Sun sets on Khushwant Litfest, organisers promise a better sequel

"It is a full house on a Sunday morning and it is both, heartening and encouraging,'' smiled actor, painter and writer Deepti Naval on the concluding day of the three-day Khushwant Singh Literary Festival. Titled Holidays in Kasauli, writers Navtej Sarna, Inderjit Badhwar, Minakshi Chaudhury and Naval read excerpts from their books and recounted their close association with the hills. "I am an old soul in these mountains,'' said Naval, who spoke about her love for hill stations like Manali, Kasauli and Ladakh. She read a short story from 'The Mad Tibetan: Stories From Then and Now'.

The session also prompted a discussion on the urgent need to preserve the environment and quaint hill stations through a collective effort. 'The Ecological Gardener', Pradip Krishen, in an absorbing slide show spoke on the efforts made by his team towards the Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park in Jodhpur. Krishen rehabilitated the 70-acre area around the Mehrangarh Fort, a severely eroded expanse of volcanic outcrops. From a desert to now an oasis, Krishen took the audience through the magic that was created to make the area green and also open to visitors. "Native plants are what we need to plant, as they require less care,'' Krishen took the audience to greener pastures. In keeping with the festival's ecological interest, an essay-writing competition was organised for schoolchildren.

A session on History of Sikhs was conducted by Navtej Sarna and Suneet Aiyar and Nirupama Dutt.

The highlight of the concluding day was the auction of Khushwant Singh's latest book `The Free Thinker's Prayer Book', which went for Rs 51,000. "We will be back next year with a bigger and better festival,'' the organisers promised.

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