Litfests, Sex, Rock And Roll

By Sunil Kumar

The past week was busy, hectic and invigorating. Something has been attracting me to the sensual aroma of literature; albeit narcissistic and shallow that it is. The usual spectacle of the great Indian moral circus was at full evidence, along with the usual pomposity and kowtowing to alien sensibilities.

English: ~ Vidyadharas ~ ° Sondni, near Mandsa...

Visit English: ~ Vidyadharas ~ ° Sondni, near Mandsaur, MP ° now at National Museum, New Delhi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Criticism is easy; so I won’t do the usual. Some of the sessions here were truly fascinating. The magic of words and ideas can often lead us to newer ways of thought; but the horrible obsession with the self is a universal facet. The juice; Chetan Bhagat and Vikas Swarup were in one of the best and funniest sessions of the entire charade.

On the first day; William Dalrymple very politely answered one of my queries on the “City of Djinns”; a fascinating book on the history of the national capital. The dustbin of empires; Delhi is the city which has had the maximum impact on the life of this great nation. Even though there are other street-smart contenders to the throne; the city of empires makes it to the global A-league mainly due to its influence on how the nation’s destiny has been shaped.

Barkha Dutt managed to put some more perspective on the attacks on Mumbai; and the lackadaisical attitude of the Indian authorities. There should be some more introspection and planning done by us citizens as well; as we cannot expect the government to do everything with such a humongous and diverse bunch of people to deal with. Practically everybody from the Goans to the Punjabis; the Gujaratis to the Biharis, Bengalis, South Indians and the Muslims; nearly every Indian(everybody around the world) seems to be a stickler to some or the other agenda. Anti-incumbency seemed to be praised in these sessions; this is laudable but I can’t see any national vision. Biases; overt or subtle are very much in existence.

Can this be overcome? Yes, No, Yes. I’ll end with a Yes. In a session which should have been called “Soul Curry”, Amish Tripathi and Sudhir Kakkar were fascinating and erudite when they talked about sexism in Hindu mythology. There is a remarkable degree of self-righteousness in the moral dialectic these days; and I cannot help but think that men and to a larger degree; Anglicized women are responsible for this. To be specific; the singularly obnoxious feminist who chaired this session; oblivious to the sensibilities of million of hassled men. In the same session; a pathetic accusation on the revered Tulsidas was put across by another member of today’s “unliberal” liberal female set.

Amish rightly pointed out that outside the stratified context of a certain Delhi and an unkempt, unread rich Mumbai; the rest of the country connects with its own languages. Everything is now in a state of  aspirational flux; but broadly this is the way it is. To the uninformed; and as mentioned in the stories about Shri Tulsidas; the woman is the one who was responsible for tormenting the great poet. Also; he should be regarded as a remarkable writer who managed to keep the Hindu identity alive in a time when the whole country was savaged by brutal hordes of Afghans, Turks etc.

Some views of Nirad C. Chaudhuri, the great Bengali are quite apt in this context. “I say that the Muslims do not have the slightest right to complain about eh desecration of one mosque. From, 1000 A.D., every Hindu temple from Kathiawar to Bihar, from the Himalayas to the Vindhyas, has been sacked and ruined. Not one temple was left standing all over northern India… Temples escaped destruction only where Muslim power did not gain access to them for reason such dense forests. Otherwise it was a continuous spell of vandalism.” Although dead men pontificating are not quite what cuts it in our “pseudo-secular” modern sleaze-infested nation; I believe this historical fact cannot be contested. Tripathi came across as a “smooth” dude who has retained a connect with the ancient heritage of India.

Another sociological construct on Brahmanism was challenged by a relatively more intelligent lady; but considering today’s marginalization of the upper castes; I think this is more a case of showing off under a psuedo-Western prism. Reservations were not meant to be permanent; in today’s age they are being misused, manipulated and exploited by politicians building bungalows on taxpayer moolah. There seems to be no real benefit to the sections it was intended for.

The English language used so often in these animated high-falutin debates is a colonial construct; coming along with its own alien baggage. Sexist remarks make the male ego feel good; after all we were the hunters, providers et al for most of civilization. Romance is not a genre I particularly like; but Anuja Chauhan and Ravinder Singh were peppy enough to make it sound like fluff counts for something. Also credit the Vogue lady chairing the session; she did get something out of the panelists; particularly Anuja.

Out on the lawn; Bina Ramani and Suhel Seth were discussing the infamous judicial system that hampers our progress; especially in the dark dungeons of our prisons. I remember Tarun Tejpal saying something about the labryinthine maze of the nation’s bureaucracy or something to that effect. Going by the papers; milking all of this was second nature for him. Practice what you speak or loudly preach is not an adage most people seem to live by. S

peak, spew; forget, eat drink, sleep. Summing up; the venue could do with a drastic makeover; although it was more organized than the previous years. Some of the sessions were wonderful; they could also bring in more global and regional writers; that give us even more perspective; something on the lines of the bigger JLF. More fun in the city of slums, money, guns and glamour. I want to be a richer person by the way.

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One Response to Litfests, Sex, Rock And Roll

  1. Pingback: Six Suspects | Sunil Kumar: Author, President, Raconteur

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