Delhi Gymkhana Club, one of the elitist clubs in Lutyens’ Delhi, recently conducted its first edition of DGC Literature and Ideas Festival. It was for the first time that this exclusive club, which has a distinguished membership list of former Prime Ministers, senior Government and defense officials, members of the judiciary, corporate heads and other eminent citizens, opened doors for general public.
The club celebrated its centenary year in 2013, and has a massive library that has a collection of approximately thirty-five thousand books with reading rooms for adults and children. This one-of-a-kind book event was inaugurated by the Former Governor of Arunachal and Chief of Army Staff Gen J J Singh, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, ADC (Retd). An august gathering of authors, opinion makers, media celebs, academics and artists like Valmik Thapar, Anuja Chauhan, Sharmila Tagore, Vikas Swarup, Pavan Varma, Nandita Das, Dr Farooq Addullah etc. attended various sessions that were conducted as part of this festival between Feb 12th – 14th.
At this book festival, we met the lady who conceptualized, planned and executed this successful event in just three weeks! Mrs. Urmila Gupta, director, Delhi Gymkhana Club Literature & Ideas Festival, gives us the story behind this lit gala. She says, “Some of our elected members from the club run a monthly book club, and the chairman of the committee thought that so many of our members write books so why not do a small lit fest and invite them to read their books. However, I suggested that if we have to do a literature festival it has to be more elaborate, and since I have done a lot of events in the past I could use that experience to create a festival of books and ideas. I am a regular visitor at the Jaipur Literature Fest, for past 7 years I have been going there and all the organizers there are like family, so I knew what goes behind creating a good festival. The challenge was to create something in a short period of time, I was lucky that we have a great venue i.e. our Gymkhana Club, but getting everyone on board in a short notice was a task.”
“While discussing the concept of this festival we thought what should be the first edition like”, she mentions, adding “People are usually interested in contemporary issues that are relevant to our social, economic and political scenario, but we also had to keep in mind there were all kinds of people within the club so it had to be a mix of both light and serious subjects. I keep using the analogy that our first edition should be like a feast – there should be something sweet, something spicy, something savoury – so that it doesn’t get too esoteric or too specialized for a smaller audience. Since this is the first time, we wanted that not only our club members but also people from other backgrounds come to attend it.”
People are busy these days, and in Delhi it is hard to get people together so we bought together, so the team bought together some very talented speakers to attract the audience. The director of the festival says, “We hope with the number of people increasing the sponsorships will also come in. Most of our members are elderly, but we also have younger members who can’t attend our tea-time book clubs because they are busy at work. We wanted to show everyone this was not a fuddy-duddy event, and everyone who is interested in books and debates is welcomed with open arms. Our club’s image is very conservative and traditional so for the first time we opened it for the non-members as well. We have an amazing infrastructure and the response has been very encouraging, so hopefully the next edition will be a bigger issue.”