Archive for the ‘True Dummy’ Category

India calling @ IIT-K. Day 3

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

‘No kidding! 2800/- for 100 odd kms?

‘Sir, you pay 2000, I will give you the bill for 2800/-. What is your problem. You will get it reimbursed from the IIT.’

The chaos at the Kolkata airport taxi stand was unimaginable. The jugglery of bill offered by the ‘government approved taxi stand’ only showed how submissive we have become to corruption.  

Stopped during the journey to have food at a Dhaba. The driver insisted that he will eat after dropping me. Convinced him to join. He told about his children, one girl studying in class 5th. Forcefully reminded him of the importance of education, especially for the girl child.

How much?

74 takka. Answered the man behind the counter.

Just 74 for two of us? I exclaimed. Last night in Chennai had a dinner with two other people in one of the roof top restaurants. The bill was Rs. 4683.

Compare 74 and 4683 and consider that this 74 includes the cost of food, the cost of cooks and the waiters, the rent of the place, electricity etc and other maintenance before the person can take out anything from the galla.

How will he survive? How will he afford to pay for his children’s primary education and the subsequent expensive higher education? I looked around the tired faces of people in the eatery and compared them with those of the fresh ones in the posh Chennai restaurant. There the liquor flowing, the credit cards flashing, here the every coin being counted.

Reached IIT campus around midnight. The air was filled with excitement. Hundreds of students wearing the springfest up on their sleeves. The IIT-K is much greener than the IIT-Madras but sans the deer J

Abhishek came to receive and led me to the technology guest house. KK is also staying nearby, he mentioned. He was fantastic with more than 15000 students attending his performance. I just smiled and headed towards my room.

10 AM, 24th Jan, the next day, the day of India Calling

I was so looking forward to India Calling. Those who are unaware about the Springfest, it is the annual fest of IIT-K where more than 20,000 students gather to participate in various cultural, social and off-curricular events. The nights are usually reserved for mega performances such as that from famous bands and famous singers. I was very exited and honoured that I was chosen to judge the India Calling, a social case study competition where teams across India were to present their cases in response to the problem statement. The initial screening had already taken place and finally ten teams were chosen to present their cases today. If this would make the well wishers happy, as the prize, signed copies of True Dummy were to be given to the top teams.

 

The problem statement :

  Problem Statement : “The communal flare ups in Orissa & Karnataka and the rising power of the maoists. The revengeful politics of hate against North Indians, and its repercussions in Bihar & UP. Such recent happenings have scarred relations between communities forever. Does all this show that there is an undercurrent of regionalism flowing amongst the veins of the largest democracy in the world?”       

 

To me, this was a great opportunity to encounter what the current youth of India is thinking about the regional and communal divide. Do they care? Are they sensitive to the issue? Do they have any solution?

What followed was a fascinating experience. Sensitive or otherwise, the youth was not scared to speak. Some even went overboard. I did my best to raise important questions and make required observations:

“Please avoid using pictures, audio tracks without referencing them.” “No unsubstantiated statement please. Where are the references?” “So you think Javed Akhtar sahab is pseudo-secular. And what makes you think so? Alright, so you read what he said in a newspaper. Fine. Will talk about it later.” “No my friend, just because your mother works in education board doesn’t mean that you can speak on madarsas with authority. Have you ever visited one?”

With each passing hour, the auditorium swelled more. The cross-questioning became more and more passionate and at times confrontational. I let them discuss freely but intervened when required. A point to mention here  - Rabindra nath Tagore’s poem where the mind is without fear featured in many of the presentations. No body noticed that I was downloading something from the internet as we went on with our discussion. 

By the time the last team came it already had been over seven hours. Then came the time for the decision. I walked towards the stage and before speaking a word plugged my laptop to the projector. “Let us first watch something which show the ‘true’ colour of Javed Sahab. It is part 3 of an interview that he gave to a reporter from Pakistan. (Those who are interested can watch this fascinating piece here : )

The crowd applauded umpteenth times!  By their reaction it was clear that they hadn’t seen this before. “Seeking truth, cutting across the obstructing mediums is the only way to progress.” I concluded. (Will recommend all to watch that brilliant display of an ardent patriotic and a theosophist). Perhaps, I become the first timer in the history of IIT to use Javed Akhtar Sahab in the lecture and up on the projector!

“This is all fine but is India not turning into a big tragedy?” commented a senior professor.

“Not at all. It is a land of great history and continues to be. To me, its survival is beyond an iota of doubt.”

Finally, the three top teams were chosen on the basis of them being by comparison the closest to having objective, substantiated and focused account of the problem. My joy was doubled when the team to come second hailed from a small town in Punjab. The boys came to me and gifted a pocket book of Swami Vinvekanda’s thoughts. One of the most cherished gifts of the recent times!

This I guess is what I all remember from the IIT-K campus.

What more could I have asked from the land that gave birth to the great men like Rabindra Nath Tagore and Swami Vinvekanada!

 

Ashish Jaiswal

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.

 11:00 AM

 

I entered the large gates of the school and was amazed at the sight….” Page 198. 

 

Remember?

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.

 

6:30PM

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!

 

Ashish Jaiswal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first day in the literary world!

Sunday, January 25th, 2009
True Dummy – a fable of existence, India release6:30PM, Crossword, Select City Mall, Delhi
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The stage was set. More than one fifty people, twenty video cameras all facing the four empty chairs. Curious bystanders. “Shaab shootin chal raha he,” the guard replied when asked. A sudden hustle. Enwrapped by guards entered the elegant Soha Ali Khan from one side and from the other the elderly with a child-like innocence Dr. Karthikeyan. A young man with slightly bowed head followed Soha. The first time author appeared surprisingly calm. Vidhu Manchada, the MC sprang the first surprise – ‘the author has insisted that he will introduce the guests.’ All eyes on the author. Some whispered, he is playing with fire.

 

 
 
 

 

Those who like watching can see it here.

For the rest:

“Ladies and gentleman. This moment is special. Special for a reason. As I speak, 11977 kms away something special is happening. Yesterday it was the last day of Mr. Bush in Office. And as I speak now, Barrack Obama is giving his inauguration speech. The entire world is looking at him with hopeful eyes. It is his first day in office and…(pause). So is mine.”

 

 

 

 

Suddenly the hush stopped.”Now,” the man who loves to play with fire continued, “It is an organization with 1.4 million citizens across the word.” Organisation? He was suppose to introduce the guests?”An organisation that works for universal brotherhood. Awaz is what I am talking about. And one key advisor of this organisation is with us. Ladies and gentleman, a big round of applause to Soha Ali Khan.”"Many of you may not know that she is an Oxford alum. An LSE masters. Someone who could be the only one here who has worked for Ford foundation. The jersey number 41263 of Mumbai marathon against terrorism. Ladies and gentleman, Soha Ali Khan!”

This is Soha for me.

Not many knew what True Dummy stands for and what the mad author has in mind. “The time has come, the needs to rise. And a nation is what it writes. True Dummy is for the youth, by the youth and of the youth.”

 

 

 

 

Soha very sweetly read the ‘horse and the donkey fable’ from the book. Click here to see. People were amazed with her down to earth, no airs attitude. She is here and her work will speak in future what she stands for.Then came the ‘Obama’ moment. Dr. Karthikeyan pointed to the people that the ‘yes, we can!’ mantra is already there in True Dummy. Is it? I wondered what he meant.He read the poem from the page 226-227 and insisted on the last line:

Go to the world beyond the kite
Touch the stars, big and bright.
The ‘string’ is only when you feel

It is the fear that makes you kneel

You can, yes, you can!

 

 

 

This poem was written roughly about an year ago and I am glad for that.
Again the time came for me to speak about the book. I thanked my parents, Pooja, Navya Sara, Neeraj, the guests. And the gang of friends.
What I would have done without them? Right from the airport, till the selection on what to wear, they were all there. The gang of Pancheel park, GKII, Rajauri. Ajay, Saify, Jasneet, Ramona, Prashant, Suraj, Swati, Kamal, Shishir, Kabir, Kamal and the rest. Not to mention the sweet Geetika Ganju, who left her star status behind and came in her personal capacity in the true ‘True Dummy’ spirit.

The event ended and it seemed hell broke loose. Multiple one-to-one interviews. Journalists waiting to talk to the first time author! I felt so guilty to make them wait. But never for once I felt I was in a stranger’s company. They were not journalists to me, they appeared friends. So keen to know about my work. So supportive of the fact that meaningful literature is the need of the hour. Why we forget. Aren’t they also part of the youngistan? It finally ended with a lighter interaction with the MTV.

A question that remained with me. “Are you then the Indian Obama?” I just smiled.

I will not be able to end this without mentioning the now famous ‘NDTV interview’ . I had just landed in India , a day before the launch and in two hours was suppose to reach the NDTV van , beaming live from the INR Market. You have called me from looking like a ‘pro’ to a ‘diplomat’ to someone who comes on TV daily. Was I not nervous? Next time I will meet Rashi and Nidhi (the two hosts) I will ask. What I can assure you that it wouldn’t have been the same without the lovely team of NDTV that made me feel special - Gangasinghji, Vikram, Amit, Rashi, Nidhi.

Finally the day ended at Lukia’s place. She had organised an American dinner. She had made the cake in the shape of the American flag. Barack Obama finished his speech. The cake was cut. We were all there – Spanish, greek, Americans, Indians watching as he addressed two million.

The reporter’s question hovered my mind again. And it kept as I left Delhi for Chennai for the next stopover.

What will happen?

This book has a destiny. Soha had said.

I sighed and closed my eyes. Oh Pooja! So much missing you! The plane took off.

Ashish Jaiswal

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The coverage that followed Delhi release: