Maiden edition of Shillong Cherry Blossom Literary Festival held

Book launches by renowned authors

L-R Chief Secretary Rebecca Suchiang (in red sweater), Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, and Ambassador of Japan to India, Satoshi Suzuki. Photo Shillong Cherry Blossom Literary Festival

The first edition of Shillong Cherry Blossom Literary Festival was a three-day event that took place at Ward’s Lake from the 25 to 27 November 2021. It was inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Conrad K Sangma in the presence of the Ambassador of Japan to India, H E Satoshi Suzuki, among other dignitaries. The festival was organized by the Tourism Department as part of the 50 Years of Meghalaya celebrations. 

The program included a wide range of perspectives through the lens of language, literature, words, stories, and the many intersections with living cultures and the environment. The long list of speakers and performers included – authors, poets, journalists, scholars, artists, musicians, designers, filmmakers, and literary enthusiasts such as Amitav Ghosh, Naseeruddin Shah, Shekhar Gupta, Namita Gokhale, Ritu Menon, Devdutt Pattanaik, Kynpham Singh Nongkynrih, Patricia Mukhim, Arak Sangma, Khasi Bloodz, Iba Mallai, Careen J Langstieh, Ramona Sangma, Bijal Vaccharajani, Daisy Hasan, to name a few – from the state, and across the country. 

The festival also included the Reading Hub – a bookshop, library, storytelling, and book donation space. The shortlisted entries to the earlier launched ‘Youth Engagement Programme’ inviting submissions for short stories, essays, poetry, art, and photography were also announced during the literary carnival. 

The sessions varied from conversations on climate change to lyrics, fashion to publishing industry insights, film scripting to language and literature, mythology to art practice, and much more. A few books were also launched by authors Devdutt Pattanaik, Daribha Lyndem, and Balaji Vittal. There were also sessions around food that highlighted busting myths of our local cuisine, talks on archaeological sites found in Meghalaya, and sustainable eco-tourism. The program ended with Naseeruddin Shah in conversation with Lapdiang Syiem, leaving all attendees inspired. 

To quote from his memoir “One Actor, one Audience with the roles interchangeable’ had now become ‘Actor and Audience are one’.” – Naseeruddin Shah, And Then One Day: A Memoir

Taking inspiration from the Cherry Blossom trees of Meghalaya, and what Autumn evokes – harvest, preservation, and maturity, the organizing team had envisaged a program centred around these ideas. 

The Festival was located at the iconic century-old Wards Lake or Nan Polok as it is locally called, in the heart of the city of Shillong. It serves as a space that locals and visitors alike go to enjoy a gentle stroll, a quiet space to sit and read, to row a boat, and admire the flowers that bloom in the different seasons. An ideal place to celebrate Autumn and bring the community together, to host guests from near and far, and together experience the best of what Meghalaya has to offer. Many new perspectives took seed among the audiences at the venue and those who attended the Festival remotely via its live broadcasts.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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