Pulp fiction, URA, Northeast steal opening day show

Pulp fiction, URA, Northeast steal opening day show

Juxtaposing the legacy of literary giant U R Ananthmurthy with the marketing verve of Chetan Bhagat is always a tough call.

But the Bangalore Literature Festival (BLF) that kicked off here on Friday was designed to camouflage such uneasy mixtures in a flurry of debates, literary sessions and cleverly timed book launches. 

Day One had its moments, contributed in equal measure by Bhagat with his showbiz presence and Ananthmurthy with his emphasised absence. The tribute to the late Kannada litterateur was in order, but noted playwright Girish Karnad added a touch of drama with his contention that Ananthmurthy’s life had to be viewed from an objective prism that did not ignore his grey areas. 

Predictably, pop fiction writer Chetan Bhagat had come prepared to face a flurry of potential questions on good writing. “I have really good marketing skills. People may say that I am not a brilliant author, but I know how to promote my works. I may not be the best author, but I am the best-selling author and that is enough for me,” he sounded brutally frank in his honesty, an apparent smartness that seemed to win over a few other authors gathered for the fest. 

Beyond pulp, BLF scored with its thrust on literature from the North Eastern States. The session, “Does India neglect its Eight Sisters” had Manipuri writer Binalakshmi Nepram talk about her transition from poetry to activism, a deliberate move triggered by “atrocities” against people in her State and across the North East. She held the hope that BLF would help voice out the anger against such atrocities, largely ignored by the government. 

Weapon-producing city

But her strongest remark, driven by a passion for peace, was reserved for Bangalore’s “mistaken” tag as an IT City. She chose to call it instead, a “weapon-producing city” with a range of industries linked to waging war. Last year, Nepram had come down to stage a protest against the Aero India show. She proposed to do that again next year, when the exposition would showcase its military muscle. 

Noted Pakistani lawyer and human rights activist, Asma Jehangir had enough historical baggage to pack the engaging “Minority Report” session with stories of her youthful years of freedom-writing in a troubled nation.

The audience in rapt attention, she ventured to paint Pakistan as a nation yearning for true democracy, the ‘jazbaa’ of the youth offering a ray of hope. But she didn’t let the audience escape the irony of a secular Jinnah giving birth to a theocratic nation, and an avid Hindu Gandhi nurturing a secular democracy.

‘India, China not friends’

An India-focussed foreign correspondent of three decades, John Elliott knew the time had finally come for his latest book, “Implosion: India’s tryst with reality” to hit bull’s eye on Delhi’s best-seller’s list. That it did was testimony to his faith in a nation eventually awakened to the rot of endemic corruption and disintegration of institutions of good governance, he told Deccan Herald on the sidelines of the Lit Fest. 

Elliott attributed India’s bumpy growth ride to a “fix-it,” “chalta hai” attitude. This had to change if, for instance, India wanted to get its manufacturing industry growing. “There is no reason why India can’t be making Apple computers.” 

His incisive grasp of India-China relations had Elliott declare that the two nations could never be friends or partners. “They can’t be so in the foreseeable future. It suits China to keep India in tenterhooks,” said the former Financial Times journalist.

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