I wanted to be one of the first people at the auditorium to catch the best possible seats today, and I failed miserably. Who invented this damn Snooze button anyway? Well, as it happened, the event is actually scheduled to start off at 9:30 AM and I found myself entering the gates only at 9:35 AM, which is not good at all. As expected, I had to make-do with a seat at the very back of the auditorium (which by the way, was not as worse since Sir Mutha Venkata Subbarao Concert Hall is actually a pretty amazing place with steep seating so one always gets a clear view of the stage).
With that rant aside, let me say that I cannot explain just how much I was looking forward to this literature festival in Chennai. It’s not often that a group of distinguished personalities come together to discuss and debate stuff in a civilized manner, leading to a multitude of enlightening and enthralling moments. I like how conversations such as what I witnessed today rekindle the gears in my head, and I’m sure a lot of the audience went home with something substantial to mull over as well.
The event is organized in two venues, one being the main auditorium itself and the other is the Hindu Pavillion which is just outside the auditorium. Sessions are conducted in parallel in both the locations so it’s necessary to be prudent when it comes to planning one’s day as you cannot be in two places at once (unless you’re Hermione Granger with a Time-Turner). Needless to say, there was a lot of hopping involved as I flitted back and forth between the Main Auditorium and the Hindu Pavillion to be present for the sessions which I thought would be interesting and up my alley, so to speak.
Turns out, I made all the right choices – at least for myself!
I won’t spell out the whole day but would like to talk about some of my most favourite ones at least.
KEYNOTE – My Kashmir: Omar Abdullah
This was the very first talk of the day and I enjoyed every second of Mr. Omar Abdullah’s (former Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir and current MLA) commentary on the status quo of Kashmir. And I will say this, that a lot of us are probably misinformed or foggy when it comes to the matters of the state of Kashmir; but everything I haven’t learnt in my lifetime I learnt in those fifty-five minutes. He detailed why India and Pakistan behave the way they do when it comes to this sensitive issue, and how he hopes that the next time somebody does talk about Kashmir, they wouldn’t have to talk about the problems of Kashmir but of all the good things about it.
Anatomy of a Murder: The Aarushi story – Avirook Sen and Tanveer Ahmed Mir
The murder that intrigued and disgusted the nation (and especially the press) to no end, and the court trial which was a ground for countless blatant mistakes. Avirook Sen, the journalist who covered the investigation from Day 1 and Tanveer, who still represents the parents of Aarushi in court, dissected the issue and laid out precisely what went wrong and how our legal system failed in dishing out a proper judgement. Avirook Sen also has a book out titled ‘Aarushi’ and I’m eager to read it. (And by the way, am I one of the very few people who loved Talvar, the movie?)
The Uses and Abuses of Religion – Devdutt Pattanaik and Laila Tyabji
Probably a very hot topic in our country right now which explains why this session turned out to be as fiery as it did! From Devdutt’s passive stance on ‘religious stupidity’ to Laila’s relevant counter-questions, it turned out to be a great discussion (for me personally, as an atheist). While Devdutt is too much of an agnostic for my liking, he does say that we need to respect others’ beliefs and opinions even when we do not subscribe to them. I found myself not agreeing to a lot of what he had to say otherwise (he is a mythology guy after all) and I think I’ll do a separate post on what I think about the topic.
But his one quote rings true – “Never reject the real in favor of the theoretical”
So that’s about it folks, I want to write a lot more but I’m pressed for time. Totally pumped for the coming two days though!