The city, and perhaps the entire nation, was put to shame when the organisers of Kolkata Book Fair deliberately switched off power connection during an interaction with the media by former Pakistan cricket captain Imran Khan, considered by many a future head of state, and above all, a guest at the Kolkata Literary Meet, to force him out of the session as he was overstepping his time limit.
Power connection at the UBI (United Bank of India) auditorium was switched off sharp at six in the evening when Imran Khan was fielding questions of journalists after a 50-minute lecture on captaining a nation.
The black out lasted for less than a minute around 55 seconds according to the organizers and was restored only after the stupefied cricketer quit the stage and auditorium.
The lights had to be put off as there were no other means to bring the programme to an end. The actual session had ended and Khan was just fielding questions from journalists. We were already running late by 15 minutes and other speakers such as film director Mrinal Sen and actor Madhabi Mukherjee were waiting outside, Tridib Chatterjee, secretary, Publishers and Booksellers Guild, the organizers of the Kolkata Book Fair, told HT.
Significantly, when HT contacted Sen for his comments, he denied having gone to the fair on Monday at all. I am ill and did not visit the fair grounds. Moreover, I did not have any session today, said Sen.
While that leaves room for doubting the reason that prompted Chatterjee and his colleagues to switch off power, he was in no mood to apologise. Rather, he justified his action and even claimed that he rescued a tired Khan from eternally curious journalists.
He had already attended a programme earlier, and was reluctant to take questions. He agreed for a five-minute questionanswer session on our request. But the session exceeded by 10 more minutes and showed no signs of ending. Imran, too, was looking tired. So, we disconnected the power supply, argued Chatterjee.
Interestingly, Imran Khan, now in his mid-fifties, was speaking to the audience standing all the time and was in no mood to tire out.
The organisers did not send any request to him to end the session in the form of a slip, or a whispering messenger, as is the globally accepted norm.
Khan said he was coming from the World Economic Summit from Davos, and hence was late by about 15 minutes. Accordingly, the session started at 4:40 pm instead of the scheduled 4:15 pm.
Power cuts during soccer and cricket matches at Salt Lake stadium and Eden Gardens have become a custom in the city. But they have all been blamed on technical snags.
What Chatterjee and his colleagues did at the Kolkata Book Fair went far beyond it hurt the self esteem of the city, and lowered the prestige of the nation.