The WRITE place to be | india | Hindustan Times
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The WRITE place to be

There are many kinds of fantasies being imagined today and the kind of fantasies that writers come up with maybe important correctives or criticisms of those fantasies.

india Updated: Apr 09, 2006 01:41 IST

Rana Dasgupta (of Tokyo Cancelled fame) says, “Writers are people who make their living from thinking about a fantasy world. There are many kinds of fantasies being imagined today and the kind of fantasies that writers come up with maybe important correctives or criticisms of those fantasies. Having a forum like this, where people can reflect together as to what they are about and what kind of contribution they can make is very important.”

The forum that Dasgupta talks about is the three-day Hindustan Times Kitab festival that kicked off on Friday at the Indian Habitat Centre. And Kitab sees an international and eclectic mix of writers, journalists, thinkers and otherwise glitzy celebrities share a common platform. According to author William Dalrymple, “Around the world, Indian authors and the subject of India are very dominant but the weird thing is that there aren’t many such festivals here. So this is a start.”

Names usually provide that added cultural caché and the ones that have chosen to associate themselves with Kitab make a compelling list-- the Indian contingent of literary heavyweights has been represented by the likes of Amit Chaudhuri, Shashi Tharoor and Rana Dasgupta; Nadeem Aslam, Rory Stewart and British MP Clare Short give Kitab that international edge. And Goldie Hawn and Rahul Bose would surely make some non-readers want to join the audience.

Given the varied interests of those participating, the issues discussed range from women’s writing, little magazines, South Asian diaspora and globalisation to fallibility and truth in contemporary politics. A seemingly perfect menu from which Short wants to place her order. She says, “The world has to become more effaceable and for this we need a bubbling of ideas and books. People, who read books here and everywhere have got to think, argue and discuss a newer set of ideas.”

Rory Stewart, who has authored The Places in Between is hopeful about what the festival can achieve but poses a realist argument nonetheless-- “It seems to me that these festivals are often very joyful experiences. I don’t think that we should take them hugely seriously. But I do think that it’s great for the audience to get to hear people they admire and question and even challenge them.”

While Iraq, Islam and the media will all be put under the scanner, one of the many things that this festival is also inevitably set to highlight is the plurality and proliferation of different Indias. Bose opines, “We need more fora such as this that would make people engage with different Indias, both creatively as well as personally. While India is opening its horizons in terms of business and knowledge, the creative world is a step behind.”

All of those present at Kitab hope that it will become an annual fixture on the Indian cultural calendar. Says Chaudhuri, “Festivals such as this should be held regularly. They should also travel to different parts of India.”