Friday, June 05, 2009

First Indian Writers' Festival 2009 in Singapore‏ inaugurated

The first Indian Writers' Festival 2009 in Singapore‏ kicked off today at the Pod, National Library, Singapore. More than 50 people, invited by the organisers India Se magazine and India Club, attended the inaugural ceremony.

Dr. Balaji Sadasivan, Singapore's Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, declared the festival open. His opening remarks, so witty and smooth, made the audience laugh. At the rate at which India was giving birth to writers in English, English has become an Indian language, he said. Soon, a billion people in India will speak English--outnumbering the few million British in the UK, he said.

Dr. Balaji's favourite writer is Vikram Seth. In the characters of the novel A Suitable Boy, he said he could recognize many of his relatives. His favourite novel is V S Naipaul's The Suffrage of Elvira. He remembered an episode from the novel and admitted how he had learnt a few political lessons from that novel.

He made an interesting observation: women writers being more adept at expressing human emotions explains why there are more successful women writers (esp in the crime genre--Agatha Christie, P D James, Ruth Rendell). Male and female brains are wired differently, Dr. Sadasivan explained. There lies the difference! He gave the example of a journey. While the male brain thinks of a journey in the form of a grid, a woman's brain thinks of a journey in terms of points--from point A to B, and so on.

After the inaugural speech, all the participating writers were introduced. They were Shobha De, Loveleen Tandon (Slumdog Millionaire), Venita Coehlo (she has written for Karan Johar), Sudeep Charkravarti, Anita Jain (Marrying Anita: A Quest for Love in the New India') and Poonam Surie (author of China: A search for its soul).

Shobha De said that she was an obsessive compulsive writer--everyday she needs to write at least 2000 words or else she starts feeling withdrawal symptoms. I don't write drafts, she said. But I wonder, she admitted, if my quality of writing would be different if I wrote drafts.

Later, replying to her, novelist Sudeep Charkravarti said that he wrote in (multiple) drafts because he wanted to continue experiencing the material and the pleasure of the writing process. Sudeep also said something which I really liked--it also shows his humility. He said that there is no difference between you and me, between a reader and a writer. We all have stories to tell--as friends, as children, as parents, and so on. It's only that some are fortunate enough to get published. That is the only difference.

Shobha De and Poonam Surie held an interesting discussion on India and China. Poonam said that people in China are happy about their material progress and want to forget their past (including the Tienanmen Square tragedy). They see Indians through the prism of Bollywood (a nation of singers and dancers) and Information Technology (the country's prowess in IT). Answering to a question, she said that the Chinese consider themselves more practical and Indians as more spiritual. She said that Indians and Chinese have many commonalities and we need to know more about each other.

Anita Jain read from her book, Marrying Anita, which left the audiences in stitches. She is a sharp, intelligent and charming writer. I wrote my book as a memoir, a non-fiction, because I did not want to hide behind a novel (as most Indians do), she said. America has a strong tradition of memoir writing and I am following that, she said (India has vacuum in that space, as everyone tries to write novels only). Currently, she has taken a break from writing--until the cup runneth over again, she said. She is a writer to watch out for! Shobha De profusely praised her work (the passages she read from) and I agree.

More on Loveleen Tandon, Sudeep Chakravarti and others tomorrow

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