the women's sound and picture archive, SPARROW. She will be joined by Vinod Bhaskar who served in the Indian Army. How do writers find their muse in the midst of an organisation? Come and find out. Vinod Bhasker
LUNCH 1.15 PM - 2.15 PM
4.THE WRONG SIDE OF THE CARPET?: Why we translate Arundhathi Subramaniam Sajai Jose 2.15 PM - 3.15 PM
“Reading a translation is like looking at the wrong side of a carpet,” the saying goes. Translation always seems to get lost in transition. And yet, it is the one way we have of cross-fertilizing stories, carrying them across the rivers of language and culture and watching them take strange shapes in their new homes. Vijay Nambisan
Susan Daniel
Gillian Wright
5.WRITING FOR THE ADD GENERATION: Are children still reading? Shobha Vishwanath Anushka Ravishankar 3.15 PM - 4.15 PM
“Children make the most demanding audiences. They will not continue reading something that doesn’t make them want to know what happened next. They’re not interested in prizes and reviews. Meet the men and women who take up the challenge of trying to keep the attention deficit generation glued to a book. Kavery Nambisan
Devika Rangachari
TEA TIME 4.15 PM - 4.30 PM
6.WORDS THAT MAKE MUSIC: Poetry time Meenakshi Venkataraman Tanya Mendonsa 4.30 PM - 5.30 PM
We present some of the finest and most original voices of our times. Come soak in some poetry. Vijay Nambisan
Arundhathi Subramaniam

September 17,2016

Session title Moderator Speakers Time
1.HOW TO GET PUBLISHED Indu Mallah V K Karthika 10 AM -11 AM
Every aspiring author wants to know how to get her or his work known to a wider public. Three veterans of the publishing industry will be on our panel, representing a variety of forms—from the oral tradition to print. Come and get your answers. Anushka Ravishankar
Shobha Vishwanath
2.NO FULL STOPS FOR MR TULLY: Talking Mark Gillian Wright Mark Tully 11.15 AM-12.15 PM
Mark Tully is one of the best-known commentators on India. His books have become milestones in the history of Indian literature. And he loves railway engines too
3.STORYTELLERS ANONYMOUS: The purveyors of fine fictions Sheela Nambiar Kavery Nambisan 12.15 PM -1.15 PM
Every so often someone tells us portentously that the novel is dying. We present some writers who show this to be a fiction too Sangeetha Shinde
Aroon Raman
Yasmeen Premji
LUNCH 1.15 PM - 2.15 PM
4.BUILDING A SPARROW’S NEST: C S Lakshmi Arundhathi Subramaniam C S Lakshmi 2.15 PM - 3.15 PM
C S Lakshmi is not just one of the best-known names of Tamil fiction, she is also the founder of one of the largest archives of women’s writing and creativity. Meet the multi-faceted institution builder
5.THE GREEN WRITER: Ecological concerns, natural nuances M.R. Srinivasan S Theodore Baskaran
Tarun Chhabra
Meenakshi Venkataraman
3.15 PM - 4.15 PM
“Children make the most demanding audiences. They will not continue reading something that doesn’t make them want to know what happened next. They’re not interested in prizes and reviews. Meet the men and women who take up the challenge of trying to keep the attention deficit generation glued to a book. Kavery Nambisan
Devika Rangachari
TEA TIME 4.15 PM - 4.30 PM
6.WRITING OOTY: Our stories Aroon Raman Indu Mallah 4.30 PM - 5.30 PM
Ootacamund, Ooty, Udhagamandalam...the name resounds with a certain magic. There are legends here and stories, some of them that grew up with the colonial empire but many that predate it. Meet the storytellers. Sangeetha Shinde
Tarun Chhabra
Susan Daniel

School Programme

The Lawrence School, Lovedale to Host the Children’s Segment(English Medium Schools) of the Ooty Lit Fest

“Books are a uniquely portable magic”, so remarked Stephen King. Moreover, add to that a magical milieu and what we have is a recipe for a book lover’s haven.

Thus providing a true ‘Reader’s Haven’ is The Lawrence School, Lovedale as it partners with the first ever Ooty Lit Fest, hosting the children’s segment of the Fest on 17th September, 2016. With its rolling greens, majestic portals, stately turrets, imposing steeples, intriguing stairways and alleys and what have you;the school is a vision straight out of Hogwarts!

One can easily imagine Alice listening to her sister reading out to her under one of the majestic trees dotting the campus, when she spots the rabbit (they actually flourish on the campus) and follows him into the rabbit’s hole to wonderland.

The School does hope that the children attending the Festival from schools across the Nilgiris also follow the three famed story-tellers, Ms.Shobha Vishwanath, Dr. Devika Rangachari and Ms. Anushka Ravishankar, into the wondrous world of reading and books. For in the words of George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”

C.S.I. C.M.M. School, Ooty to Host the Children’s Segment (Tamil Medium Schools) of the Ooty Lit Fest

The C.S.I. C.M.M.School is the oldest and pioneering project of C.S.I. Diocise. The C.S.I. Canon Moorhouse Memorial Middle School is one of the oldest schools of Udhagamandalam (Ooty) founded in the year 1823.

Formerly it was known as C.M.S.Higher Elementary School. This institution was a feeder school to the only High School run by the Municipality in the town. It was upgraded to a High School in the year 1988.

Helped by the great Canon Moorhouse and the founder members of the school, they dedicated this service to the poor children of Udhagamandalam for the improvement of their education (sports facilities and a library) irrespective of religious background.

Places to visit

Pykara Falls
Shooting Spot
Pykara Lake
Kodanad View Point
Kallatty Falls
Botanical Gardens

Places to stay

Taj Savoy Ooty


Gem Park Ooty


Sullivan Court, Ooty


King Cliff, Ooty


Sherlock, Ooty




“Akasha” 15/24 Plains View ,
Tiger Hill, Coonoor,
The Nilgiris 643 101.

+91 9443058866


Contact Name : Greaves Henriksen (Convener)

Ooty Literary Festival - OLF