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Barthwal’s ‘All Doors Armed’ discussed at ‘Authors from the Valley’

Dr. Tania Saili Bakshi

CHENNAI: Puducherry, the land of myriad cultures is set to witness a celebration of literary works sourced from across the world. Given that the words are celebrated throughout the town, it’s hardly surprising that the city is now eagerly preparing to host its very own literature festival. A novel venture that is being sewn under the banner of the Auroville Literature Festival, it will be held from August 25-27, across the various zones of Auroville’s International Zone campus.

Held in collaboration with the Chennai International Centre and the Valley of Words festival, with the backing of the Ministry of Culture to commemorate Sri Aurobindo’s 150th year and the Auroville Foundation, the festival will spotlight discussions covering a spectrum of works, ranging from timeless classics to modern bestsellers. During these sessions, distinguished keynote speakers and moderators will engage in conversations revolving around themes pertinent to today’s society.

Unveiling literary treasures

The two-and-a-half-day festival will have an eclectic mix of authors, poets, and thinkers, with a total of seven authors from the G20 nations, 17 representing India, approximately 10 constituting the Sri Aurobindo category, and three recipients of youth awards. This event will also showcase an array of panel discussions, talks, and presentations centred around Sri Aurobindo’s profound legacy.

Valley of Words|Shabdavali’s ‘Authors from the Valley’ 18th edition hosted yet another accomplished Doonite who has donned multiple hats. Manoj Barthwal, started his career as a journalist and hosted live programs for All India Radio, Lucknow. He made stints on television not only as a folk singer but for western country songs as well. Mr Barthwal later joined the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation limited, and retired as an Executive Director.

Post retirement, Mr Barthwal has returned to his passion of writing short stories in Hindi and English as well as a trainer, public speaker and keen golfer when he is not travelling.

Introducing the author, Festival Director, Dr Sanjeev Chopra said, “Manoj Barthwal is a top corporate professional whose HR and project management skills are acknowledged not only within the country, but also abroad. Besides his professional calling, he is also creative writer and critic in English, Hindi and Sanskrit. And to top it all, he is an avid golfer with deep interest in flora, fauna and the local history of Uttarakhand.”

The debut book of the author, ‘All Doors Armed’ is unique in its own way, given the fact that it has only been published on Kindle. It is a compilation of seven short stories that were inspired by the author’s travels home and abroad. Manoj writes in the initial pages, “Over a period of not more than two and half decades I had plenty of opportunities to travel exclusively within India and abroad. Each journey brought something unique. The moment the captain announced “all doors armed”, all passengers became partners in the journey. Each took out a book, slept, talked or simply looked out of the window.”

It was during his career spanning close to four decades, that his travels within home and ashore inspired these pages. These stories are a collection of some incidents, partly true, partly fictional. The title of each chapter is either an airport or place of visit that stayed with the author long after he had hopped on to yet another flight, to yet another destination.

As Dr Chopra put it, “All Doors Armed - is a lovely travelogue of air journeys undertaken by Manoj from the times when air travel was a luxury to now when it has become a fairly common mode of travel amongst the professional classes. Every time the doors are closed, each passenger- and the crew - begin a shared journey, and destiny, whether it is a short haul like the Delhi-Dehradun sector or a transatlantic flight which traverses oceans and civilizations. Yet each journey is unique and Manoj takes us with him as a co-traveller and tells us each other's stories in an inimitable style!”

The collection is ideal to go through from cover to cover on any inter-city flights and that was the author’s focus when he put pen to paper. Manoj tells us, “While the first story took over two years, the rest of the six, were completed in two months flat, post retirement.”

The unusual twist in the tale makes the stories interesting and hard to put down mid-way or should I say mid-air!

Held on the first Sunday of every month at VoW Café-Gallery-Library-Studio, Sahastradhara Road, ‘Authors from the Valley’ is gaining popularity amongst the city’s literature lovers of all age groups. This monthly, physical event of like-minded people has come a long way since it was last launched in January, 2022. In its 18th edition, the ‘Authors from the Valley’ has played host to numerous bilingual authors, veteran journalists, artists and all those who have been associated with the written word.

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