I have had the great fortune being part of the audience in the first day of The Hindu – Lit For Life 2014. And as always, I am comfortably awkward and clueless around social events. I am however happy that I continue to give my honest attempts at partaking in social events instead of chickening out. I am hopeful this is just a phase and I can get better at this with each passing attempts.
Some initial thoughts about the event
That you see is the ‘Beyond Words’ theme/logo. It felt a little jagged, out of place and not so soothing to the eyes. Could very well have everything to do with my poor fashionable sense.
And if only were the concert hall not freezing (OK, not nearly as bad as what North America is currently facing), the whole event would have been a lot more enjoyable.
It seemed like the event only attracted a sizeable crowd (partly made up by the orange-clad volunteers) at the beginning but I am glad to have mistaken — as the day progressed, the concert hall was brimming with people.
Spoilt for choices
There were concurrent activities planned in the concert hall as well as the courtyard. And I am bad with choice making (possibly since watching Barry Schwartz’s Ted talk The paradox of choice). They should consider making those hard decisions on my behalf — I can sleep better passing the blame onto someone else!
Aravind Adiga and nasty letters from a South Indian
The one person from South Indian writing ‘articulate and nasty’ letters to Aravind Adiga might very well have been sitting next to me. The kind gentleman didn’t need any invitation to flog any comment from Adiga. At one point, he took great offence when Adiga called Utpal Dutt ‘a funny comic guy’ and did not hesitate to brand Adiga ‘an idiot’. How true that is I don’t know. Yet to read ‘The White Tiger’. :(
Adiga’s remark during his mostly unidirectional conversation with David Godwin that Chennai is not a conservative city but rather, a radical city was one to be pondered. I doubt it was a haste comment made without much thought and I am hopeful there is a hint of truth in that. :)
The recurring animal motif in plenty of new urban migrants’ letters and how this new freedom to explore their sexuality, the freedom to choose their life partners and the freedom from caste and the customs of arranged marriage drives them in unique ways was an interesting thought to nurture. Maybe I will write more about this on a future occasion.
The new Indian “offensive” women?
It seemed the forum ‘Rough Passage: The Coming of Age of the New Indian Woman’ was put in a way to be intentionally provocative — to invoke strong feelings of disgust and uneasiness. If that were one of the motives behind it, I must say they did a good job. There were moments that made me slightly disgusted, awkward, uncomfortable and occasionally a little offended too.
At various occasions, I felt the forum was just appealing to the senses and feelings of the so-called “new” women instead of, perhaps, posing jeopardizing questions or thoughts to them. That I believe could have helped them come of the age with a more personal touch. Still, credits for being straightforward and forthcoming.
The attempts at making sense of arranged marriage were appreciable – it does seem pragmatists don’t mind it at all. More on that later on another day. Anyway, I would not mind a working woman as a wife. After all, that would give me more time to focus on my hobbies!
I genuinely laughed when Paul Zacharia claimed ‘Church doesn’t read’. For whatever reasons, that reminded me of this quote from Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons:
Religion is flawed, but only because man is flawed.
It makes sense. The so-called God’s word ‘Bible was written by vulnerable people’ and it’s only natural that they embellish certain details of the ‘self-proclaimed martyr Jesus’ to make it look like impossible things are made real; to make people fear the wrath of the supernatural. No offence to all my seven readers.
The day only got better (subjectively ofcourse) with Jim Crace being at his very best: making fun of himself and his works. And he seemed happy to be celebrating telling lies. OK, let me give him one back. Jim, you totally rocked that session. Just kidding, that session was potentially the highlight of the day.
I have one kind suggestion to Jim: hold another session about ‘The Art of Lying’ — Making people believe your lies just doesn’t cut enough as a fulfilling point.
And finally, the one takeaway from Jim was what he said at the very beginning: “A good literary novel shouldn’t have questions answered but questions posed”. Sounds cruel eh? :)
Women of the 21st century
The day’s finale (for me — I had to leave a little early) belonged to the, must I say, feminist ladies. From Barkha Dutt making sure she doesn’t agree with most things Naomi Wolf throws her way to the audience’s regular applause interval, it was a session to remember.
Naomi made it a point to bring pornography to the table when she remarked “The pornographification of culture has taken its toll on young minds.” I don’t have too much to say to that — too innocent.
Some quotes from Naomi about feminism that struck me:
“Feminism is the logical extension of democracy”.
“It is a mistake that feminism tells women what to believe”.
Later on, when quizzed about rape, Naomi clarified that sexual repression is not the cause of rape. Rather, “rape is a crime of opportunity”. I had always struggled to understand the motives and some of the dynamics of rape. I am grateful this session put some of my personal inner struggle to bed.
And by the way, I am yet to figure how the two ladies managed to wear matching Red outfits. :)