Saturday, January 14, 2017

Galle Literary Festival, 2017

a photo from her childhood in India
It has been 5 years since I was last in Galle, and 8 years since I was last at the Galle Literary Festival. I arrived with Riyaz and Nisreen on Thursday and went straight to an interview with Brigid Keenan, whom I had never heard of. Brigid was born in 1939 to Irish parents in Bombay, India where her father was an officer in the British Indian Army. She lived in India until she was 8 years old and from the emotional reading she gave of excerpts from one of her books about her early life there, India still has a place deep in her heart.

Brigid became a fashion journalist by accident - she was an assistant fashion editor at the Sunday Times in London in 1960, and in 1961 when the actual editor who was pregnant, was put on bed-rest, she became the editor by default, and spent the next several years writing about the fashion of the 'swinging 60s.' In the late 60s, she met her husband who was a diplomat, gave up fashion writing and spent many years of moving from country to country - mostly in Central Asia and the Arab world; she wrote Diplomatic Baggage, and Packing Up: Further Adventures of Trailing a Spouse about the very real job of being a diplomat's wife. The interview was fun and I was disappointed that I couldn't get a ticket to the another talk she is doing at the festival, one focusing on the fashion of the 60s, because I do love a good mini-dress.
After the morning session, Riyaz, Nisreen and I headed out of the 'fort' area which is where the lit fest venues are, and down the beach road to our different accommodations for the weekend. They dropped me off at Elephant Rock Cottage, which is where I'm staying. I'm in a very nice room up on a hill, with a balcony that looks into a bit of jungle.
it's hardly a "cottage" - my room is on the top, the big
windows are part of another rental until below mine. 
And then back for an afternoon event: John Gimlette, whom I had also never heard of, talking about his book Elephant Complex, about his travels through Sri Lanka. He also talked a lot about the British Tamil community where he lives in Tooting, a neighborhood in South London, which I have been too, and in which I have had wonderfully authentic Sri Lankan food. It was a nice talk - nothing earth-shattering, but always interesting to get an outsiders perspective on this island.

When we were done at the fest for the day, I went with Riyaz and Nisreen to the place where they and some other friends are staying, and walked around the beach neighborhood for a bit, before settling in with some drinks in the garden area of their bungalow for a competitive game of iPad Trivial Pursuit; Asita and Nisreen against Riyaz and me - pretty evenly matched teams, but we never finished the game as Lalith arrived and we moved onto the beach for dinner, which could not have been more spectacular: