A little thought

I was at the THiNK 2013, over the past three days. I’ve been before, and last time too came out feeling much the same way. Once I steeled myself to filter out the lingering air of rich page-three packaged, intellectualism that hung around, zeroed in to the proceedings, it was eye-opening, overwhelming, enjoyable, enlightening, and not the conference itself, but some of the content that came out of the sessions made it, in parts annoying, frustrating, enraging and altogether very, very inspiring.

The speaker list was a bit stellar this year. And I’m not even talking about Amitabh Bacchan, Robert De Niro Farhan Akhtar and Priyanka Chopra. It was stellar with the likes of Mary Kom, Binalakshmi Nepram, Toni Bentley, Tina Brown, to name just a few that left a mark on me. In discussing the issues that grip the world, it’s easy to pain the dismal picture that we believe is the future we are headed into. And yet, in all that hopelessness there was optimism. In the glimmer of hope and determination that I saw in the likes of Binalakshmi, in the Femen movement, in the candid way that Vijay Mallya spoke his heart, in the heights of feminism I saw in the woman who spoke of surrender, in the meeting between a founding member of the Taliban and an ex CIA official — a meeting that probably needed to happen a decade ago. In just too many moments that I want to process first, before I talk about them.

I came home every single night and wrote copious notes, session-wise. Things that stayed with me; things that didn’t stick, but I didn’t want to forget over time; peoples names; books they wrote; books they talked about it; issues I wanted to look up; things I want to participate in. But I also came back and jotted it all down because I wanted to write about THiNK and what it has done to me over the last three days. I wanted to write about it here, certainly. To share the news and to let you guys know that it happens every single year, and us minions need to pay a modest amount of Rs 1000 for three power-packed days of lots of ideas being thrown about you. Politics, infrastructure, development, social activism, communication and the Internet, feminism, books and the arts, movies, psychology, women’s rights, sport — you name it, it made an appearance in some part at the festival. And for those of us that can afford to spend Rs 1000 on a meal, its a steal for three days of lots of ideas, inspiration and most of all, awareness. I wanted to write about it for myself too, separately, off the blog. As a way to bottle up the energy, the verve, the optimism I felt, and to savour it in little sips over the next few months. I wanted to write about it to tell you guys how awesome it was and how more people need to come down to Goa and experience it.

I wanted to do it all. But somehow at the end of three days, all I wanted to do is process it. Let it rest in my head for a while, churn, chew and internalise it.

——

I might eventually write about it, or about some of the many thoughts that it triggered. But until then, I’ll leave you with a few picture my friend Joy took, to remember some of what I experienced this past weekend.

Naseeruddin Shah reads a story by Manto that dates back 60 years, but is as relevant today as it was then
Naseeruddin Shah reads a story by Manto that dates back 60 years, but is as relevant today as it was then
He turned out to be just the way we imagined he would be -- subdued, understated man of few words
He turned out to be just the way we imagined he would be — subdued, understated man of few words
No regrets, no shame, no minding his words
No regrets, no shame, no minding his words
Mullah Zaeef has a meeting that the forces dodged for over a decade
Mullah Zaeef has a meeting that the forces dodged for over a decade
The real heroine is the one on the right
The real heroine is the one on the right
The other PC of the evening gets grilled
The other PC of the evening gets grilled
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9 Replies to “A little thought”

  1. It sounds lovely! I would love to attend this. Does it happen always in Goa? In the month of Nov? I certainly want to make it next year, and Rs.1000 is a small amount to pay for something so great!

    1. Around Oct-Nov, usually. The next one has been announced to commence on Nov 4th I think. I usually start stalking their website in July/August, so will give you a heads up :)

  2. Irony that the fest was called THiNK fest. :-)

    Vijay Mallya who has all the time in the world for making swimsuit calendars on posh beaches but cannot pay his airline employees. He needs to be heard, yes!

    Tarun Tejpal, the organizer of the fest is a rapist and has a lot of illegal properties. Oh, he was the media campaign chief of Mr. N D Tiwari. He needs to be heard too, yes!

    Mullah Zaeef, a terrorist and a member of an organization that has absolutely regressive views on women. Thinks kafirs need to be killed. He needs to be heard too, yes!

    Shoma Chaudhury, being a woman herself, shielding Tarun Tejpal in the media saying that the sexual assault is an internal matter of Tehelka. She is interviewing an accomplished woman like Mary Kom? She hosts a session on ‘Rape Survivors’. Amusing to say the least!

    I really wish accomplished, educated women like you stop supporting such nonsense!

    1. It IS ironic! And SO tragic, in the light of everything thats panned out today.

      I really wish, now more than ever, that I had gotten down to writing all those things I said I wanted to share. I really wish I had written about how sometimes listening to both sides of every story is eye-opening. About how it was a bit like subjecting myself to a movie I know will disappoint, but coming out of pleasantly surprised by the acting of some characters you didnt know could surprise you. Because maybe it would have made clearer why I felt it was such a good opportunity to listen to all these folks. Good, bad, ugly — it was a telling experience. About how I was uncomfortable by so much that was spoken, but that in itself was an eye-opening experience, because it made me THINK about things I don’t otherwise bother to articulate.

      I really wish I had done it because, I have to say Vijay Mallya’s talk was amongst the ones I enjoyed the most. Not so much for WHAT he spoke, but what it said about him.

      I really wish I had written about the Mullah Zaeef session and how everyone was so stunned by his liberal and open minded outlook on day one, and then left everyone equally stunned on day two by going back on a lot of what he said.

      I really wish I had written about how I felt Shoma Chaudhury was a little too aggressive an interviewer for my liking. And about how I feel aggression, hatred and outrage seems to be creeping in to all kinds of media and communication these days. It seems we can’t talk like normal people anymore, unless we demean and malign people, or put them in difficult spots without understanding their side of the story. Which is what I assume the point of any interaction (including this one) is.

      I really wish I had written about the rape victims session, and more so the one in questions today “the beast amidst us” because that was the one that left me most shaken up and emotional.

      I really wish there was some way of knowing of the sick machinery of power play that is often behind shindigs like this, in advance, so I might have been able to put a finger on the pseudo, pre-packaged , mass-produced intellectualism in the air amidst the audience. Maybe then I might not have gone, and suggested others go too.

      I really wish there was some way of knowing all this in advance, so that I wouldn’t have to “steel myself to filter out the lingering air of rich page-three packaged, intellectualism that hung around, zeroed in to the proceedings” and just for once push my everyday cynicism aside and believe that there is a little hope left somewhere. Maybe then I wouldnt feel so strongly about not attending it every again.

      But you know none of this changes what I felt then. In the light of what I have learned about Tejpal today, about his magazine, the company he keeps and his possible ulterior motives, yes, I am deeply disheartened and I will not go about telling people to make the effort to come and listen at the nest ThinkFest (if there is one)..but does it take away what I felt at the end of those three days? No.

      In case youre not already angry enough, can I add to it with this little tidbit?
      http://kafila.org/2011/11/03/an-open-letter-to-tarun-tejpal-hartman-de-souza/

      1. Didn’t expect such a long comment. I don’t disagree with some issues you raised. However, I don’t agree with everything either.

        I will try to explain what made me post the previous comment on your blog.

        First of all, the objective was not to ‘demean’ or ‘malign’ people or put people in an ‘difficult spots without ‘understanding their side of the story’. I am sure that you would agree with me that people have better things to do than demeaning and maligning people against whom there is no reason to hold grudge! [For someone who ‘steals’ recipes off your cookery blog, no. Thanks for that! :-)]

        The point is not that. I am just trying to understand what makes people pay for some stink fest to go listen to some people who are so ethically and morally corrupt.

        With the link to Kafila’s post (posted in 2011), I think you have already led me to the point that I was trying to make.

        There have been many instances where people have strong proof against Tejpal since a long time regarding his modus operandi in Tehelka. Hiring prostitutes for ‘sting operations’ to lure officials to temptation is far from ethical journalism. Let us not forget what happened to an upright man like George Fernandes because of their politically motivated sting operations. It is, was and has been out there since quite sometime.

        Tehelka also got away easily for Tarun Sehrawat’s death.

        And, the terrorist who did a 180 degree turn has a lot of blood on his hands. Last time I checked, India is high on their enemy list. And, paying money to listen to some India hater? Sorry, I have a teeny weeny bit of patriotism in me.

        Given all this (these are incidents that happened quite sometime ago!), I am surprised that people still flock to Think fest. Maybe, the presence of these criminals is background noise for some. Not to me.

        (It is a pity that such hardened criminals share the stage with achievers like Alan Russell, Vinod Rai, Mary Kom and others, but, I digress.)

        To me, the ’emotional’ letter that the editor of Tehelka wrote hurling words like ‘penance’ and ‘laceration’ effortlessly told me more about him and his organization, more than any writing that I have read by/about him. The support he enjoys from his political masters was very evident from his letter.

        A big chunk of their arrogance and the holier-than-thou position that Tehelka takes is mostly because of their financial clout. Going to such fests, IMO, is just strengthening their clout further.

        I really wish the Government in Goa tightens the screws on Tehelka and convict him. Sends a strong message to employers who abuse women at their workplace! I, for sure, would relish all those Tehelka folks and his stink fest going down.

        I share your feeling about cynicism – C’est la vie! :-)

        Cheers.

        1. First of all, I’m sorry if I mis-read your last comment, but I felt (and i could be wrong about this) there was a heavy sarcasm that was uncalled for. Not that I need to justify or clarify anything, but I felt the need to say my piece to counter what I thought was coming from a place of lots of presumption on your part.

          To be completely honest, I was entirely clueless about the true nature of Taruj Tejpal and his magazine until yesterdays pandora’s box opened. I was have never been an avid reader of the magazine. And I am not aware of the many instances and proof against him and his operations. I was unaware of really what Mullah Zaeef is all about until that session I attended. I hadnt heard of Tarun Sehrawat until Tejpal instituted a journalism award in his name and presented it to several young journos at the festival. To me the festival was about the achievers, who far outnumbered the “criminals” many of whom I discovered were criminals only after i heard them speak.

          About understanding what makes people go to festivals like this, I can only speak for myself and I can only speak for this festival that I attended. I went because at Rs 1000 for all three days it was a steal, given that I had the opportunity of listening to people like Binalakshmi Nepram, Toni Bentley, Mansoor Khan, John Pilger, Garry Kasporov, Golshifteh Farahani, Nusrat Durrani, Tina Brown, Shekhar Kapur — and that’s just naming the people I knew and admired in one way or another. Thru the three days I discovered others and was let down by some, alike.

          Speaking of cynicism, the festival did inject me with a boost of optimism and made me take certain proactive actions over the last few weeks, about issues I feel strongly about (dont want to discuss it here, we can take it offline if you like). In a time when waking up to a scandal every day has become passe, those three days pumped a significant amount of hope and optimism in me because there ARE people in far corners of the world, selflessly doing what they think is right and doing it quietly, without waiting for glory, and doing it because they believe in a something — justice, truth, human rights, health for all — whatever it may be! And for that alone, I was deeply let down to read Tejpal’s letter, Shoma’s insipid stand on the issue, people’s defense and outrage on twitter and the Kafila link I discovered in the bargain. Its a pity and a shame really.

          And while we’re on the topic, I read the Tejpal fiasco break out two nights ago, and went to bed enraged. I share your anger at that ridiculous excuse for atonement. I couldn’t get over how he thinks he can molest a colleague twice in two days and think that stepping “aside” for “6 months” is “atonement” enough? Who died and put him in charge of choosing his own punishment?!?! To make things worse, I read and discovered so much garbage about him over the course of yesterday and I am not surprised. These are people backed by huge amounts of money and clout and I suppose somewhere it can get to your head.

          I am just glad we are past the old way of brushing it under the carpet and moving on with daily life, steeling ourselves to deal with it better the next time it happens. I hope he pays and he pays hard for what he has done. Needless to say, I quickly changed my mind about ever attending Think again, regardless of who the speakers may be.

          Knowing, changes a lot. And as you can see, I am not as educated and accomplished as you gave me credit for :)

          Again, I’m sorry if I mis-read the intention of your last comment. At the end of the day why I went to Think and what I came out of it feeling is something I know best, and while you are free to agree/disagree with that badly articulated post of mine, I think tone does matter. These days its getting VERY hard to tell the trolls apart from normal angry people like you and me :) Outrage, presumptuousness, sweeping statements and the like are becoming the only way the internet operates. I feel myself drifting away from most things around here (read: twitter, fb and comments) that lend themselves to getting in, saying your piece the way you wish and walking out without a thought. So no, I have to say there are many people out to baselessly malign and demean and its getting very hard to tell them apart.

          No hard feelings, I’m glad we could exchange thoughts, and you’re welcome for the recipes :)

          1. Well, not a troll. Better places to troll people – Twitter, Reddit etc. :-) Certainly not on a sensitive topic like this.

            I never read Tehelka till yesterday till I started to see Shoma’s preaching on feminism! Oh boy.

            Preaches as if she is Pope. When it comes to applying that in practice, she is … well, less said the better.

            That has been one main reason that makes my blood boil against these wannabe feminist types. As you said, the actual feminists are the ones who do their jobs silently in making lives of people around them better. [Feminist is not the right term for them, but then, that is a discussion about semantics and I digress.]

            Again, I fail to understand why we want these wannabes to talk about women who serve as an inspiration? Do we want an urban educated, hypocritical, biased, born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-the-mouth type Tehelka crowd to tell us about the awesomeness of Mary Koms and other achievers?

            Are we so bereft of achievers around us that we need these rotten media people to tell us? Also, why not a Kishori Amonkar or a Dhondutai Kulkarni or a Kesarbai Kelkar? As you said, they are probably not sensational enough? Too much connected to the native traditions? The kind of disgust that these Tehelka people have towards anything Indian (only figured it out since the last couple of days. Just like you, I never read the magazine.) is just appalling.

            Anyway, sorry for the rant. Won’t clutter your comment section further.

            Cheers!

            1. I hear you, but just playing Devil’s Advocate, if everything the media doles out is suspect, who is to say the media-led anti-Tehelka propaganda is entirely true? The one thing I have realised this past week is, nothing on TV and in the news in India can be taken at face value. It is not news, it is opinions. And heavily, coloured. The forces of political muscle power seem to creep in everywhere, even in places you least imagine. So while I was deeply disappointed with the revelations about Tehelka, now I can’t say I am surprised. Also, I don’t know where I stand now.. I am sort of on the fence, because I dont know who is right and who is wrong.

              That apart, as someone born and brought up in a family of musicians, and having learnt it for over 15 years, I did wonder why the illustrious panel was missing an Indian musician. But I figured maybe they felt artists and musicians dont fit the bill in terms of using what they do to make a positive impact on society at large, unless they are in the media and already well-known and talked about. Its interesting that you pointed it out too.

              And no need to apologise. Comment sections are meant for discussing things like this. Frankly I find it much more interesting to share these thoughts than get the usual “beautifully put” comment, to which my response is just “thank you”.

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