This week has been all literary festivals and the Obamas. In a way, I suppose, the two are somewhat similar: both have huge run-ups to them, both are anticipated hotly by the media in the middle of the January slump of slow news and also, both are fashion extravaganzas. I had Thoughts (as opposed to one long thought, these were mini-thoughts) and so I put them all in my weekly column at Financial Chronicle.
|Looking v. smug|
* First, can we talk about that jacket? That Jacket of Massive Ego? You’ve got to admit it takes a certain kind of person to trot about wearing pinstripes that are essentially his name over and over again. I like to imagine Modi standing in front of the mirror in his house giving himself a pep talk, “Who are you?” he asks, shaving cream on his face, “You’re Narendra Damodardas Modi! And don’t you forget it!” All through the day, he sneaks little looks at his name on his sleeve and marvels that he is here, sitting and watching the parade he’s seen on television so many times, with the President of the United States sitting right next to him. “Who are you?” he thinks, saluting the armed forces, “You’re Narendra Damodardas Modi!”
|*not a real murder|
* The Jaipur Literature Festival happened, as always, and as always, all of Delhi left behind a cultural wasteland as they left. I didn’t attend this year, but I did have the hashtag #JLF as one separate column on my Twitter app (Tweetdeck for Mac!) so I could see what was going on in real time, so to speak. Which was pretty much the same as always. Unless you’re at a literature festival, it’s never that exciting to read about it. The same goes for music festivals. The same goes for people who post exclamation mark heavy status updates about their exotic vacations and what they’ve seen and done while you’re still in your pajamas, surfing the internet at home. Oh yes, Shashi Tharoor attended and was on a panel with some very civilized discussion I believe, while the media was baying for his blood back in Delhi. Which reminds me how the TOI Lit Fest in Mumbai invited Tarun Tejpal for a discussion on power in relationships and didn’t see the irony of it at all, until Twitter pointed it out to them. JLF was slightly more subtle and I don’t think it was a crime fiction panel.
* The Economist was super condescending about Indians AS USUAL and reading, saying in a
story (bylined only as J.A.): “Most of the festival-revellers, members
of the emerging Indian middle-class and drawn from Gurgaon, Delhi and Jaipur
itself, had come for the age-old love of being where the action is in a crowded
country. They had come for the Hindi dance music that blared from the tea
stalls, the prospect of seeing a Bollywood star and, for those who could
squeeze into the VIP areas, lots of free booze. The JLF is more a mela—an Asian
fair—than a meeting of literary minds.” Well.
|Aziz is awes.|
* Back to the Obamas and Modi, or Mobama or Obadi or whatever else they’ve been called in the press. They exchanged a friendly hug, true, but Obama also did offer up some words of advice about not splintering India on religious lines, which I hope NaMo will take to heart, given how much he loves being the PM. An article inFirstPost, titled “Reading Obama’s Lips: He’s Telling PM Modi to Shut Down Hindutva Forces” went into this at some length. “The fact that the US President chose to bring up the issue of religious discord in his big signing off speech of what is being hailed as a wildly successful PR exercise for the BJP is enough proof of the fact that the global concerns about the Modi government's commitment to a truly secular democracy have not abated completely yet.” It is truly frightening how so many BJP supporters seem to ignore this one key issue of how they are unapologetically communal. Everyone loves development—even me!—but at what price? Also alarming is how their counter argument is always, “But what about the Congress and 1984?” The Congress has a lot of blood on its hands, yes, but they have at least managed to not be so militantly Hindu that even the very slightly liberal among us quake in our shoes at the fate of our country.