How to be tolerant in SWF ?
I had the fantastic opportunity to be part of the SWF for the last one week. There have been very many experiences; some critical and some awe-inspiring. I am recording them as I see fit. You can draw your own conclusions.
Two books got launched in today’s book launch event. Jayanthi Sankar’s ‘Loss and Laws’ detailing some very heart warming incidents in Singapore. Though the events happen in Singapore and revolve around human emotions in a law and order obsessed society, the content is set to appeal to world audience at large. The sufferings, bondage, emotions, human dignity et al are universal and are not specific to one locale. Detailed review of the short stories in a later post.
The second book was ‘Kafka in Ayodhya’ by Zafar Anjum. It is s fictional account of Kafka visiting Ayodhya and the view that he has about the place. I believe it is a satire and should do well in a non-humorous nation, India.
A book on Ayodhya, critical of the current government in India, would sell. There is no doubt about it. But the author introduced his book decrying the current ‘intolerant’ atmosphere in India and how writers and academics are returning their awards to the government in protest against the government’s supposed ‘in-action’.
A couple of people from the audience seemed to side with the author and were even more critical of the Indian situation. I was beginning to feel ‘Is this a book launch event in Singapore or is this an NDTV chat show where people of all shades gather together and heap abuse on the government?’
When the mood of the function was turned from literature to Indian ‘intolerance’ and the Chinese audience began to feel so bad about that terrible, god-forsaken place called India, I asked for the mike and said:
‘I appreciate and congratulate the two authors for this book launch. I had come for the book launch but I find that there is there is a change in the agenda. I think the discussion is about ‘Intolerance in India.’ Well, if that be the case, let me add to the discussion.
Since when has there been intolerance in India? Has this ‘intolerance’ reared its head since the last one year only? We have been having intolerance since the time of Jesus Christ. It is surprising to see many speak as though ‘intolerance’ has reared its head just last year, since the Modi government took over. The name of your book ‘Kafka in Ayodhya’ is itself testimony to the fact that India is tolerant. You can have such a title and still hope to launch this book in India without fear for your life.
If we talk about ‘intolerance’, let us start from Taslima Nasrin. Where were the intellectuals and writers who are experiencing ‘intolerance’ now? Let us also remember the Danish cartoonist and what happened to him before talking of intolerance in India. Is the situation that bad?
And why all of a sudden now? Let us take a case. This Dipankar Banerjee. He has returned an award for a film but has chosen to retain another because the other film has been produced by Walt Disney. So what kind of award-return is this ?’
At this point the author Zafar cut me short and said,’ I know what you are saying. But the situation has worsened in the last 1 year. That is the perception that I get when I see the news and look at the reality on the ground.’
One thing is clear: Anybody that writes, has begun to feel that he / she needs to oppose Modi. Opposing Modi is one part. By all means, do it. But don’t shame the country that too in a foreign land.
Look at the eduction that the country has provided you with. Look at the feeling of freedom and the values that the country and its constitution have instilled in you that has helped you to voice your opinion so vociferously mostly bordering on the rhetoric.
Later I spoke to an academic who is a Kashmiri Pandit. She has a different version of her history of Kashmir and India and Indo Aryans. She has given me many book titles to read through. I will definitely read them and then write to her.
I had all along felt that the it was only the orators from Tamil Nadu who are rabidly anti-India. I stand corrected. Anybody from India, who is even remotely connected with writing, is anti-India. By anti-India, I mean anti-BJP. The ‘intellectuals’ are not still able to reconcile to the fact that Modi has become the Prime Minister.
Let BJP go to hell. But let India live. Don’t badmouth your mother even if she is ugly, for that would be tantamount to spitting out when wind blows in the direction of your face.
Coming back to ‘tolerance’. It was Jayanthi Sankar who was the most tolerant of all. She had all along tolerated the direction the function was taking and had also tolerated the hijacking of her book launch by rabid anti-Modi and anti-BJP rhetoric. The pity was that she had to step in and clarify a question from a member of the audience that her book had nothing to do with India and that it was a completely Singapore based book.