The gracious mother, Ashwarya Dhanush. The sweet fashion icon, Anjali Rajgopal. The dreaming eyes of young India at IIT – Madras!Monday, January 26th, 2009
22nd Jan, Chennai
Doing well at Chennai was imperative for many reasons. Those who know my work or have read True Dummy’s last part would be able to understand why I wanted to interact with the young brains of India. The opportunity was right here. As some of you may be aware, Sarang, the annual fest of IIT-M gathers more than 20,000 students from across India – to showcase what they all can do outside the conventional classroom. There vision of India, they concerns, there conflicts… The youngistan, right here! What an opportunity! The organizing committee was kind enough to have me as the only judge of the creative writing competition.
“I entered the large gates of the school and was amazed at the sight….” Page 198.
Thos who have read True Dummy would exactly know what I felt as I entered the gates fof IIT-M. Leela and Mridula guided me to the audi. Creative Writing. I wasn’t expecting too many to be there. Sonu Nigam had just been there the previous night. And enough doubts have already been raised on the ‘whatever’ generation’. Behold! There they were! The sculptors of future India. Heads down, penning their emotions and passions. The committee wanted to do the first screening and give me the final ten. I insisted. I will look at all. The same surprise that I saw in Delhi. Don’t worry, I said. I am on a therapy and the doctor said it will only get better if I fly to Chennai and read these all. It is like that ‘machli ilaaz of Hyderabad.’ Pause. We all burst into a laughter. They realised, I was one among them.
I sat in one corner and started reading. From Hyederabad, from Chennai, from Ahmadabad, from Trichi, from Bangalore, from Cochin, from Vishakhapatm. Short stories, poems, essays. My eyes moving very quickly. What were they searching? That dream. That passion. That madness. That hunger. Who is saving my India? The confidence was apparent. Thoughts clear. Anger towards Mumbai attack was clear. They were not mincing words. A piece from an architecture student was a classic. Mohammad wanted to read Quran to Kasab and tell him that he still could save his soul in front of the merciful Allah.
“An honest politician – a mythical creature” drew them to the maximum. They were serious, aware of the facts. The scarcity of such an entity. But optimistic. Leela came and reminded about the time. It was already 3! The release was at 6:30PM. I asked them to send the remaining to my room. I promised them that the list of the winners will be with me the next morning at the workshop.
The sms came - Mrs Ahswarya Dhanush, wife of Super star Dhanush and the daughter of Mr. Rajnikant has agreed to release True Dummy. She liked what she had read. Another sms, Anjali Rajgopal has agreed to read the excerpt. She was struck by that one line from the book – A fallback plan is for people who walk backwards, hence they all end up where they start. I remembered the destiny comment of Soha. Immediately rang Pooja. Went to her answering machine. She is no ordinary. A senior premier manager at Oxford HSBC. Looking at her sincerity, I often joke – You are off sick today? HSBC must have then declared a holiday! Mind went to Navya Sara. “ Papa, you said you will get magical Pegasus and come back in five days. Lying is not good, Papa” A smile ran on the lips. “Amma” is what I call her. I am not your grandmother? Looked at the phone. It was very essential to talk to Pooja before I reach the venue. It has been my superstition since… Forget it. You wont believe. The call came. She broke the news before I could. NDTV interview. See, this is how you should be. Natural as you are. Didn’t I tell you. Accha baba. Listen. I broke the news. Don’t forget to thank them. Thank Reeta. Thank audience. Thank media. Are you wearing what is written in the list. Yes. Who will tell her that the list was long lost.
I entered Crossword and got surrounded by the cameras. Sir, stand like this – hand on the railing. No, I don’t like this. Needed, Sirrrr! I let them do their job and move towards the people. Had water?
First came Anjali. Are you author’s son? No, no I am the author. Are you serious? Which piece are you reading? Don’t worry. She smiled.
Then came Mrs. Ashwarya. Her humility reminded me of Dr. Karthekeyan and Soha.
“ I would first like to pay homage to the 23 people who died in the tragic accident that has happened about 2 hours ago. The under construction bridge near Humpi has fallen. It is not a natural calamity but a man made disaster. This is the height of our callousness. And yes the time has come for our youth to rise so that such incidents can not only be avoided but are sternly dealt with. I am honoured that my book is releasing in Chennai. A land whose simplicity is to be admired. It is essential that the young generation preserves this strength of South India.”
I introduced the guests and reminded the audience about their humbleness and sincerity.
The evening ended with lots of questions from the media and an engaging discussion with Anjali and Rishi.
Reached my room at 2 in the night and saw the entries from the IIT-M competition. It was quite difficult to arrive at the top three entries but eventually settled for Rahul Ladhania for his passionate writing, Arun Sarkar for his narration and Pooja Anand for her sensitive voice. Had a detailed talk with Pooja over phone and told her how much I was missing her and how brave she is to take care of Angel with her job all alone in Oxford. She reminded me of the time when I went to India taking Angel alone on a fifteen day trip. I remembered the Ghajni song - kaise mujhe tum mil gaye. It was already 5 and the workshop was at 10. Reluctantly ended the call and went into the arms of dreams.
I started the workshop by comparing an investment banker’s salary and an essayist or a researcher’s pay. Why then somebody writes? Why at all we need to write? Why a professor works in a lab? What you all read and why? Pooja Anand and a few other girls gave the answer I was looking for. For our own self. Gave them the analogy of J.H. Newman’s ‘pursuit of knowledge for its own end.’ Told them how important it is to have that ‘female instinct’ of smelling the flowers without any objective, to love others selflessly, to create for the sake of creating and not bother about the economic pursuit. How essential it is to for the youth to write something that stands the test of time and not something that is frivolous and trivial. A great nation stands on the foundation of great writing. It always has. Then moved on the interplay of landscape and narration. Drew the Cobra shaped Island of True Pearls from True Dummy and explained how I represented ‘Maya’ as an open hood cobra with a crooked tail. I was happy to give the signed copies of True Dummy to the winners. I hope they read and get back to me with as much objectivity and as much sensitivity as possible. After all what is objective mind without a sensitive heart? I often sympathise with those who only have objectivity san sensitivity. It takes a female lense to appreciate the beauty around you. It always did.
Reached Chennai Airport in the evening. The next destination was IIT-Karagpur. Was really happy to see the True Dummy in the Higinbotthams Store. Here is the pic! Signed the copies there and headed towards what was to be a fascinating next day in the city with the longest platform in the world!