The day three of the Mumbai Literature Festival brought an array of sessions exploring everything from one’s right to offend to India's incredible obsession with the consumption of paneer.
The day was kicked off solemnly by one of India’s beloved authors, Kiran Nagarkar, as he introduced his German counterpart, Ulrike Draesner, with sincerity one wishes to be introduced in a day-dream scenario.
The two were there to discuss the impact different cities have had on their writings. Draesner, who grew up in Berlin, described the incredible weight she felt of the recent history of her country and her own complicated family as came into her own. How a sense of guilt was bestowed upon her generation and how she came to terms with the traumas of migration. Lessons which she translated into her works like Sieben Sprünge vom Rand der Welt.
Her love for the city of Berlin also helped shape her ideas about history, culture and our attempt at repairing the damage caused by the atrocities of generations past.
Nagarkar furthered the same line of thought as he discussed the partition of India and India's reluctance to welcome or integrate refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar. He went on to discuss the idea of a city being one’s home, rather than a one's home being in a city. And while discussing the same, he made clear his absolute dismay towards where his city, Mumbai, was headed. “I want my home back,” is how he put it.
The session was concluded as the two authors contemplated on this idea of what exactly is the nature of “home”. Is it where you feel sane and inspired? Is your passion your home? Or is it the language that is our true home? Much food for thought.
Up next was, even more, food, and this time not just for thought, as veteran journalist and author of over 30 books, Mark Kurlansky, took to the stage with food, wine writer and columnist, Antoine Lewis.
Kurlansky, who has written a great deal about food, including books like Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World and Salt: A World History, discussed his inspiration when it comes to food writing.
Talking about his book Salt, the author brought up Mahatma Gandhi and the role salt played in India’s efforts against the British rule. He also discussed India’s obsession with everything milk and how it's unlike any other part of the world.
Kurlansky is currently working on a book about milk due to come out next year. But writing about food is not easy. The author explains what a nightmare the research can be and how the culinary world is littered with false assumptions and theories, a nightmare to navigate during research.
Going off the topic a bit, the author also expressed his absolute joy in writing books for children and opening up their minds to new possibilities and ideas.
Next on the menu was a humorous, though a bit awkward, session involving Indian author Allan Sealy, poet, novelist and musician Jeet Thayil and American author and satirist Gary Shteyngart.
The topic of discussion was if there is an invisible line writer must not cross. Although, the discussion explored intriguing topics like state censorship, self-censorship, usage of offensive language in writing, the future of satire in Trump’s America, distortion of historical facts, etc; the session was filled with awkward silences, mostly due to the last minute change of the moderator and the panel’s casual disregard towards helping out the situation.
But there were plenty of jokes and laughs, if not enough substantial arguments. One can only hope, when the next time such a topical discussion is arranged, there would be more to take away for the attendees.
The late afternoon session was an intimate conversation between the English novelist, biographer, and critic Margaret Drabble and Indian author and journalist Jerry Pinto.
78-year-old Drabble talked about her 19 novels over the years (the first one published when she was just 23), what inspired her during different stages of her life and her writing process. Pinto, as ever, had done a meticulous job researching on his interviewee, which made for a flowing conversation providing an insight into decades of work.
Drabble also talked about her love for thriller novels (Lee Child's Jack Reacher among them), how she prefers poetry over prose in this stage of her life, her belief in the concept of redemption and the unlikely prospect of a 20th novel.
The day came to a close with a much-awaited book launch of not just one, but two books — Nayantara Sahgal’s When the Moon Shines by Day and Nagarkar’s Jasoda.
Nagarkar talked at length about Sahgal’s book and it’s importance at this point in time. Sahgal, who returned her Sahitya Akademi Award in 2015 in protest of increasing intolerance and supporting the right to dissent in the country, further talked about how the current socio-political environment inspired her narrative.
Then it was time for Nagarkar to read from his book. When he was finished, the audience was literally stunned into silence. Not a soul twitched when he immediately opened the session for questions from the audience.
The panel went on to discuss the issues India is facing and what could be done to rectify them. A stunning (perhaps a bit too literally) end to day three of the event.
On to the final day.
Updated Date: Nov 19, 2017 13:09 PM