Write masters enliven Spring Literature Fest

As a student of literature when one reads Shadow Lines, there are innumerable impressions that are etched on the psyche of a youngster. Issues ranging from personal tragedy to the country’s Partition wrack the mind as the narrative moves back and forth in history. When the author of the same book, Amitav Ghosh, appears in person, the students are bound to throw all sorts of questions at him! Such was the scene witnessed at the Amphitheatre, India Habitat Centre, where Penguin India Spring Fever 2015 kicked off last weekend. 

Packed with mostly students and professors of literature along with intelligentsia from the city, the amphitheatre echoed with the voice of the laureate as he read out an incident from his upcoming book Flood of Fire - the final novel in his Ibis trilogy.

Though his trilogy began with Ibis, a ship that journeys across the Indian Ocean to fight the 19th century Opium Wars in China, it has led his two books Sea of Poppies (2008) and River of Smoke (2011) achieve immense readership.

“Our history texts are nonsensical. There is a problem with the way history is learned and perceived in our country and how it is communicated. I am trying to create the experiential aspect of history through my work,” said Ghosh while extending his deepest regards to the historians.

Known for his craft to create characters that appear real, the author had a tough time handling questions from the young audience (mainly from Delhi University colleges). 

Trying to avoid a simple answer to one of the audience questions, he said, “Once I got a letter from Kerala asking ‘Can you please send me a picture of Tridib,” laughing as he fed the audience with interesting nuggets from an author’s life and how he researched before setting down to write. 

“When the Duke of Wellington was asked ‘which was the most important battle he fought in his life?’ he said ‘The Battle of Assaye’ (Second Anglo-Maratha war). He bought the Naga sadhus or naked warriors who betrayed the Marathas,” Ghosh points out from the lesser known parts of our history, adding, “This aspect of history is never taught to us.”

For those not interested in the fictional world, the session ‘Can India Make it?’ offered a wonderful insight into the economic growth of the country and the challenges that we will face in the near future. The session which had stalwarts from the media fraternity was moderated by Mihir Sharma. 

Sharma read out a few pages from his recently published book Restart: The Last Chance for the Indian Economy and left the floor open for other panellists to discuss about various themes around Indian economy vis a vis the global scenario. 

During the reading, Sharma said, “There is an army of unemployed people in India today which is equal to the population of Spain, Kenya or Ukraine.” 

Supporting the same startling fact, Raghav Bahl said that his upcoming book on Super Economies is about those countries whose GDP is in double digits. Contrarily, Aakar Patel talked about the need for a “degree of robustness and dynamism in society. In India, we are tolerant to a very high level of anarchy,” he said, presenting the domestic picture.

T N Ninan, the fourth panellist, however, laid emphasis on the “need to understand our country beyond the normal parameters of debate”. So diverse is the spectrum of thoughts shared at this literary platform which is all set to see Gulzar and Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev over the coming weekend!            

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