Events in Chennai

Literary Discussion with Granta British Novelists @ British Council

Today, I went to a ‘literary discussion’ (read: book launch/publicity event) held at the British Council, Chennai. There were two British authors – David Szalay & Nadifa Mahamad, whose works have been picked up by Granta Magazine and hence are considered as promising young writers. British Council is trying to promote their books, I guess.

Actually, I got a mail from British Council that said the theme was, ‘Exploring representation of the various forms of conflict in literature’. Along with it, a ‘high tea’ was also promised. They kept their promise of the high tea – I ate one chocolate/vannila cake, Paneer roll and of course, tea πŸ™‚

Before and during the high tea, I was chatting with people sitting next to me – one person had come from Madurai (actually he came for a screenwriting workshop in the morning and stayed for this). It seems, he is involved with a theater group that stages plays in his city. Another person was the Dean of the English dept. of an engineering college (now Univ).

Then the authors came – David was originally a Canadian but he moved to London while he was very young and now lives in Hungary. Nadifa, born in British Somalia, migrated to London before many years.

David’s book is about a Love Triangle between one girl, her ex-husband and a guy Β -he can also try writing a Bollywood script? πŸ˜› – his book reading was good, but the theme doesn’t appeal to me. Nadifa has written a fictionalized biography of her father’s story. I don’t understand why people want to ‘fictionalize’ biographies. It seems, her father asked her to write another book, containing only the facts – I too would have done the same thing, had I been her father πŸ™‚

The funniest moment came during the Audience Q&A. The moderator, Parvathi Nair, cautiously opened the session for audience interaction and pat came the first question – ‘What is the essence of happiness?’ Now, are these two – novelists or Swamijis??? Another person asked, ‘What is the value we achieve by reading your books?’ You should have seen the faces of the authors while trying to answer these two πŸ™‚ Maybe, this is why freedom of speech is wisely kept away from ppl πŸ˜›

Actually, I wanted to show off my Kindle among this literary group, but that too was Β confiscated along with my camera. What’s the use of buying a gadget if we are not able to show it off? I then took it to the adjacent Spencer’s Plaza – the large shopping complex which seems to have passed its hey days – but it did not create much of an effect there. Maybe people thought it was an old, over-sized black & white phone? πŸ˜› I am planning to take it to the Tower park, one of these days, for show off purpose πŸ™‚

Destination Infinity


  • Sandhya Kumar

    Poor Rajesh! You are taking great effort to show off your gadget!

    Why does British council promote writers of silly subjects?

    The people who question might be questioning without checking whom they were talking to! They must have done it just to show off!

    I used to love Spencers earlier. Other malls don’t look so homely like Spencers!But now it looks nearly dead.

    • Rajesh K

      Yes, I want to show it off where ever and whenever possible. The Kindle is something I have and others don’t. Heck, many ppl don’t even know what it is πŸ˜›

      Yes, I too remember the over-crowded spencer plaza days – I have spent a few evenings here, before many years. It was a long time since I was there, so I just checked up, and the place is almost deserted now. Not sure if the newer malls (with theaters) are the reason for this.

      Destination Infinity

  • KP

    The immense variety in your posts is the most heartening feature of your blog.
    I have never been to such book launches despite invitations.I think it is more a promotional event where the audience would not have read the book but should be content with what is read by author and spoken about by the main guest.
    Who said there is no freedom of expression so long as questions asked are acceptable to the author and organisers and not an embarrassment!
    I enjoyed reading your frank post.

    • Rajesh K

      They are promotional events, but a discussion of 1.5 hours is bound to bring out some valuable thoughts/insights from the authors. Also, we can interact with other people who have similar literary interests, in these events. But I am also very choosy about what literary events I attend.

      Destination Infinity

  • Avada Kedavra

    poor you.. couldn’t show off your kindle eh? πŸ™‚ Dont worry you will get more chances for that..
    The questions that were asked were really irrelevant for sure. One should ask about their book or their writing experience.

    • Rajesh K

      I believe in creating my chances. I tried showing off the Kindle at spencers, but not much people there. I will try again at tower park shortly πŸ™‚ Those questions on book/writing exp. were also there, but were not as interesting.

  • SG

    Forget the authors and question and answer sessions. I will ask the important question. How was the cake and paneer roll? Good?

    • Rajesh K

      The cake was very good, paneer roll compensated for the lack of samosa with tea (I like such combinations). People might think that I went to the event for the high-tea, and they might not be very incorrect πŸ˜›

      Destination Infinity

  • kirtivasan

    Story telling is becoming popular in IT world by storytelling apps.
    These are actually artificial intelligence application I think.
    You have good story telling ideas. You write well too.

  • Nita

    Interesting experience and well written.
    Talking of showing off, you will be surprised how little there is to show off these days! Everyone appears to have everything. The other day I saw a person who could have easily passed off as a roadside romeo with a samsung phone as big as a mini ipad! And as for ipads, everyone has them. I have given up thinking I was one of the few. πŸ™
    The thing is, money is everywhere, at least that is how it is in Mumbai.
    Oddly enough the people who are most taken aback at my ipad are NRI’s (relatives). They eyes widen, because I think they think that people in India cannot afford them! πŸ™‚

  • Shilpa Garg

    So you had an interesting experience!! LOL@ the questions asked and your Kindle confiscation. BTW, you must write a post on your Kindle experience… pros and cons vis-a-vis physical books.