Dominated by Rajdeep Sardesai, it would be enough to say that media took centre stage on the last day of the Khushwant Singh Literary Festival.
As if that wasn’t enough, he was accompanied by journalist and columnist Bachi Karkaria for his first session ‘The Anchors Adrenalin: Stories’ and adman Suhel Seth for his next session ‘The Great Indian Election Tamasha’. Needless to say, both sessions kept the audience engrossed.
Anchors Adrenalin: Stories
For his first session, that Bachi Karkaria renamed ‘Murder on the IBN Express’ in jest, Sardesai discussed in fine detail the impact of television in India, and how India was the only nation where anchors doubled up as editors of news channels too. On being asked about getting carried away in the age of sensationalism, Sardesai said, “There is a reason why the television is called the idiot box.
Somewhere, news has become entertainment. People now snack on what comes on TV.”
Citing the example of the 2002 Gujarat riots coverage, Sardesai pointed out that people remembered graphic images more than extensive wording on a particular event or issue. Talking about the appetite for news in today’s India, Sardesai also agreed that television as a media did have its bad consequences, since every newsroom had now turned into a courtroom.
Ending the session by answering a question posed to him about contemporary Arnab Goswami’s overtaking the 9pm slot, his swift reply was, “Arnab has surely pushed the agenda, changed how people see news. He has discovered a new kind of journalism for himself which is true for every anchor on other news channels too.”
On the nation’s favourite soldier
Taking over from Sardesai, Zenobia Panthaky and Brig Behram Panthaky presented a nostalgic session about their book on the ‘Field Marshal and His Times: A Centenary Tribute’.
Brig Behram Panthaky recounted some interesting anecdotes from his time spent with the great Field Marshal Sam ‘Bahadur’ Manekshaw as his staff officer as a young second lieutenant in the army. Brig Panthaky’s wife Zenobia recounted her terrifying first interaction with the Field Marshal as a newly-wed when she cooked a traditional Parsi breakfast for him.
“He was deceivingly patient as he ate the omelette. Later, as he was leaving, he told my husband that he should send me back to my mother’s since I didn’t even know the basics of Parsi cooking. But the very same man told me to run away on my wedding day and to not give a damn about what people said since Parsis only attended weddings for food. So, he was a man who knew how to play the game on both sides of the fence,” said Zenobia.
A picture story steeped in time
Contemporary artist Vivan Sundaram presented a story titled ‘Another Sikh Gentleman’ through pictures taken by his grandfather Umrao Singh. Having reconfigured his grandfather’s images, he presented photomontages, retelling the family’s story.
The Great Indian Election Tamasha
Rajdeep Sardesai once again took to the stage, this time with adman Suhel Seth, who almost ‘accidentally’ called him Arnab. Sardesai talked about his new book ‘2014: The Elections That Changed India’, which will be launched on November 7, 2014.For all the banter and light-hearted humour, Sardesai strongly presented his views on how the 2014 elections had turned the tables in Indian politics.He said, “Narendra Modi will bring a different kind of politics. But, now is not the time to decide. He still has a long way to go. I personally don’t believe in demonising the man, neither do I believe in deifying him.”His book, he said, focused on the complex characters that were a part of the election scenario, be it Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi.He further said, “The Congress lost the plot completely, starting from 2011. It got intimidated by the sounds of Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal, followed by its inability to communicate. Last but not the least; it just could not get the economy to survive. The Congress has to realise that India has changed and its ‘darbari’ politics will not make the cut anymore.”
Fag-end of the journey
“We are brilliant liars, but you can never lie to us,” said actor Rahul Bose as he read from a note he had written about the nuances of being an actor. Having been a speaker in last year’s edition, he said he could not devote more time to the litfest as he was currently shooting for director Zoya Akhtar’s ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’. The day wrapped up with two informative sessions on freelance journalism by freelance journalist (Conde Nast Traveller) Charukesi Ramadurai, and ‘A Publisher’s Journey’ by Karthika VK from Harper Collins, Shobhaa De and Ashok Chopra.
As the sun got harsher, many said their goodbyes with promises to make an appearance at next year’s edition, which goes to show that even a quaint little hill station, could attract a crowd to celebrate not only those who are not with us today, but also to create a space for some hearty literary discussion.