Jai Ho, Mysuru and Manoranjan Literature Festival!-1

The Mysuru Literature Festival, started by this dynamic and bubbling young woman from our royal city, also a city of education, art and literature, had to go “underground” due to COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021. However, new technology has come to its rescue and it has surfaced as online literature festivals of 2020 and 2021.

Well, no pandemic could bring down the burgeoning spirit of Mysuru Literature Festival Chairperson, Shubha Sanjay Urs. As they say, if “to dream is to have wings”, I discovered on the 23rd and 24th of this month that Shubha Sanjay Urs was the wind under those wings. And, of course, her ever-alert and attentive husband Sanjay Urs is the logistics man and a showman magician. The man behind the successful woman! The Festival which was online for the past two years, has resurfaced in full swing this season.

I attended the Festival on both days and it was definitely a blitzkrieg of a literature festival far surpassing past festivals in its range, variety and literary flourish.

This sixth edition of Mysuru Literature Festival-2022 has been a boon for lovers of books, music and more. No wonder at a time the days when it was home with so many big name names in their given field of endeavor, mainly those who wrote books, participating. Think about this: Whoever thought that Mrs. Geetanjali Shree of the Hindi literary world, who recently won the most coveted prize (probably after the Nobel Prize in Literature) the International Booker Prize 2022 for her translated book “Tomb of Sand”, in Hindi ‘Ret Samadhi’, would be the ‘big hitch’ of this season? Sita Bhaskar moderated the dialogue with the author after a brief reading of the book, as is general practice I suppose.

She read a paragraph where a number of contrary phrases were used to justify what was otherwise not good or acceptable – such as when “black is beautiful” or “alcohol on doctor’s orders” – in a continuum . I remembered a similar writing style from Charles Dickens in his novel “A Tale of Two Cities” – It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of madness…

The festival was inaugurated by Mrs. Pramoda Devi Wadiyar in keeping with the spirit of the event, a member of the former royal family known for her patronage of culture, art, literature, music, culture dance etc.

Mrs. Wadiyar herself is an accomplished person in design, patron of art and runs an educational institution. She is the president of the famous Sri Jayachamaraja Art Gallery. Some of the big names who took part in the event run like who’s who.

Cricket commentator Charu Sharma (left) and Rajdeep Sardesai.

There was Rajdeep Sardesai, best known as a centre-left television presenter, who is a master at asking his panelists leading questions, like a criminal lawyer, to get the answer he wants, only as a as author. Here he was talking about his book “Democracy’s XI: The Great Indian Cricket Story”. To discuss the book, there was the famous cricket commentator Charu Sharma. No politics, but habits die hard. “Cricket unites, politics divides. A state becomes a Union Territory…’ Well, what was that but politics? Why could Andhra Pradesh, divided during the UPA, not be cited as an example?

Either way, Rajdeep is a wonderful and affable person, very articulate, always with a smile playing on his face. Why does he call his book “Democracy’s XI”?

Think politicians have diluted, if not completely destroyed, the spirit and substance of Democracy and this is the game of cricket where we (or he) find real Democracy! Of course, he gives a very defensible justification for it. In a way, he’s right. As we see, there is a steady deterioration in the spirit and substance of our country’s democracy (due to caste, creed, race, religion, language, etc. , etc.). But, in cricket, there is steady progress towards democracy from its feudal and colonial past. Why does he say that? Because cricket was once a game of royalty, British rulers; a game played exclusively by the elite class and between clubs belonging to a given caste, religion and famous cricket clubs, has today become a game open to all, secular. Players are selected solely on merit. No dynasty here now. So, he says, “cricket is then the alter ego of Indian democracy.” Well said, Rajdeep.

Some call today’s cricket the religion of India. And the players are the gods! Well, I’m afraid, if so, there’s danger here too… But we won’t despair. He says cricket today reinforces our sense of national identity and is therefore relevant as a model for an ideal, good, functional and winning democracy.

[To be continued]

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