There is something special about a sparsely populated morning at a festival. The coolness in the air, the proud faces of the ones who made it, the quietness of the venue. After a Shashi Tharoor-fueled opening day, the morning of day two at the Tata Literature Live! Mumbai LitFest was a picture of calm.
As a crowd slowly but surely occupied the seats at the Experimental Theatre, here at the NCPA, veteran journalist and author Mark Kurlansky took to the stage to deliver an intriguing lecture on paper. Yes, paper.
Kurlansky, who has dedicated entire books to topics ranging from salt to codfish, discussed parts from his latest, Paper: Paging Through History.
Tracing its origin in China and the subsequent spread across Asia and Europe, Kurlansky emphasised the role paper has played throughout history. From sustaining revolutions to preserving religious texts, Kurlansky’s story of paper was the story of human progress, of bureaucracy and politics, of salvation and enlightenment.
There was something else too the 68-year-old author managed to do apart from delivering an inspired lecture — instill a level of comfort in his audience. As the time rolled in for the questions from the audience, barely a couple of hands went us as many grappled with the novelty of the research into such a basic commodity. But as Kurlansky patiently answered a few questions, more and more hands went up. By the end of it, he had answered close to a couple of dozen questions. A true veteran.
Talking of veterans, day two of the fest seemed to be dedicated to them.
The afternoon hosted the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L Friedman as he deep dived into his latest book Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, in front of a mesmerised audience.
Starting with sharing a personal anecdote that led him to work on the book, Friedman went on to discuss the dramatic increase in the part technology had played (and continues to do so) in our lives over the past few years and the urgent need for us as a society to step back and evaluate where we are heading.
Friedman talked about Moore's law, which is at the crux of his thesis, and how according to it the acceleration in technological advancement has now exceeded in comparison to the human capacity to keep up with it, leading to some dangerous predicaments.
The “optimist” part of his book title came in the second half as he put forward ideas to bridge this ever-widening gap between the technology and our understanding. According to Friedman, one does not need to run away, but rather embrace technology in a manner which puts one in sync with the changing landscape. How technology, or artificial intelligence more specifically, can be designed to fill in the gaps. His solutions, he explained, comes from his keen observations of the natural world and how it reacts in various conditions.
Friedman concluded his lecture with an urge for people to instill core values in children and work on building healthy families and communities. The reason? According to him, the only thing that will save us in this time of absolute technological power at our disposal is our morals.
Next came perhaps the most awaited session of the day. With a palpable buzz around the venue, it was time for one of the most celebrated poet, lyricist and screenwriter of the country to take the stage for the launch of his new book.
Although Javed Akhtar was supposed to be joined by none other than Shabana Azmi, she had to pull out due to poor health. But this did nothing to dampen the high spirits as Akhtar took to the stage to belt out five Urdu poems to a tremendous response from his fans.
The reading was followed by the book launch (Talking Films: Conversations on Hindi Cinema), the inaugural copy of which the poet gifted to columnist Shobhaa De. Akhtar then sat down with Anil Dharker, the director of the festival, for a light-hearted conversation about his craft and Bollywood.
Akhtar remembered his time working in Bollywood with few anecdotes, discussing topics ranging from dialogue writing to our ability to trace the socio-political history of the country by observing the portrayals of villains in movies over the years.
There were cries from the audience for the session to go on forever, but things did come to an end following a brief interaction between the crowd and the poet. There was a sense of excitement in the air even after the show, many overwhelmed to see one of their idols in flesh. But it was time to move on, on to the next day.
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Updated Date: Nov 18, 2017 15:08:22 IST