The Hindu Lit For Life – Day 3 Reflections

I know it’s a little late to post about Day 3. I took a little break before I could get myself to write about it. Anyway, let’s get on with this.

Moral policing in Cinema

Possibly the highlight of the three day event, which was well illustrated by the bulging crowd at the start of the session (and not so at the end of it). Kamal Haasan was there, taking jabs at anything and everything that bothers him, from the redundant CBFC because of social media, educated intelligence being an obstacle to cinema, the populist game of the Tamil Nadu state government by capping the movie tickets and the commercial cinema that has no interest in civic responsibility.

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In his conversation with K. Hariharan, he remarked ‘Allegories are not present in (Tamil) cinema’ and that they use characters from life. And he has useful advice for a wannabe dictator — “Voices should be heard, not suppressed’. He clearly is not fond of the protectionist reaction, which he claims is ailing the industry.

The point of travelling

Travel writers Colin Thubron and William Dalrymple indulge themselves in the joys of travel writing and why it persists as long as it has. Colin was convinced travel is ‘one culture looking at another’ and this ignorance of the newcomer and their sharp eye towards minute details gives a vivid picture of the inhabitant, who most often takes these details for granted and wouldn’t have paid attention to it if not for the newcomer.

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Colin was also wary of using humour as a tool in travel writing. While humour can be a very useful source of entertainment, it can be dangerous if not used properly and comes across as condescending to the host culture.

Thoughts on sex and female sexuality

I must say I am lucky to have been in this session and getting a wealth of information about female sexuality, which would have remained inaccessible if not for the generous session from Naomi Wolf. Thank you for that, Ms. Wolf!

She has great concerns about how the sexual revolution, which involved an unleashing of pornography and the abundant sexual discourse, has not greatly benefited female sexuality. Her discomfort with discussing sexual pleasure among other things only made the session realistic and engaging — instead of a more harmful robotic delivery of a very sensitive topic.

There was a question put up by one of the audience – What’s the point of all these new info if she can’t exercise her right?. I think the answer possibly comes from Kamal Haasan’s session, where he is adamant a sudden overdose of freedom (relaxed censorship in movie making) would only have a detrimental effect — similar to children in a confectionery. Putting it in context, granting sexual freedom to the Indian women completely would negatively impact the feminist movement. Instead, this process should be carefully crafted, especially since our society is very conservative.

And a quote to remember:

Pleasure empowers women. Psychologically, intellectually and politically.

The majestic tigers of India

Valmik Thapar was angry (and I am saying that in the nicest way possible). He was calling for a way to end the bureaucratic, incompetent mess that is our Government. From the outdated laws in the constitution to the absurdly useless Red Tape, he was very happy to be tearing at them.

His call for including the passionate stakeholders at various levels of decision making only makes sense – but of course, the Government wouldn’t just agree with things that make sense!

The Writing life (or the lack thereof)

It is always exciting to get a little snoop into the personal lives of others (much less celebrities). And here I am, hearing Jim Crace plays solitaire instead of getting on with his damn work!

More seriously, both Jim and Samantha Shannon feels this prerogative of being writers is a burden — occasional feeling of not deserving to be a writer. They grew into realization that reviews and reviewers should be given their own space and that everyone has different opinions and be acceptable of the fact that not everyone likes everyone else’s writing.

I was greatly delighted when Jim noted Writing a bad novel is hard enough. It put a pleasant smile on my face. πŸ™‚

It’s a wrap

At the end of the day (forgive me for the clichΓ©), I was longing for more. I didn’t want this event to end and yet it did. I wasn’t presenting a tearful departure but it was awfully close to that. Wishing to take part in Lit For Life next year!

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The Hindu Lit For Life – Day 2 Reflections

Let’s hear me talk about the second day of The Hindu Lit For Life. This time, I brought my classmate along with me for extra comfort and companionship. And it helped — I believe — to some extent — surely — it really helped, I am not kidding!

So, anyway, I grew smarter and wore a long sleeve shirt just to prevent myself shivering through most part of the event. And I am going to imagine that helped me fall asleep pay careful attention to the sessions.

I am going to make this reflection short and sweet because, well, I feel exhausted after two long days of intellectual exercise and I am missing out on some helpful sleep. And, Kamal Haasan is making his presence tomorrow!

History of the ancient India

Romila Thapar, quite evidently a veteran in the field, wasn’t in agreement with the colonial scholars’ opinion that ancient India (especially Indus civilization) was ahistorical and Indian past was oriental despotism. She said the question of whether there were any historical records is irrelevant and I am going to agree with that.

She also commented that Mahabharatha was an Ithikasa and was believed to have happened (with layers added onto it over time) whereas Ramayana was a Kavya and has had more literary aspects to it. She being an expert in this field should very well know about this more than I do but that particular comment was quite surprising to me. I imagined both these Indian epics have a grounded real version and I am only partially correct.

Adding onto that, she remarked epics are ‘repository of recording consciousness’ and not historical text. However, I do think epics give a general idea of the way of life in the ancient India. For example, the practice of polyandry by Drowpadi and the clan system in Mahabarath and importantly kingship politics that existed several thousand years ago — the current day politics don’t even match to that.

Despair for mega cities?

There was an unison agreement that the cities ought to be crucibles of democracy yet they are turning out to be crucibles of inequality. The advent of xenophobic vibe in Mumbai was a genuine cause of concern.

I however am not sure which camp I would find myself in if there was a similar movement going on in Chennai. The lack of effort from the urban migrants to culturally merge into their destination cities irks me occasionally. I am glad these irks are temporary — but only at the moment. I also find myself in a dilemma — because everything I hate about the migrants of my city was what I was doing in my four-year stint in Singapore.

Travelling in Tibet

Colin Thubron did well to tingle my senses for travelling. I feel I am missing out on a huge part of life and what it has to offer to me simply because I am not travelling.

Colin reminded me something I had known before – Tibetans leave the dead bodies out in the open to be consumed by the vultures. It is very much a unique exercise in the entirety of the human race, where people prefer and wish to be buried, cremated or even martyred. But not Tibetans, who manage to stay not larger than life and continue to show modesty and dignity, in their true ways.

Tall tales

Aswin Sanghi defined mythology as ‘a touch of truth with several layers on it’. He also touched on a point that I have been labouring for quite some time. That divinity are things that are yet to be explained; that it is an element of unknown.

Samantha Shannon seemed uninterested in censoring books, especially to children. She makes it a point that books are a safe place to experience what the children would experience later in their life. In a world that makes a ‘spectacle out of violence’, she thinks there is thrill from danger without needing to experience it first-hand.

Revisiting the history books

William Dalrymple made me re-realize what it feels to get back to the history books. Everything of value comes right from it and it is almost surprising how we manage to get away from it despite having it right under our eyesight. I am going to begin by grabbing the nearest copy of ‘Freedom by Midnight’ and hopefully finish it within the next month (February).

The great lie that is fiction

“Fiction is the great lie that tells the truth” claimed Dorothy Allison. Or so claimed Abraham Varghese that Dorothy claimed so. Whatever. The point was, Abraham showed what true passion can do — make you really mad that is.

He also left this gem about finding one’s voice when writing:

When you’ve written something that your spouse finds deeply disturbing, you have found your voice.

And I took his little advice for wannabe writers to the heart: Read, read and read. I hope to update my little reading wish-list and keep to it at once.

The Hindu Lit For Life – Day 1 Reflections

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

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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. πŸ™‚

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!

Rewriting mythology

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.

Literary novels

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? πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚