The first fifteen minutes of Pico Iyer's conversation with Akash Kapur, the author of India Becoming, a New Yorker and New Republic "Best Book of 2012" and a Newsweek "Must-Read on Modern India" is spent with each giving kudos to the other's writing. Iyer realises they've gone on too long, and apologizes: "
We'll try and not turn this into a mutual admiration society." It's wonderful to have two very smart and talented authors on the same stage, but therein lies the downside, albeit a small one.
Iyer talks about the many fathers within us, and the need to escape the one who made you: "When you're young, to make yourself, you have to go in the opposite direction of your family... Twenty years later, you've become your father." But he insists that you won't learn much about his own relationship with his father if you read his book, "The man within my head". Or about Graham Greene. Who is incidentally, the man within Iyer's head.
Akash Kapur asks Pico: "Can you be a technophobe and a global soul"? Pico still has an AOL account and no cell phone or skype.
Pico offers a deeper meaning to the phrase 'global soul,' asking, "How does a globalised world change the way we dream or create?"
This is a big question. Would the little kid in a village dream of fancy cars and nightclubs without the reach of television? And going back to Jamil Ahmad's defense of tribal culture, modernity may be violent but it is also deeply seductive. Young tribal children cannot be kept out of its reach without an artificial quarantining of entire peoples. If their dreams change, and their souls become more global, is this progress or disaster?