Sunday Musings and Random Notes #9

While last Sunday was spent hearing the sales pitch of established authors at the Bangalore Literature Festival, this Sunday I am taking the first step towards establishing myself as a book author. Or, so do I think.

I have finalised my first book which is a compilation of selected articles from my armory of published and unpublished compositions.  Even some articles which were published earlier underwent extensive revision. I tried to put the old wine in completely new bottles so much so that some bottles, that earlier opened from the top, now open from the bottom, making a few things go topsy turvy in the bargain. Of course, some new bottles have found new wine too.

Coming to the literature festival, this time it was heavily tilted towards the ‘left’. Kanhaiah Kumar, who was too afraid to come to Bangalore last time, was made the star attraction in spite of the presence of twinkling stars like Mrs Funnybone. The left have always dominated the press and publishing scene in India. Two years back they faced a minor threat and fear. Seems, this year their bullying bore fruit with the near absence of any right wing representation to bring in balance to the discourses.

This is a sad dilution of the festival’s original agenda. It was supposed to be a different literature festival that sought to bring contrarian voices to one platform. What happened in 2015 is detailed in this firstpost article. The only crime of the Sahitya Academy winner author Vikram Sampath, who was one of the organisers, was that he refused to join the band wagon of ‘award wapsi’ authors. This did not go down well with the so called ‘liberal’ authors so much so that they threatened to boycott the festival and pressurised others to do so, with the result that Vikram Sampath had to step down to save the festival. That is how the tolerant and liberal Indian intellectuals, who champion free speech, counter contrarian points of view.

Even though we call ourselves a country with a great culture and so on, it is cricket and films that dominate our fascination. Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid took the limelight on the first day. On the second day, the session of the great classical dancer Sonal Mansingh was scheduled after that of Twinkle Khanna. It was heartening to see many audience  members leaving immediately after Twinkle left. However, this did not dampen the enthusiasm of the virtuoso who has seen so many vicissitudes in her life. Majority of the audience members who left were young people who would have definitely found the story of Sonal Mansingh highly inspiring.

sonal mansinghThis is not to undermine the achievements of Mrs. Funnybone.  Both were born with silver spoons in their mouths. In spite of upheavals in personal life and classical dancing not having the huge earning potential compared to acting in films or writing bestsellers (that have the potential of being turned into films), Sonal stuck to the pure form of classical dance and has led a modest lifestyle. She recounted how she had promised her grand father that she would never make dance a commercial venture and she has stuck to it in spite of facing financial difficulties from time to time.  For her, dance has been a journey of self discovery like any other sincere seeker on a spiritual path or a yogi.

I first saw Sonal Mansingh some seventeen  years back in a setting in terms of place and time that was not conducive to leisurely appreciation of one of the most intricate dance forms. We were in the middle of Kargil war and it was a forward base close to the centre of action. She came there with her Odissi dance troupe. For a soldier on active duty, it was a welcome temporary relief and a morale booster. What was appreciable was her timely gesture. Of course it  has become a fad for many film stars to visit defense units and interact with the soldiers. These are perfectly timed gestures too,  coinciding with the release of their films.

Earlier in the day a ‘white’ lady in a ‘bright’ sari was drawing a lot of attention. It was German poet Jessy James LaFleur. More interesting was the content of what she said.

I come from Germany and a high percentage of women there are subject to sexual assault. But, India has been portrayed in a very bad light by the media. I personally have felt very safe walking the roads of Coimbatore. Men have been pleasant while women have come to take selfies with me.

While limit it only to the media Madam. Our celebrity ambassadors who go abroad are no better.

So, Mr Amitabh Bachchan! Here is a lesson for you.  You are a great actor and I am a very hardcore fan of your acting. Let me remind you that you are also a son of a great intellectual.  Next time when you go to US and people raise question about crime against women in India, don’t be apologetic and react like a dumb ass actor who must always act and speak out the script handed out to him. Tell them without feeling inferior and with the confidence of your character Deenanath Chouhan:

Yes. There are crimes against women in India and we are working on that. But, with an ex-groper as the president and with 70% girls getting sexually assaulted during their preteen years,  your country has a far worse record and you do not have any moral authority to point fingers at India.

 

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This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

 

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events galore in bengaluru

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Like any other metro city, Bengaluru is host to numerous events – literary, culinary, cultural, artistic, social & unsocial, open and clandestine. Much as am I tempted to attend many of the events, a person of not so affluent means like me is not only restrained from the financial angle, but also by the limited availability of leisure time after spending eight  hours on a job and four hours on commuting on a daily basis.

Even on weekends Bangalore traffic can be nasty quite often. In spite of all the constraints, I try not to miss the literary events, especially the literature festivals.  I have already shared my experience of Times Literature Festival and Bangalore Literature Festival  on this blog.

I was one of the invitees to the #BererXp Indiblogger meet Bangalore. I was eagerly looking forward to attend the event as it was an opportunity to interact with other bloggers from the city. However, an unexpected personal problem that popped up at the last moment ensured that I was deprived of this opportunity. Nevertheless, I had the vicarious pleasure of attending the meet by reading the accounts of the events shared by fellow bloggers.

There is a large Air Force Station where I stay.  As there are people from all over India, many cultural events of other states are organised here on a regular basis. These are kinds of religio-cultural events like Durga Puja, Ganesh Puja and the car festival of Lord Jagannath. Alongside the puja rituals, there would be galore of cultural events everyday. Even though these are organsied by specific communities, people from all walks of life participate in the events wholeheartedly.

 It is only in Bengaluru that I have had the opportunity to watch many kinds of national and international sports events. My first stint in Bengaluru was from 1989 to 1995. Then I was serving in Indian Air Force. Whenever there was any international cricket tournament, the authorities sought defense personnel for security duties. I had the opportunity to attend a couple of international cricket matches as a security supervisor. Those days security duties were not that risky like in these days when every crowd gathering is a potential target for terrorist modules working in India. Moreover, as security supervisor one had access to all areas of the stadium.

The test matches were sleepy no doubt, the saving  grace being one had a chance to see the sport stars in flesh and blood. Even the pace of the One Day matches were not as frantic as the matches have been after the T-20 format came into  existence.

Since long I have stopped being an enthusiast of the game of cricket. During the last season of the IPL when a friend came up with a couple of complimentary tickets for the IPL, reluctantly though, I accompanied my family to witness the match. Oh boy, did I witness the match.

We reached the venue half an hour before the start of the match. The stadium was overflowing with people. Loud speakers, or should I say super loud speakers were blaring out music and the anchor’s shouts competing with the noise from the crowd. The decibel levels were so high that it would have turned the tender ears of a young kid deaf for life.

Then the match started.

Hardly had the ball escaped from the bowler’s hand when the spectators sitting in from of us stood up with flags in hand, shouting and waving. There was no way to witness anything that was happening on the ground. This happened again and again. We had to look at the giant digital screen for a replay in order to know what was happening in front of us, on the ground below. Finally I calculated that for the three and half hours that the match was played, we watched the match directly for half an hour and the spectators backs and flags and the giant digital screen for three hours.

I am reminded of a similar incident when I stayed back to attend the rock  concert organised to mark the culmination of a literary festival. The audience was a mixture of those who had come exclusively for the rock concert (The rock star’s young fans) and those who had actually come for the literature festival but stayed back out of curiosity for the rock concert (consisting mostly of middle aged and old fellows).

At the scheduled time, the rock star came, saw and went back. After some time an announcement came that the rock star was annoyed that the audience members were sitting in chairs. So, the organizers had no way but to remove the chairs so that the rock star would come back to regale the audience. A couple of volunteers came to hound out all the young and old, strong and weak occupying the chairs.

After the last one of the chairs was removed from the venue the concert began. Every one was standing and standing with their mobile in video mode, flash on, while those with a little short in height struggled to have a glimpse of the rock star. With so many flash lights on, the elaborate colour lighting of the stage lost its sheen.

The rock star sang one line and asked the audience to repeat the line ten times. It was obvious that his hard core fans knew all his songs verbatim. After some time the fans sang his songs even without being asked. The hall was jam-packed and there was hardly any space to move about. A section of the audience started to dance unmindful of causing any physical injury to their neighbors.

Confused, bewildered and feeling out of time and space, I fled.

Maybe, we are living in an age where ‘sound’ packaging is taking centre stage in all walks of life pushing the content to the sidelines.

 

 

Times Literature Festival Bangalore 2017

Attending a Literature Festival is a  beautiful way of spending an enlightening weekend.

Ideas float around, the air is filled with literary vibrations and the ambiance is charged with star presence.  The fever catches onto to you. The temperature soars to climax to a  rocking frenzy like it happened this time when the local rock God Raghu Dixit performed with his band to mark the culmination of the festival.

Indian BloggersBefore that,  there was this ‘Khullam Khulla’ session with Rishi Kapoor. Of course he had come to promote his book. During the panel discussion he was at his candid best talking about the advantages and disadvantages carrying the baggage of the Kapoor legacy and his real and reel life. Being a Kapoor son gave him the break. At the same time, he worked hard to make his mark as  a romantic hero in the era of the angry young men.

He is also well known for his unique and spontaneous style of acting.  The audience, comprising of young and old got its ‘tare zamin par‘ moment as they  crowded the venue to have a glimpse and listen to him.

I would have liked to be there from start to finish on both the days to soak in the ethereal world of ideas and stars. But, then there are worldly duties. So, I could attend only part of the sessions on both the days- 11th and 12th Feb.

Even if you attend the festival from start to finish you cannot be part of all the happenings as events took place simultaneously at three venues. Sometime, when two of your favorite programs clash, or just for the sake of curiosity, you have to shuttle between venues half way through a session.

Let us check up what is happening at those other venues.”

In India, in terms of literacy men may outnumber women, but when it comes to matters literary it is the other way round. At least literature festivals makes one think so. And it makes women qualitatively better than men. (Even in an earlier literature festival while a congregation of women writers were discussing various issues, a bunch of girls in the audience were heard making a loud statement all of the men are idiots)

It was nice to see authors and stakeholders from diverse fields like fashion, sports, food, cinema, music, technology etc. congregate and share their points of view, sometimes to ignite the dormant passion in us or sometimes to see things from a different angle. While, the dismal state of sport administration in India was highlighted in one session, in another, concern was expressed about Coorg tribe the Coorg cuisine facing the danger of extinction, maybe in not so distant a future.

Here are some of the photos of the event. For more titbits of the event visit the facebook page or twitter handle of the Times Literature Festival, Bangalore.

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William Dalrymple talking about his new book ‘Kohinoor’
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Talking of cuisine and culture: Ranveer Brar, Anoothi Vishal, Shazia Khan and Mithun
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The audience under the Peepal Tree getting enthralled with Ila Arun (below)

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Rishi Kapoor introducing his autobiography – ‘Khullam Khulla’ to Bangalore readers
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My wife manages to get her copy autographed by the author
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The hands that can rock the cradle can rock the stage too – may be better

Bangalore Literature Festival 5.0

Right at the moment of start I was stuck by the usual fear:  “Will I get a place for parking? Even if I get it how far will it be from the venue?”.  Added to this fear was the feeling of loss as we missed a couple of interesting sessions caused due to poor judgement of Saturday Bangalore traffic. So, it was a pleasant surprise when the hotel staff offered valet parking even though neither was I going to stay in their hotel, nor was I going to eat anything dished out by their chefs.

But for some pressing personal engagements,  I would have liked to attend all the sessions of the Bangalore Literature festival held at Hotel Royal Orchid on 17 and 18 December. Then of course the events took place simultaneously at three venues. If you sat through one, you missed two others. Or, you had the option to be a casual bystander at each of the venues hopping from one to the other. It is like you have a number of  marriage functions to attend on the same day and you cannot afford to miss any of them.

Indian BloggersIn this post I am not going to give a journalistic narration of what happened. I will give some glimpses into the events, some titbits and my ruminations spurred by the discussions that happened among the panelists.

It was for the consecutive second time that the BLF was conducted at this hotel on Old Airport Road. I wanted to suggest the organisers to shift the venue every year, preferably to a venue in North of Bangalore (where I stay :D) so that it would be convenient for those who were coming from outside via Bangalore Intentional Airport. In fact a similar suggestion came up during the discussion on ‘Askew- A short Biography of Bangalore’,  where in one of the panelists suggested that an event like this could be held at a heritage site to create awareness about the golden Heritage of Bangalore.

There was this session with the representatives from the famous publishing houses. In a literature festival it could be expected with a fair degree of confidence that a large chunk of audience would consist of wannabe writers. It was heartening to note a few of them petitioning, cajoling, praying to the high priests and priestesses of publishing industry to consider publishing their books which they have already published through self publishing route.

Somewhere I had read that if you are a first time writer, you have to write better than the established authors to make any impression on the publishers. Moreover, if you read the guidelines of the publishing houses they make it clear that if Salman Khan writes junk, they would prefer it over your brilliant book that may turn out to be a turning point in the history of literature. Of course it is understandable. The roti, kapda and makan needs of he owners and the employees of the publishing house depends upon the ‘sale-ability’ of the books.

Sometimes I wonder what do the publishers learn from the history of some of the books that made history,  yet were rejected for publication umpteen number of times. Take this extreme example of the comic novel called, “The Confederecy of the Dunces”. Now the book is among the all time top ten comic novels. But the author was so much depressed by the consistent rejection of the book that he committed suicide. A decade after his death the book was published due to the initiative of his mother and the interest taken by another publisher.  It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981.

God must have said to the common man long long ago, “Come ye to me, but only thorough a priest”. Following this dictum one of the panelists suggested that new authors should go to literary agents in stead of coming to them directly to better their chances of getting noticed. I wonder why the publishers cannot have some policy and a dedicated section for new authors in their own set up. Of course, even in this route things are not easy. JK Rowling got a simple rejection letter from the first literary agent that she sent the book. The next one sent it to twelve different publishers, before it was selected. The rest is history.

At another venue, there was a melee around and a long queue. Wondered what might it be? After a little tussle with the crowd, discovered that the queue was to get the books autographed by the author  Shashi Tharoor, whom I spotted on Day 2 as well. This time he was on the first row of the audience along with his relative to cheer his son Kanishk Tharoor. Kanishk read out a few paragraphs from his book – Swimmer Among the Stars. Found the paragraphs quite humorous.

Next to Sex in the taboo index in India are discussion of topics concerning Hinduism and Evangelism. It was heartening to note the open  and non-hostile discussion on these topics involving both the panelists and the audience. For the entire session I was engrossed in the discussion on the ‘Clash of Civilisation’ between Mohandas Pai and Rajiv Malhotra. Since the media houses in India are sold out to various vested interests for various reasons, Rajiv Malhotra suggested that we should more and more depend upon the social media to counter misinformation and the bias of the mainstream media. Here again the problem is that most of the social media organisations are controlled by the west. Hence he suggested that Bangalore being the hub of IT activity the Bangaloreans should take the lead in developing desi social media apps in line with China who have their own version of Facebook and other social media apps.

It was equally heartening to see the enthusiasm of people to buy books (in hard copies) at the venue even in this age of Kindle, Amazon and Flipkart.  The queue to pay for the selected books was as long as the one to get the books autographed by the authors present.

And this gentlemen who shifted from venue to venue reminded me of the jesting Pillate who would ask what is truth and would not wait for an answer. This gentleman in question would be missing through out the duration of the discussion and appear from nowhere towards the end of the session holding a mike to ask a question. Actually he did not have a question to ask.  Nevertheless, the compassionate panelists  would somehow guess what he wanted to ask and answer it. And how he managed to appear holding the mike to ask questions consistently events after events and venue after venue was a miracle, because, there would be more than thirty candidates vying for the honour of asking one of those those three to four questions permitted towards the end of each session.

Did not have time to hang on to the last event to listen to Piyush Mishra. However, we had enough time to attend the first half of the the penultimate session when Shatrughna Sinha regaled the audience with his inimitable style and humour.

It was anything but, Khamosh.

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Premila Paul in conversation with Aishwarya Rajnikanth Dhanush
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What’s cooking? The future of Indian Food – Antonie Lewis, Sanjeev Kapoor, Manu Chandra with Surewsh Hinduja
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The Art of Heart : Vasudev Murthy in conversation with Sabah Currim, Kanchana Banerjee, Nandita Bose, Kiran Manral
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Finding answers to a question or the other way round?
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Guru Charan Das
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G Sampath with Kanishk Tharoor
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Listen Papa – Mr Sashi Tharoor and his relatives in rapt attention to Kanishk
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India-Reclaiming our Civilisation’s Heritage: T V Mohandas Pai and Rajiv Malhotra