Seen and heard at lit fest

The seventh edition of the Bangalore Literature Festival saw a mix of prominent names and emerging voices. From cartooning to fake news, the sessions covered an interesting combination. Metrolife brings you all the action...

Why we must abide by the Constitution

Historian Ramachandra Guha asked the question ‘Is There an Indian Road to Equality?’ saying it was particularly relevant in the context of #MeToo and Sabarimala.

Caste and gender equality, he said, must be achieved regardless of economic equality. He referred to sociologist Louis Dumont’s definition of Indians as ‘homo hierarchicus,’ to describe how caste governs social life.

“Dalits and women are the most exploited in our society,” he said.

All religions in India practise caste, he observed, and discrimination against women is the “core of everyday social life”. Despite the presence of female gods, “there are female Gods but no female priests.”

Guha spoke of three types of equality. India has witnessed reasonable success in achieving ‘equality before the law’, and is making slow progress towards ‘equality in everyday or social life’. ‘Equality in the eyes of God’ is where Dalits have made more progress than women, he said.

“I completely salute the #MeToo movement and honour those women who spoke out,” he declared. He supported the Supreme Court judgement allowing the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple. Dalits were prohibited from entering the shrine almost a century ago, and that practice has now been abolished, he said.

 


Jennifer of CMCA conducted the session.

How to make out fake from real news

Busting Fake News: Developing a Scientific Temper’ organised by the non-profit organisation, CMCA, hosted activities to teach children how to distinguish fake news from real news. “In the social media, with so much information out there, it is important for young people to understand that whatever information they get must be analysed and inculcate an opinion,” said Ashish Patil, director of CMCA, on the objective of the workshop.

A participant welcomed the new awareness. “We get lots of fake news on platforms like WhatsApp, Instagram, and Snapchat. Then there is a controversy blowing up and hurting a lot of people. I think it is a great initiative to teach us how to bust fake news,” said Ananya, a Class 6 student.

 

 


Ponnappa

The hazardous job of cartooning

Cartoonists Ponnappa and Ravi Shankar Etteth discussed the decline of artistic freedom in ‘Pencils Drawn: Cartooning in Trying Times’ with journalist Bachi Karkaria.

‘Are cartoonists a threatened species today?’ was Bachi’s question to the panellists. To which Ponnappa replied he was a freelancer: that way, others can’t force their judgements on him.

Ravi Shankar’s view was more pessimistic. “The species is extinct,” he said, adding cartooning was not lucrative either in career terms.

The discussion highlighted the lack of freedom of political cartoonists. Ponnappa said he wouldn’t be able to publish today what he did 20 years ago, indicating that artistic freedom has declined.

Ponnappa, who said he never takes up topics like religion and pornography, sketched his stance on Sabarimala. The cartoon depicted a Sabarimala blood bank accepting only the blood of male donors. He also remarked no agency would be willing to publish the satirical sketch.
Ravi Shankar sketched a piece on the silence of the government on key issues. He drew a caricature of Modi remaining silent and titled it ‘moun ki baat’.

Earlier politicians like Nehru appreciated and encouraged cartoonists, even when they were targets, but that is not the case today, they said. Ravi Shankar noted cartoonists in regional languages were doing better though.

The discussion ended with Ponnappa asserting that he would publish a book of all his works rejected by publishing houses.


Ashutosh Varshney

'Populism, Liberalism et al'

Ashutosh Varshney, professor of International Studies at Brown University spoke about populism and liberalism, in conversation with columnist Narayan Ramachandran.

The professor made some hard-hitting points. "The elites are corrupt," he said, adding that 21st-century liberalism should be about protecting the minorities.

He was also critical about the Modi government, which, he said had become populist after 2014. Indira Gandhi's populism was always about the poor, whereas Modi assumes Hindus own India, he said.

Ashutosh believes Modi is likely to win the elections next year but in a coalition. If he wins a majority, it could be bad for the country, especially the judiciary, he said.

 


Sophie Hannah

Agatha Christie, Poirot and a revival

Agatha Christie, Poirot and Me’ was a discussion featuring crime fiction writer Sophie Hannah with author Madhavi S Mahadevan.
The duo conversed about Sophie’s adaptation and rendering of one of Agatha Christie’s famous fictional characters ‘Hercule Poirot’. 

The novelist, with the blessings of late Agatha’s family, revived the iconic Poirot in her book ‘The Monogram Murders’ (2014). Poirot was last seen in Agatha’s ‘Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case’ in 1975, where he was killed. Sophie went on to write two more books, ‘Closed Casket’ (2016) and ‘The Mystery of Three Quarters’ (2018), based on the famous detective. 

“Agatha is still the best. What she did was not just write a mystery but narrate a story. She had structural ideas and expanded the genre,” the author says. Saying that she has read Agatha’s works at least five times, Sophie said that the legendary author’s writing is magical, accessible and intellectually challenging.

Sophie adds that Agatha was both a commercial and literary writer.

 

 

 

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Seen and heard at lit fest

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