Qalam 2023: Manipal’s Largest Literary Fest

The core of humanity lies in art and creativity. The ties that transcend all barriers of age, race and geography can all be traced to the imagination of the human mind
. To celebrate this creativity, the Manipal Association of Pharmacy Students held Qalam over the third weekend of March 2023. Back after an unfortunate sabbatical caused by the pandemic, Manipal’s biggest literary fest promised to be a truly delightful affair.

The fest kicked off on the morning of the 18th with a formal Inauguration ceremony at Melaka Manipal Medical College (MMMC). It was presided over by Dr C Mallikarjuna Rao, Principal of Manipal College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Dr Rekha Shenoy, the faculty coordinator of the Editorial Board of MCOPS. Ms Aarthika Srinivasan, the Editor-in-Chief, gave an insightful speech about Qalam and the events that were lined up. Dr C Mallikarjuna Rao delivered a speech expressing his pride at the scale of the fest and appreciating the Editorial Board of MAPS for their dedication. With the fest declared open, the inaugural ceremony drew to a close and participants assembled for the first event.


The first event of Qalam was the British parliamentary debate. All participants were divided into eight teams of four, played in three rounds: a knock-out round, semi-finals and finals. The debate tested the abilities of the speakers to make valid arguments as the government or opposition whilst defending their stand on contemporary issues. Participants’ proficiency on the subject, the nuance of their stand and communication skills to defend their stand and refute the opposing camp were tested to the limit. In the end, the debates turned out to be equally entertaining and illuminating for the participants and audience alike.


The next event was conducted at in the  lecture hall 3a of MMMC at 3:30 pm. The participants were asked to write prose while adhering to certain conditions: the prose had to begin with the word ‘discoball’, the main character in the prose had to be unusually optimistic and there also had to be five words in it that rhyme with the word ‘peace‘. With an hour in hand to write, the participants displayed a remarkably fierce spirit and ingenuity in their writing.


Art is subjective, with the same being said of its creators. With that in mind, this event was conducted at lecture hall 4a of MMMC at 4 pm. The participants were given the option to either write or draw and paint based on a prompt titled, ‘The Art of Illusion‘. The ambiguous nature of the prompt presented an excellent opportunity for the participants to provide an appreciable measure of the shape and form of their thoughts on paper. The event churned out magnificent pieces of art and writing, which were evaluated in separate categories. The uniqueness of the event was lauded by everyone.



The dramatization event took place at Melaka Manipal Medical College from 5.30 p.m onwards. The challenge assigned the participants various emotions, ranging hilariously from anger to constipation, that they had to emulate in short unmatching sentences such as ‘My prince charming will come save me’ provided by the judges by acting out those sentences repeatedly for a minute and a half. The second round posed the added condition of an event setting, like a house on fire, alongside trickier sentences and newer emotions to bring the best out of the participant’s creativity. The event was massively successful in inducing continuous laughter from the audience and drawing out the imaginative capabilities of its participants.


The air was abuzz with a mixture of excitement and nervous whispers in the moments preceding one of the most-awaited events, ‘Blindfold Conversations’. The event took place on the ground floor of MMMC at 6:30 pm. The participants were blindfolded and randomly paired, with a time limit of 10 minutes to converse. After time ran out, the blindfolds were removed if both participants mutually consented; but if not then they had the option to leave a note behind, with the tangible memory of time well spent pulling the curtains down on Day 1 of Qalam.


Mood Writing was the first event of the second day of Qalam, beginning the day’s proceedings with a banger. All the participants were given a prompt on the spot. Each participant randomly picked an emotion based on which they were asked to write a story or poem within an hour. The prompt for this event was, “Burgers are good food.” Participating in the event was a unique experience, as writing prose or poetry on a prompt while adhering to a specific mood made the process something of a novelty. All writers thoroughly enjoyed the process of writing their respective prompts.


The literary quiz of Qalam’23 began at 11.30 a.m. The multiple-choice format of the prelims was filled with questions from all genres and ages, ultimately ending with a tiebreaker round. Six finalist teams competed through 3 rounds in a challenge to find characters, books, authors and information that tested the participants’ love for literature while the audience struggled to hold back from shouting out their favourite answers. The race of answers and stealing each other’s opportunities turned out to be a truly riveting occurrence.


The spell bee competition  was held at Melaka Manipal Medical College from 2.45 p.m. The prelims tested the participants on a multitude of troublesome spellings and the many dialects of those spellings. After a thrilling tie-breaker round, the five finalists selected battled with words against time to decode the spellings from various origins with the help of definitions, uses and even examples. The intense competition however could not wear down the smiles of the contestants, who utterly enjoyed the challenge.


The final event of Qalam was the much-awaited Slam Poetry competition, held in hall 4a of MMMC, 5 pm onwards. The participants were given no prompts, encouraging their creativity to fly freely. Half an hour was allotted for writing the poems, following which the participants came up to recite their pieces on the stage. Each poem was as unique as its writer, in terms of its themes, its  structure and its overall mood. The beauty of poetry and the might of recitation was the most perfect way to draw the curtains on Qalam


The literary extravaganza officially came to an end with a valedictory ceremony. Prizes were distributed for the winners of the individual events and for the judges monitoring the individual events. Finally, the chief editor of the Editorial Committee of MCOPS, Ms Aarthika Srinivasan, delivered the Vote of Thanks by conveying her gratitude to the staff coordinators, special guests, judges, caterers, MAPS’ organizing team and the participants for making the event a massive success.

Written by Nishant Choudhary, Saurav Das and Adrian Rex Coutinho for MTTN 

Edited by Ishita Sharma for MTTN 

Featured Images by Japman Kaur for MTTN 

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