The Hindu Lit for Life as Day 2 happened | Neelum Saran Gour, Manoranjan Byapari win The Hindu Prize 2018

January 13, 2019 09:47 am | Updated 08:17 pm IST

Neelum Saran Gour wins the The Hindu Prize 2018 for 'Requiem in Raga Janki'.

Neelum Saran Gour wins the The Hindu Prize 2018 for 'Requiem in Raga Janki'.

Welcome to Day 2 of the The Hindu Lit for Life, where yet another delectable menu of literary conversations was on schedule.

A host of topics - from politics and history to storytelling and travelling - were held today. Have a look at the schedule.

Incase you missed what happened on Day 1 , here's our live blog of the same .

Here are the updates for today:

6.15 p.m.

Retracing maps in search of language: An illustrated lecture by Nilima Sheikh

In the final lecture for the day, visual artist Nilima Sheikh talks about paintings in her illustrated lecture. "The privilege of painting now, is not only in the number of choices available, but also in not choosing to exclude few."

Ms. Sheikh showcases a series of artworks that talks about Kashmir, its history and its art. Her paintings talk about the Valley's Buddhist past and present, Kashmir's legacy of Bhand Pather -- Kashmir's traditional theatre, and more.

Several of the paintings she showcases in her lecture are named after several of noted poet Aga Shahid Ali's poems. An extract from author's Salman Rushdie's Shalimar The Clown also finds a place in her art, transcribed across a painting.


5:45 p.m.

Tyranny of Diets: Rujuta Diwekar in conversation with Shonali Muthalaly

“There are multiple factors that impact fitness including the air quality around you, the government programmes that regulate pesticides and so much more.

“Body weight is not a parameter of fatness and fitness. A lot gets lost from research to practice.

“Every where people are telling us to lose weight and we are just buying into it.. What we really owe the world and to ourselves is to lead an extremely productive daily life, where we are not being a burden on ourselves or on anyone else around.

“Don't stand on the weighing scale first thing in the morning. Stand on your own two feet last thing in the night and see how light you are feeling. And if you are feeling light then, then it means no matter how much you weigh...

“We don't know that it is not just protein, carbohydrate, fat and calories. It is much more than that. It is about air quality. If air quality goes down, you do get insulin-resistant. It is about pesticides and fertilizers... So looking at food as just protein, carbohydrate, fat and calories is not correct.

“Rice is not the cause of diabetes. Mango is not the cause of diabetes. You could be making correlations... A good diet is the one which has stood the test of time. A diet needs to thought about like a job or a relationship.

Ms. Shonali: “But when we look at your guidelines, a lot of it requires you to be quite intuitive..."

Ms. Rujuta replies: “There is no baby which over drank her mother's milk. You try feeding one morsel extra to a two-year-old, they spit it out... Once they are distracted, they can finish endless amount of food. So what we need to do as parents with our children is ensure that they are not watching any screen while they are eating. And as adults we just need to go back to the exact same home-grown wisdom we always had — when we are eating it should be just you and food and nothing else..

“We need to create an environment that is non-obesogenic. If everyone is getting diabetes, obese, this is not just because we are not eating right. It is also because we don't have the right public health policy in place.

“Children are watching that we keep talking about health and fitness but do nothing about it.

Ms. Shonali: What is the grandmother rule?

Ms. Rujuta: “If your grandmom doesn't recognise it as food, don't eat it.... eat what is grown around you, cook it fresh in the kitchen, eat it with love and gratitude, share what you have with every one, sleep on time, have a routine. All this wisdom comes to us in local language. And now that all of us speak so much in English, the so local wisdom, about traditional wisdom about health and well-being is fast being lost... The fact that we are losing out on traditional languages also means we are losing out on our tradition, cusines etc., Once you lose out on traditional cuisine, you lose out on health.

A question from the audience: “Local to me is not traditional. Which should win over, local or tradition [food]?" Ms. Rujuta says “A mix of both. You are born in one place and then you may probably make life in another place all together. Both have a lot to offer....

"We don't become fat because we switch to rice, but we become fat because we give up on diversity of our diets. So we must work on including the  millets, rice, vegetables ... We must also hold our governments responsible to give us walkable cities. We are not going to be a smart city because we have a Metro. We are going to be a smart city because we can walk safely.

"In Himalaya, an average school kid walks for 7 km every day. How much are we walking here? Are our children walking even 700 metres? So this has to be done in policy level."

4.35 p.m.

Award ceremony

The Hindu Prize 2018: Fiction and Non-Fiction and The Hindu Young World Goodbooks Awards

Neelum Saran Gour wins the The Hindu Prize 2018 for 'Requiem in Raga Janki'.

Fiction shortlist:

Half the Night is Gone  by Amitabha Bagchi,

A Day in the Life  by Anjum Hasan,  All the Lives We Never Lived  by Anuradha Roy,

Requiem in Raga Janki  by Neelum Saran Gour,

Poonachi  by Perumal Murugan (Translated from Tamil by N. Kalyan Raman),

The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die  by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay (Translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha)

Manoranjan Byapari wins The Hindu Prize 2018 for ' Interrogating My Chandal Life'.

Manoranjan Byapari wins The Hindu Prize 2018 for 'Interrogating My Chandal Life'.

Manoranjan Byapari wins The Hindu Prize 2018 for 'Interrogating My Chandal Life'.


Non-fiction shortlist:

Interrogating My Chandal Life  by Manoranjan Byapari,

The Bengalis  by Sudeep Chakravarti,

Remnants of a Partition  by Aanchal Malhotra,

Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature  by Jairam Ramesh and

The Most Dangerous Place  by Srinath Raghavan

The Hindu Young World Goodbooks awards 2019

1. Vinayak Varma wins Best Picture Book: Story for ' Angry Akku'

2. Rajiv Eipe wins Best Picture Book: Illustration for ' Ammachi’s Amazing Machines'

3. Venita Coelho wins Best Picture Book: Fiction for ' Boy No 32'

4. Mamta Nainy wins Best Picture Book: Non-Fiction for ' A Brush with Indian Art'.

(Clockwise from top left) Rajiv Eipe, Mamta Nainy, Vinayak Varma and Venita Coelho win The Hindu Young World Goodbooks awards 2019.

(Clockwise from top left) Rajiv Eipe, Mamta Nainy, Vinayak Varma and Venita Coelho win The Hindu Young World Goodbooks awards 2019.


3.20 p.m.

The Battleground of Indian History: Audrey Truschke, Ira Mukhoty, John Keay and Rajmohan Gandhi in conversation with Aditya Mukherjee

Author Ira Mukhoty offers a peek into her book ' Daughters of the Sun: Empresses, Queens and Begums of the Mughal Empire' . She says: "Women have been obliterated from the history. In all the recorded history, representation of women is just 0.5%. The way I had been taught about Mughal women in school, was a real revelation to me. But the Europeans gave a very different and bizarre interpretation of women, degrading our women. We're very influenced by the way the British and the Europeans wrote about women's history."

Historian and author Audrey Truschke debates: "What happens due to political intervention into history today is something that is least talked about - what is taught to our children, the future generation, in schools. The amount of unlearning I have to do with students from India is tremendous. Trying to get them to see the politics of what they have had to do is striking. A lot more Indians speak English than Persian. There is a Euro-centric bias."

Historian John Keay presents his views on the abuse of history. "Historians themselves are as responsible and guilty of abusing history. History is not for historians. It is for everyone. History is literature. It is not just an academic discipline."

The Battle Ground of Indian History: From left, Audrey Truschke, Ira Mukhoty, John Keay and Rajmohan Gandhi in conversation with Aditya Mukherjee at the Lit For Life Festival on Sunday.

The Battle Ground of Indian History: From left, Audrey Truschke, Ira Mukhoty, John Keay and Rajmohan Gandhi in conversation with Aditya Mukherjee at the Lit For Life Festival on Sunday.

Rajmohan Gandhi speaks: "I have been all over the world, but in India, I have seen that this country belongs more to some people than to other people. Indian-Americans are the 'model-minority'. Today, anybody who’s either a Hindu/Buddhist/Parsi/Sikh who comes into India can be an Indian citizen, but not a Muslim. That is what is being done today."

Professor Aditya Mukherjee: "With the Asians now reaching the economic high table they are nowhere near reaching the intellectual high table. Here we have prime ministers who become historians, politicians who are telling you history. Let's do it as a science and there will be no issues. You try to remove bias."

Mr. Keay: "I think its healthy that there's interest in early Indian history."

2.25 p.m.

Bharati and Other Tamil Characters: A.R. Venkatachalapathy in conversation with Gopalkrishna Gandhi

Historian A.R. Venkatachalapathy says Subramania Bharati was unique in the entire literary history of the world. "His writings where the copyright was acquired by the government put in public domain because there was a popular public pressure. His writings cannot be a private property. It is the legacy and wealth of the entire society. Historians are like mountaineers. I had to introduce Bharati, I tried to weave the story and give life to it."

Former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi says: "Not everybody in India knows Bharathi. But the loss is not to Bharathi, it is to us."

Bharathi and Other Tamil Characters: A.R. Venkatachalapathy (left) in conversation with Gopalkrishna Gandhi at the Lit For Life Festival on Sunday.

Bharathi and Other Tamil Characters: A.R. Venkatachalapathy (left) in conversation with Gopalkrishna Gandhi at the Lit For Life Festival on Sunday.


Mr. Venkatachalapathy: "Avinash Lingam Chettiyar was well known for two things: 1. Project of publishing encyclopaedia in Tamil - 1st in any Indian language 2. He greatly empowered Tamil teachers, and he himself is a self effacing man."

Mr. Gandhi gives his inputs: "Periyar's position on gender has been mentioned by Prof. Venkatachalapathy in the book. Periyar's position on women: 'Why is the woman subjugated? I yield to none. I respect Valluvar, I admire Kural, but Valluvar's depiction of the housewife, I do not endorse', says Periyar. You can admire, not iconize.

The book introduces 16 personalities. A.R. Venkatachalapathy has done justice to every person being described in the book, with humour often, irony often, but truth always.

We have to thank the small minds of Dharmapuri which led to restrictions on Perumal Murugan’s work. Because of that, the whole country came to know about Perumal Murugan."

Mr. Venkatachalapathy: "The new generation is rediscovering Anna. Anna's Letters to his brothers is an illuminating read. I'm writing a full length biography of Periyar. People in the north are so well ill-informed about the Tamils. There is a big need for biographies of people of South India."

12 noon

Modern South India: Rajmohan Gandhi in conversation with Nirmala Lakshman

Curator of The Hindu Lit for Life Nirmala Lakshman introduces the speaker, mentions his books and the latest one being 'Modern South India: A history from the 17th Century to our Times'.

Historian Rajmohan Gandhi begins by saying North India needs to be educated about South India for a very long time, so this book was long overdue. "The main South Indian languages are all linked to Dravidian origin. So it is very different from the language groups in other parts of India. The notion that there should be a single community of equality has existed in the South for a very long time."

Never does land mean the sand and clay, but its people The South's contribution to the rest of India is their notion of solidarity. Caste divisions in South India aided British expansion."

11: 30 am

More on investing in science..

You cannot start simply start investing more in science. You need to people to absorb it, says Venki Ramakrishnan. "You have to train people to use the money efficiently. If there's going to be increase in investment, it should coupled with investment in education. That means what do you do about the 95% you spoke about?

"Only a few % of Indians know English. We are only a small slice, living in our echo chambers. Most don't understand English. They need it in their own language. In other countries, they learn science in Polish, Danish etc. It's easy to absorb concepts in native language.

"How do you train talent from 100% of the population?" he asks.

Venki Ramakrishnan says, "I see very few Indian scientists breaking ground and being leaders in the original field. In science 'me too science' meant imitative or second derivative science." 

"I do agree with almost everything.," Vijay Raghavan says. "Our fundamental problem is our languages - language is one aspect the other is the salt and pepper mix of elites and not elite. Policy decisions challenged because of this."

Vijay Raghavan says, "I asked Nobel laureate David Gross what is different between India and China - he said ' ambition'."

11 am

What ails Indian science?

Next up is a session for anyone interested in the state of science in India today!

What ails Indian science and what can be done about it? Nobel Prize Winner Venki Ramakrishnan in conversation with Dr K Vijay Raghavan

Please think of me as an affectionate observer of science from outside, says Venki Ramakrishnan.

"Sudden decline in relative strengths of China and India in 1700s . Chinese is rapidly ascending. India more modest. Why? Science innovation and industrial revolution made other nations more rich."

There is a fundamental problem in investing in Science and Technology. It is not a matter of money. You need people to absorb it. It's education. In India, investment in science as part of GDP has gone down," he says.

Vijay Raghavan responds. "Since independence, central funding was concentrated on Central Universities and government research labs like CSIR, DROD. All of this constitutes about 5% of student population who have access to these. 95% who go to state unis don't get access or do research extensively. We need increased investment and engagement in States.

"I have a deep concern about why we need science. We have forgotten what's happening to the planet. today we have challenges -we have to take into acct climate change, AI etc." he says.


10: 45 am

Homage to Kalaignar Karunanidhi

An interesting session is on at The Hindu Showplace. Dravidian Ideology in Praxis:  Homage to Kalaignar Karunanidhi: Dr N Ezhilan and N Ram in conversation with Kanimozhi Karunanidhi

N. Ram introduces the theme and people on stage. "We see it as a homage to an outstanding statesman. He was known for his unsurpassed contributions. He was a boy of 14 when he entered politics. He was mainly the unchallenged leader for his party. Was Chief Minister 5 times. His rhetoric skills have been a major asset to his party. He dominated field in cultural sense - poetry, reading, history and more."


What are the essential components of the Dravidian movement? Mr. Ram questions. 

Ms. Kanimozhi says it is about everything self respect, caste system, gender justice- you can’t say what is left out. It is what we call today as human rights. It addresses issues from since forever. "One of the ideologies is to address inequality in the name of caste, class etc. Our leader always stood for job opportunities and equality. DMK has resisted privatisation. We can’t completely do away with it. DMK always stood for balance. Inequality has sharpened now thanks to the present NDA government. DMK made the buses public - simple things like that to ensure poor are not exploited. Always focused on balance."

She says, "My father didn’t have any hatred for any language. DMK leaders shared whatever they read. They spoke about Greek and Roman history. They took away the distance between Tamil and the common person. Language is part of your identity. You can call it propaganda but literature which doesn’t talk about any issue is pointless. So they used poetry, theatre, everything as forums to talk about these issues. Today I cannot say anything that I believe in. Today everything is completely different. No longer a healthy dialogue exists."

10: 30 am

"How do we make the political cow a mammal again?" Sampath asks Shiv Viswanathan

"Electoral democracy itself is a source of identity violence. Ritual violence takes place before every election. there's a difference in the nature of violence," he says. 

"Going back to only colonialism won't work. We have to rethink democracy. Biggest culprit is the concept 'nation state'. Nation state is singular, and nationalism is plural. But the illiteracy on this is amusing. We have to be critics of our own criticisms." he says.

"Only 6% of India voted for a separate Hindu state back in the days of partition, which is supposedly the current majoritarian set-up. Are we going to be a Hindu's India or a secular India," Aditya Mukherjee asks on where we see India in the future.

10 am

Politics of identity

The first session of the day begins. Politics of Identity: New ideas of caste and religious assertion, will see Aditya Mukherjee, Farahnaz Ispahani, Shiv Visvanathan and Ziya us Salam in conversation with G Sampath.

Is the identity politics we see today, is it really new? Or is it a return to the or.. of the old, asks G. Sampath

Aditya Mukherjee says identity politics is the longest lasting legacy of colonialism. "Every post-colonial country is divided on the basis of identity. Personal identities that have been converted to political identity is primarily because of colonialism," he says. 

Farahnaz Ispahani takes on a larger view of identity politics than just in the sub-continent. "Forty-Fifty years ago, we were coming out of holocaust, partition. There was a very different atmosphere at that point and efforts by leaders to create more unifying identies. Today, there's an effort- Mr. Modi's India, Mr. Trump's America - to create divisive identies."

"Today in Europe and America, they're talking of diversity as a weakness," she says. "This tells you that the progress we made in the last 50 years, we've come back. We're in a very dangerous time."

Ziya Us Salam 's book Lynch Files , will be released this month. He says majoritarianism has been the way of our polity for the past 70 years. "It was hidden. Now it is quite in the open," he says. "The cow was a divine animal, bovine animal but now it has become political. A certain group of Indians are trying to browbeat the cow for other sections of the society."

9: 30 am

The Hindu Lit for Life strives to be eco-friendly


Let’s face it: for all their well meaning and high brow conversations, most cultural and literary festivals are not the planet’s best friends.  The Hindu  Lit For Life is attempting to change that, taking steps towards becoming a zero-waste festival.

Bring Your Own Bag, Bottle and Bike to get rewarded at the festival venue! Brownie points if you take the public transport.

Zero Waste Lit For Life is a joint effort between the organisers of the festival and city-based NGO Chennai Kalai Theru Vizha.


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