JLF ’12 – Day 2

It was a nice day. Busy, but nice. Made a late start and got to hear the last 10 minutes of Chetan Bhagat’s session, as he tried to mollify sections of the (jam packed) audience that wanted him to stop writing ‘love stories’ and write something more ‘serious’. Poor Bhagat tried to explain that the serious stuff bored him! That while he supported Anna Hazare, he also believed in being associated with Mercedes. And what was wrong with that? What indeed?

Amy (far left) & her daughter Sophia (look at her! she's skinnier than her daughter!) Photo courtesy: Susan Fernandes.

Amy Chua of ‘Tiger Mom’ fame was on next, and she turned out to be quite a pussycat after all – her older daughter who was there as well, promised us that her mom wasn’t as bad as she’s made out to be – and though the moderator, Madhu Trehan, confronted her with all the awful stuff she’s done to her kids – called her daughter ‘garbage’, made her children practise the piano for hours a day, didn’t ‘believe’ in sleep-overs, didn’t let her children try out for the school play – Amy rose to the moment and defended herself quite ably. Chua’s biggest strength though, is her absolute honesty – you can’t help but like the woman, especially when she confesses that she just can’t ‘live in the moment’ and drink a good cup of coffee and enjoy it or when she says that ‘it’s no fun doing something unless you’re really good at it’ – and you know she means it.

Arshia Sattar was back with Amish Tripathi (The Immortals of Meluha) and Gurcharan Das, discussing mythology and the role it plays in our lives. Sattar has some really good one-liners and ‘A myth is a lie that tells us the truth’ was my clear favourite. Amish told us two stories, one Hindu, one Islamic, that proved the same thing: that Indians believe that worship that is innocent, that springs unalloyed from the heart, is superior to worship that stems from knowledge. Moses taught a man to say his prayers the ‘right way’. The Hindu hunter offered the bloody carcass of his kill to the shivling. Allah preferred the man’s ‘sweet blasphemy’ to his newly learnt ‘correct’ prayers. Shiva blessed the hunter and not the temple’s pundit. Simple. Then why do we keep getting it wrong?

Ben Okri and his luminous smile. Photo courtesy: Susan Fernandes.

And finally, Ben Okri, that beautiful beautiful man, who I could have listened to forever. ‘The Famished Road’ is an ode to suffering and pain, to poverty and hope, to life and death. Here are some of the things he said (sort of).

Reading is like life, because you are in a total state of consciousness when you read, and hence that is when you’re most alive.

Universities need to teach The Art of Reading, as reading is never as innocent as it seems. Reading is a meeting of consciousness of the reader and what exists between the pages of a book. And to understand what one reads, one must first understand onself.

I like to take my sentences for a walk.

Great books change you.
Really great books change nations.

p.s. Prasoon Joshi sang a lovely Hindi song for the audience (he has a nice voice). I heard only the last stanza which was about a young girl asking her father  to marry her to an ironsmith, so that he might break her chains and set her free. Sigh.

Gulzar reciting his poems to a packed audience. Photo courtesy: Susan Fernandes.

The audience - this is only about one third. And Oprah's on tomorrow. God help us! Photo courtesy: Susan Fernandes.

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