It was the seventh day at the Spring Fever 2012 and the literary mood was in full swing.
The session of the evening titled ‘The Great Indian Story’ was presided by three eminent figures – author and public intellectual Gurcharan Das, writer and academic Amit Chaudhuri and the suave politician cum novelist Shashi Tharoor.
This ‘Great Indian Story’ unfolded in different chapters by respective authors as they took turns to enthrall the audience with their soon-to-be published works by reading passages from them.
‘India Grows at Night’ by Gurcharan Das: Talking about his book Indian Grows at Night, the writer of international bestseller, India Unbound, said, “the complete title of the book actually reads ‘India Grows at Night When the Government Sleeps'”. Author of The Difficulty of Being Good- On the Subtle Art of Dharma that examines the elusive laws of Dharma and moral codes of what is right and wrong in the epic Mahabharata vis-a-vis an India post the 9/11 era; explains in India Grows at Night that, “India can tread the path of prosperity only with minimal interference by the government and full co-operation by the state in forming policies to ensure the well-being of the country,” he added. Reading out excerpts from his book, he compared the condition of two developing regions, Faridabad and Gurgaon, situated away from the capital where the former is coping with modernity and the latter is rising with the help of private developers. For him, India’s status as the second fastest growing economy comes at the cost of “Private success and public failure”. He therefore urges “a liberal case for a strong state,” so that an equal society can be built for all.
‘Calcutta’ by Amit Chaudhuri: While Gurcharan presented to us the prospect of an ‘India shining’ with good governance and well-intended politics, Amit Chaudhuri went back to the streets of Calcutta from where he searched his point of vision in rediscovering a past yearning to be revived today. Called Calcutta, the book is an account of the author’s journey from 2009-2011. The inability to see the pulsating energy the street life once brimmed with and now seems to be shrouded by a blanket of modernity forms the crux of the book. The French windows, considered an inherent part of the office buildings of Calcutta, intrigued the writer. Not much interested in the monuments and relics left by the British in the city, he would walk the streets of Calcutta looking for French windows for reasons unknown. His attempt as an Indian writer to associate with another Indian writer from the past, Rabindranath Tagore, also finds voice in the book. Trying to reconcile with the high-flown English of Tagore’s works led him to study the peculiarities in the songs and poems by the bard. As a writer he wants to make sense of the city, a city which is in a state of flux, a city where relationships are no longer intimate and lacks connection.
‘Pax Indica’ by Shashi Tharoor: From the lanes of Calcutta, Shashi Tharoor led us to yet another face of India in terms of economics and foreign policies. In his forthcoming book ‘Pax Indica’, Tharoor discusses the role of foreign policies and the tangible benefits it can bring to India. For him, the ‘Non-Resident Indian’ has become- ‘Now Required Indian’ who had ‘Never Relinquished India’, and can be a strong force behind a stable Indian economy. Living in a tough neighbourhood where fundamental difficulties continue to plague Pakistan and Afghanistan, Myanmar struggles for a free election society, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bhutan too cope with their own political inadequacies, “it is time that the geographical proximity translates into constructive togetherness. Co-existence and a peaceful one at that is the need of the hour,” asserts Tharoor. Deriving an example from the epic Ramayana, he says, “we need to build that ‘Rama Sethu’ so that communication between countries of the sub-continent flourishes to a positive high.”
The evening ended on a note where the three intellectuals infused in the audience a spirit that helped us recognise the potential of a country once called the Golden Bird.