Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

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Jan 21, 2014

HINDU LITERARY FESTIVAL 2014: And The Prize Goes to Anees Salim.... DAY 2 & 3

The discovery of the day Two was T M Krishna’s “A Southern Music” and it filled my heart with an elation that comes from being in the presence of pure creativity and passion.
Gopal K Gandhi listening intently to T M Krishna's take on Music..

T M Krishna is a pre-eminent vocalist that I have had gathered from the intro from ‘Hindu Lit For Life’ Brochure but his clarity of thoughts and depths of his passion for singing made me connect to the Carnatic Music at much deeper level than I thought possible without knowing the language and grammar of the style. His story about the first time the music moved him to tears is an example how one can connect to the music without knowing anything about it. He says “One specific experience with music that has always stayed with me is a morning concert with DK Pattamaal. I left the concert in absolute tears, bawling. Was I sad? No. Was I depressed? No. But that's the moment something clicked in me; that is what music is."

Though the session was about his recently launched book, "A Southern Music — The Karnatik Story" (published by Harper Collins) but the audience was in for a bonus as Sh. Gopal K Gandhi, the moderator termed to the live demonstration in order to explain the role of lyrics in the music. Here is what he has to say…

“Grammar is not a technical process, it's part of that experience. Do I need grammar? Yes. To experience music or sing it, I need grammar but it has to be inside my heart” T M Krishna

His love for the music came out very strongly in the way he talked about it. Interestingly, it was quite endearing to hear him refer to Music as ‘Her/She’. But the most profound thought I internalized was about the journey as he said, “Her path is lone – not lonely. One has to do this journey on one’s own to really experience the beauty of the music. Yes, I think music is enlightening if only one is devoid of perceptions of other things around him or her, then she manifest the deeper understanding of the soul within.

And I agreed with Sh. Gandhi when he ended the session with words, to a thunderous applause and standing ovation to the Genius Soul of Carnatic Music T M Krishna "A dazzling enigma, one who can't be ignored and certainly cannot be explained. In short, he is simply a musical phenomenon."

Gulzar Saheb

On the other side at the courtyard, a legend was talking about Music too… Gulzar sahib talking about his Book “I swallowed the moon”. As someone asked him about Moon, he smilingly replied that he has the monopoly on “Moon”. His poetry rendering were so beautiful and sublime that one can get lost just listening to him and I almost missed the Session of Romila Thapar’s “Past Before Us”.

Another Session at the courtyard worth mentioning is the one called GRANTA'S LUMINARIES where Taiye Selasi – Writer, Film Maker and Xiaolu Guo Writer and Photographer, were in conversation with Parvathi Nayar. Xiaolu Guo, who grew up in China and later moved on to England says that the places she lived made her stories and shaped her. While Taiye Selasi started her life in UK but says that the story telling culture of her parents influenced her writing. (Her father is from Ghana, her mother is half Scottish and half Nigerian).

Xiaolu Guo used to write in broken English but still got accepted and as she said in her book, “Birds have their bird language, beasts have their beast language but English is different."
As a photographer, Taiye Selasi says, “Whenever people praise me about my photography and how beautiful it is, I always respond saying, "No! The world is beautiful and I am just capturing it."

Abraham Verghese

In the session “A Renaissance Man” Abraham Verghese took us to his personal journey from being a celebrated Doctor (The Aids Man, who was notorious in his own department where he was practicing for bringing hoards of Aids Patient from neighboring states) to an award winning novelist whose book was on New York Times top list for 2 years. I loved his thoughts on literature, “Literary Novels gives you tools, ways to carry into your life” And his expectations of readers is “Writers provide words, Readers provide imagination”. On reading other writers, he candidly says, “ We are always building on the shadows of other writers”  and gives a great advice to the aspiring authors in the audience, “Read a lot of books as Good Books dislocates you, changes your path” Quite True!


Lights, Camera, Censor: Moral Policing in Cinema

The Hero Of The Day
Probably the most awaited session of Hindu Lit Festival, as it involved Kamal Haasan – A great Actor, director, whose brush with Indian Censors Board has been very, very interesting. The house was packed to the brim and the expectant crowd rose into a roar of applause as he made his way to the stage. And yes, he did not leave the crowd wanting with his interesting quotable quotes, which at one point in the session he himself said, “Most probably I will be quoted out of context for the things that I am saying on the stage now”.

It was news to me when he revealed that Binaca Geetmala, the most famous song program in the iconic voice of Ameen Sahani, listening to which I grew up, went to Ceylon (Sri Lanka as it was called then) because Harmonium (an Indian Musical Instrument) was banned since it was considered to be from Haveli Culture.

One of his heartfelt complaint was, “Why Multinationals are being allowed to put any price for the cold drinks, while the Govt is putting cap on the ticket prices” Another one beautiful quote I really loved was that 'The Cinema is the only medium that supported inter-caste Marriages. It promoted love'. I agree.

In context with one of the woman makeup artist, who Kamal Haasan wanted to hire, was not allowed to work as it was only male bastion, he said, “what women do, when they get frustrated in their profession, they get married”. To another question, he remarked, “We always need some one to shepherd us but I am not a sheep”.

He ended his interaction with rephrasing of a beautiful thought of Gandhi Ji, “Be the change you want” to “I become the change I demand” to thunderous applause from the audience.

Beyond The Vagina – Thoughts on Sex and Sexuality
Naomi Wolfe
Naomi Wolfe was in her full flow again, continuing the advocacy of women’s liberation and thinking beyond The Beauty Myth. She declared that there’s lot more ‘Beyond The Vagina’, “Receiving the wisdom from past is wrong. There’s so much research in the last 2-3 decades that has changed the way we look at it” She said every women’s reaction to sexual stimulation is different as the distribution of neuro-sensitive nodes, unlike men, are all around in a beautiful mesh of nerves that’s unique to each individual woman. So in effect every woman is different. You have to ‘learn’ every woman every time (To make a woman happy and connected). It cannot be process oriented. The women cannot switch off from her brain the disrespect, stress etc of the morning to ‘go for the sex’ in the evening. In the ended, she ended her talk on one of the most sane advise I have ever heard, “If you want your women for the rest of your life, then respect her for the rest of your life” and then in her own inimical style she left the stage to connect with women in the audience and to know what they go through in India, which of course was an eye opener for her…

Her voice rang in the audience, when she said, “"Rape is not a sex crime. It's a form of mutilation. It's a form of assault that's so permanent that its effects are felt throughout a lifetime." And I remembered her words from yesterday, “It (Rape) continues because these people aren't jailed and prosecuted. Countries where people have been prosecuted and punished for rapes have lesser rapes. That is first and probably the most powerful step towards stopping rapes”.

In the end I leave you with some thoughts that stuck with me, after so many days has passed...

“Job of a travel writer is to cover the reality that is behind the superficial aspect of a place” – Colin Thubron
“Travel writing is a form that has reinvented itself, century after century” William Dalrymple

“Now when I come to Chennai and see all the modernity and the development of the place – like I notice the flyovers and the metro rail work – I still feel that Chennai is still there underneath it. The essence of Chennai is there waiting to be uncovered”. William Dalrymple

"I think good writers are not frightened about writing bad. I think writers just don't want to face the tyranny of a blank page. Have the courage to write badly" - Jim Crace

"I do get this terribly suspicious look when I say that I'm a writer. My defense is my book. I kind of hold it out as a shield." – Shannon

"I think that the main thing that young writers have had to deal with is the Internet. On one hand, while it’s been very useful, it has also been a bad thing. You have to accept that some people just won't like your book and it's going to be all over the internet." – Shannon

It was a pleasure to interact with Shannon Samantha about the life
of a writer..."Its the passion that gets one to write"

“There is a burning desire to write. There is so much nonsense going on in the country and it is neglected. I find no problem in motivation, there are no hours in the day to write about what I feel” Shovon Chowdhury

“Each post on Face Book is like a little knock on the door or tap on the window. I don't see any contradiction in doing literature on Face Book. Twitter is not that much different from haiku” Shovon Chowdhury

“If you're writing a book about the near future, you must write it faster too”. Shovon Chowdhury

“If you want to say something, go for it. Who knows it will create a new form” – Mamang Dai

... And The Hindu Prize 2013, selected by the Jury, under the leadership of renowned author, Mr. Timeri  N Murari, goes to Anees Salim for Vanity Bagh which was collected by his publisher….

It was my pleasure to be with Sh. S Muthiah, MBE in the last two days and share some thoughts along with coffee during the breaks between the sessions. His article on Hindu Lit Festival 2014, is probably the most profound re-cap...  click here to read... 

नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya
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