Crowds, controversies and chaos. That, in a nutshell, was day three of the Jaipur Literature Festival. It kicked off at 10 in the morning with political psychologist Ashis Nandy's remark about India's backward classes being flamboyant in their corrupt ways. Politicians cutting across party lines were quick to latch on to it, condemning Nandy's utterances and calling him irresponsible. Later in the evening, Nandy was forced to issue a clarification and apology for his remarks. It was a classic case of taking a remark out of context and blowing it out of proportion. What Nandy was trying to say is that like the upper castes, the backward classes are equally corrupt. Except that they're less sophisticated and more flamboyant about it. I can say, with a reasonable degree of confidence, that had a Dalit politician made the same statement, it would've gone unnoticed.
What didn't go unnoticed was the presence of the former Indian cricketer Rahul Dravid. An ocean of his fans listened intently as he spoke about cricket and politics. He agreed that India and Pakistan should play more often but it is the political environment that will determine the frequency of their encounters and one just has to live with it. He was in conversation with writers Ian Buruma and TV journalist Rajdeep Sardesai who revealed that Dravid was working on his autobiography.
Unsurprisingly, these two highlights overshadowed a meaty discussion on literary criticism that saw the celebrated and revered post-colonial scholar Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak speak on the subject. Other sessions included discussions on neo-imperialism, the complex personality of Mahatma Gandhi and (my personal favorite) the idea of the Indian self where the concept of "derivative modernity" was analyzed by scholars Ananya Vajpeyi and David Shulman.
Day four looks quite promising with sessions on travel writing, the decline of America, the art of biography and the Kama Sutra. Let's hope these don't get drowned under the burden of frivolousness and celebrity.