In a Neighbouring Country
Saturday, January 23rd, 2010
As a visitor from Nepal, I am sometimes baffled by the optimism and sense of progress at the Jaipur Literature Festival. There is more to it than the congenial, celebratory sort of affair that is ordinary to festivals. Somehow to me the euphoria here appears directly connected to the wretchedness I hear expressed often in Kathmandu.
There is neighbourly feeling at the festival – a gathering of intellectuals from various parts of the world, sharing their worlds, getting to know each other. There is, in other words, an air of tolerance and empathy. But I also feel sneaking in me the other neighbourly feelings: envy and annoyance. Experiencing this neighbour country through the exhilaration of this festival tends to nag and disturb me. It has a way of underscoring exactly those moods and modes of life – the various walls of economic and cultural circumstances – that broadly separate India from my home country. These differences are what I frequently find myself pondering about here in Jaipur… continues in our blog
Twenty-First Century Identities
Saturday, January 23rd, 2010
Kancha Iiliah, writer of “Why I am not a Hindu,” talks about how Dalits are not just outcastes, they are “outwriters.” Their literature is not seen to be valid, people are not interested to read what they write. People ask and say: Can there be such a thing as Dalit literature? If there can be Vedic literature, and Bhakti literature, and Marxist literature, and Gandhian literature, why can’t there be Dalit literature, asks Iiliah.
Om Prakash Valmiki also picks up on the same thread: “We are not Hindus, we are Dalits.” The violence still faced by the majority of Dalits in India and other parts of the subcontinent is directly caused by Hindu thought. God cannot be touched by the untouchables in Hinduism, and this, says Kancha Iiliah, is spiritual fascism…. continues in our blog
I eat god, I drink god, I sleep on god...
Friday, January 22nd, 2010
I eat god,
I drink god,
I sleep on god…
It is the first day of the Jaipur Literature Festival and Girish Karnad, who is supposed to give the keynote lecture, along with heavyweights like Wole Soyinka and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., are missing in action. They are possibly lost in the Delhi fog, or the traffic, or maybe they didn’t even depart their home cities and countries in the first place. The roads, you know, says one of the organizers. Apparently this is a good enough explanation and the crowd asks no questions and asks for no explanations—we start off the day with a remarkably serene and unhurried shift to readings of Kabir instead. The day is beautiful, the sky is blue, there are long runners in pink, yellow and orange fabrics above our head and two dhol-players are causing a tremendous ruckus and making us all feel invigorated. Arvind Krishna Mehrotra is on stage and goes from Kabir to Arun Kolatkar with effortless ease. And that is why, instead of a lecture on “Entertaining India”, we are listening to a lovely poem that eats god and sleeps on god and talks about how the poet hopes his mother-in-law (plus all his other in-laws) would drop dead so he could be alone with his lover…. continues in our blog
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