The resplendent Palace Hall was the site for Shashi Tharoor’s (The Great Indian Novel; The Elephant, The Tiger and the Cell Phone; Bookless in Baghdad) dialogue in the morning. Tharoor (whose achievements also includes being a candidate for the post of UN’s Secretary General, as well as a Minister of State in the Indian government), is presently the MP for my home constituency of Trivandrum.
At 1115, this very dais was occupied by Nik Gowing, the BBC anchor who might not be a stranger for the Beeb’s audience in India. Gowing focused on the role played by the global media. He also pointed out that the public participation has been revolutionised with the advent of cell phones with cameras- these clippings provide insights which even reporters may not be aware of. This power, wielded by the media, also ensures that the governments are aware of their responsibilities and are held accountable for their actions.
The same venue later witnessed an exhilarating and passionate ‘Intelligence Squared’ debate on the economic development in India and its impact on social development. The session was quite an eye-opener for many who were informed about how India’s economic development was not having any significant effect on the poor. In fact, it was stated (I believe, by Tarun Tejpal) that the modern-day politicians were not exhibiting any social responsibility: i.e the elite, the privileged, and the powerful were not contributing to uplifting the dregs of the society.
The sessions in the Reading Room commenced with Welsh poets (Menna Elfyn, Paul Henry, and Gillian Clarke) and Indian poets (Vivek Narayanan from Tamil Nadu and K Satchidanandan from Kerala) discussing about the role played by languages in creating poetry. Of much interest was their (who considered poetry not just as an art or a way of expressing themselves, but also as a way of life) thoughts on the challenges of writing poetry in their native languages and why some chose to write poetry in non-native languages. One could not however agree with the statement that one’s own native language had an influence on a poetry written in another language (in this case, English). In my instance, even though Malayalam is my mother tongue and English my first language, my poems (all written in English) is not at all influenced by Malayalam (which I suck at, in any case). But one did agree with Gillian Clarke’s admission of her poems being innately musical thanks to the tempo of the Welsh language. Menna Elfyn once again reiterated that an essence is lost when poems are translated from one language to another.
The same venue was also to feature a discussion between economist and novelist Meghnad Desai and Hannah Rothschild. Elsewhere, the Bandstand featured sessions of Upinder Singh (on the unwritten histories which need to be written) and Keralite poet K Satchidanandan’s discussions of his works.