My Day At The 9th Tata Annual Lit Fest

By Sunil Kumar

Another day in the cross-currents of life. A literary sun is a different day, so yesterday found me at the inauguration ceremony of the 9th Annual Tata Lit Fest.

After an understated beginning, attended by lesser people than expected, the day began with Neil MacGregor, a British art historian. After a rather boring exposition of the links between ancient civilizations and how we are universally connected, it was time for a chat with Mini Menon, a pretentious Indian dimwit journalist.

Although MacGregor was bang on with his comment on the great weapon of the people being humour and culturally in his Eurozone, trust this pseudo-feminist to again blabber on fascism and denigrate the religion she was born into. Such people are excessively sickening. Useful data points- mention of the National Library or the British Library(a place I’ve been to), Reading room in the British Museum(where intellectual luminaries have often hung out)- last time closed when I was there, and Menon asking him about the Amravati marbles, the Saraswati and the Lord Shiva Parvati sculpture from Major General Stuart’s collection.

He also mentioned that India with its multiple religions and relative social harmony was an example to England and Europe that in the 15th and 16th century were subject to religious strife(mainly Catholics vs Protestants) and civil war. According to him everybody evolved from Africa 500,000 years ago and the handaxe was a ubiquitous symbol all over the world.

The next discussion between Pavan Verma, N. Ram and Dutt Barkha was animated and heated at times, lapsing into humour in some other moments. Verma was the most erudite and informed of the lot, while Ram gave us snippets by revealing that Savarkar and Hedgewar(founders of the R.S.S) were atheists, and the Leftist brain-dead historian Thapar’s assertion that Hinduism is a subset of Hindutva.

My conclusion- all of them were the usual pompous lot with a pseudo-intellectual caste system labelling and misrepresenting Hindu sentiment as it is easy to target. The religion is subject to more than a million attacks every day from around the world- particularly from ‘so-called’ Hindus themselves.

My qtn to Pavan Verma- In your book on the Shankaracharya, you mention that some sources claim he was born in the 8th century- others in the 3rd century BC? When we can’t precisely pinpoint ‘so-called’ authority figures, how can you arbitrate on what brand of Hinduism somebody espouses? Aren’t the ‘liberals’ being ‘illiberal’ here? – My subtext: I was fed up by their vicious denigration of the religion, and when I gave an example of Marxism with its offshoots like Dialectical Marxism, cultural Marxism etc?

Answer: Verma answered with what I kind of expected- that Indians never cared much about historical chronology anyways- a fact that I agree with. A large majority are unaware of their own scriptures and couldn’t care less where a certain ass was born. Most of them mug stuff up for exams and regurgitate.

The day ended with me attending my first-ever workshop here by Robert Winder, a journalist/writer from the U.K. again talking about ‘Hidden Springs’ in literary terms.

Although he was a tad boring in the beginning, with me wondering whether I should go to a session by Stephen Daldry(writer of the Crown) that was going on at another venue, the last leg was interesting as he brought in an emotional connect from the audience by discussing a traumatic historical event for the subcontinent(Bharat Varsha) in the form of partition.

My inputs

Partition was the sundering of identity, a vivisection of existence and uprooting of life under the malevolent gaze of the Union Jack.

In 1947, my forefathers had to migrate from pakistan to India and reestablish life in a new country. A blood-stained start to a brave new world- a reinvented existence.

(I mentioned something to this effect in the discussion)

On 70 years later-

Fractured nation states led to a dissipation of national energy. Maybe it was a mistake, or it could all have been for the best.

A Fiction cum Historical Story-(Tried to make it unique and poignant)

At the stroke of the midnight hour, as Nehru unfurled the Indian flag at the Red Fort, and Jinnah did so in Karachi a day earlier, a river of blood, sweat and tears swept through the streets of Lahore.

Ram Kalam who begged in the Hindu, Sikh and Muslim areas of town, veritable ghettoes now, never cared too much about religion. Neither did he know too much about it. He often got enough money to survive, but today there wasn’t a single anna in his begging bowl.

He never knew who his father and mother were. Some people said his father’s name was Ram and his mother was Anarkali, others something else- Abdul and Sita. Meaningless rituals and fanatical maulvis were par for the course, but unerringly stupid and irrelevant to his life.

Some people around him thought Cyril Radcliffe, a ‘gora’ lawyer who had never been to India in his life before this would give Lahore to Pakistan, others thought India would get it in exchange for Calcutta, first capital of the empire.

For Ram Kalam, all these facts never made any sense. He often gazed at the curvaceous beauties of Hira Bazaar, a brothel which an ‘Angrez’ writer Kipling Sahib and white soldiers frequented.

My questions-

Like Lapierre, is the approach of creating quasi characters appropriate? Fiction in non-fiction(the gist)

At the end, when Winder had thanked me for my ‘contributions’; another question popped up in my cortex- how can we maintain historical authenticity about eras long ago- stepping into their shoes will be inherently flawed

Response- We probably know more about them and their world courtesy the internet and numerous other sources.

Qtn- Literary and evocative, or fact-based.

(I believe that my questions guided participant’s thoughts to a great extent(vain but probably true)

His handouts which were not read and no idea how they connected to ‘Hidden Springs'(can hazard a guess- David Copperfield(Dickens), Around the World In 80 Days(Phileas Fogg- written by Verne), and Stapletons(Hound of the Baskervilles- Holmes written by Doyle)

End of the day- with a friend on a bike till Gandhi Nagar, then a rick back to base.

Slice of life blog- a snapshot of the day for later reference.

Interesting Quotes From The Day

Oscar Wilde- The only real duty to ‘history’ id to rewrite it( The gist narrative past -living colours i.e vivid, deja vu, rekindle emotions etc)

War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography

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