The Times Of Dystopia


By Sunil Kumar

I hate the Times of India. This servile rag is literally the white man’s disposed burden manned by wogs who have usurped the role of the former colonialists.

After this disparagement however, this was the 8th time I attended the Lit Fest(Literature or Litter the choice is yours) at the Mehboob Studio in Bandra. Some times, albeit rarely, the sessions evoke a sense of wonder, literary dreaming and amazement at the country’s creative dystopia and freedom of speech.

I go for the fun quotient where I’ll regain a joie de vivre. So here goes flashback to Friday 14 Dec, 2018. The first session we attended was Mickey Mehta’s histrionics in his Q&A session. Brimming with positivity, this was in sharp contrast to the sometimes heavy negative vibes some speakers routinely indulge in with their pet peeves being the BJP and the majority community. Disgusting pseudo-secularism in full force.

The next session – The Pirates Code in the Liva Hall was extremely boring, a feeling shared by me and Dad, who had come here for the second time while I am now practically a veteran. So, we moved into a session on Translation featuring Gillian Wright, Maria Skakuj Puri and Bhaswati Ghosh. With a few insights coming my way, my intricate question to the trio was nearly stymied by the crass moderator’s interference, but a snide witticism brought him back to his senses and I got a reasonably insightful response, something that was needed.

I remembered a session at the Tata Lit Fest and wanted to ask them about whether they thought the translated version of the original text adds richness or nuance. Robert Dessaix’s boast about his German translation of the Russian original being better and more popular, plus the different worldview of various languages and their mindscapes kept playing in their mind. The richness, nuance and addition was a fact that was attested to by the Polish woman Skakuj Puri.

For lunch- ate an Amritsari Kulcha. From Dharmendra to Kangana was a pretentious fem-fest that struck me as being pathetic and lousy and not conforming at all to the session context. A question aimed at eliciting some more creative inputs was not addressed very convincingly by Gauri Shinde, director of English Vinglish. She was forthright but kept harping on 80s Hindi cinema, which everybody knows was not a highpoint in the history of Bollywood. I was annoyed at these women hijacking the main theme which me and some of the audience supposed was to be on Bollywood’s history, nepotism etc. Instead, we were treated to personal grievances, the #MeToo movement and men.

The last one for the day before we headed out on Friday was Hampi’s Whispered Stories. Lalita Iyer, Ram Ganesh Kamatham, Rochelle D’silva, Siddharth Dasgupta and Sathya Saran. Some wonderful poems and a short story on imagined backdrops from wars to elephants and selfies in the modern context shone some light literally on the ruins of yesterday.

2nd day:

Attempted to reach early for the session with Gulzar and Pavan Verma at the Front Lawn. Both of them showed up at 11.30 and talked for about 45 minutes. Witty repartee on poetry, earthquakes, translations and conversation was entertaining. However, I could not feel aggrieved by Varma’s animus against the government and the Modi-Shah combination.

We have definitely not been living in Nazi Germany or lousy ideologues would have been crushed and disposed off a long time ago. German jackboots would never have tolerated the disrespect and fawning servility Indians display.

Found some of Gulzar’s poems boring, others fun and creatively insightful. We moved on to the ‘Fragrance of Bhasha’ in the Times Hall. Pavan Verma and Ashok Vajpeyi pontificated on Hindi again with the anti-BJP virus in full display, an affliction that seems to have inflicted many people in the country. Hindi’s acceptance was discussed at length.

I asked Vajpeyi why he was so reluctant at the mixture of Hindi and English, when he was comfortable with the crass way Indian regional languages had merged with Hindi. A half-baked semi insightful response came my way which was just another PR attempt at extolling Hindi’s virtues of assimilation. No real attempt made to clearly answer my query. Although Vajpeyi was slightly more articulate than the weird show the previous day. We ate two kulchas on this, the second day-Saturday and trudged on the next session with Vikram Doctor and Lincoln Paine, the same guy whose session we had walked off from the previous day, as it was boring.

After some snippets on the attempt by our neighbour to rename the Indian Ocean, New York Port and Nhava Sheva(JNPT) in Navi Mumbai, my question was the names of some famous ancient mariners in remote antiquity, and depictions of real life on the sea. My mind flashed from Sumeria to ancient Indus valley civilization(Meluhha) and its dealings with the Middle East. Answer from Paine was Silappidikaram and the Jatakas.

Last session for the day was a fiery political debate between Smriti Malhotra-Irani and Milind Deora which kept the audience waiting for more than half an hour. A half-hearted apology by Nidhi Razdan, the NDTV stooge of a ‘fascist’ libtard setup, Razdan was flummoxed by Malhotra’s wit and brazen confidence in replying to her fault-finding with the Central Government and its apparently strident tone in the recent assembly elections.

I clapped heartily at her pointing out obvious faults in the Congress and its flawed narrative and false exaggeration of temple issues and city renaming while ignoring the obvious achievements of this government on many fronts. However, the articulate Deora had a word of caution for Irani on the overconfidence of the BJP, which was right in ticking her off for the arrogance and hubris of the party that led them to overconfidently preponing the election in 2004. A decade of terrorism ensued and the Accidental Prime Minister, a mere puppet at the hands of a fascist central command ensued. Freedom of speech was really curtailed in those days of a Barkha Dutt-Centre nexus, and dangerously seems to be perilously close to coming back to grabbing power again in Delhi.

BJP’s notorious self-obsessed renegades like Sinha(Shatru and Yeshwant) and the turncoat ideologue Shourie are singularly insipid and self-centred in their ego-driven tirades.

Setting out back before the session ended, I could not help but think that the so-called janata pratinidhis(public servants- MPs(Irani and Deora) did not apologise to the packed public of hundreds of flanneled fools who kept waiting for them to arrive. The venue lingered on in my brain before heading out, with the faint assurance in my mind that I may visit again next year.






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