The Hindu Lit Fest 2024, Day 2 | Chennai’s literary carnival wraps up with ISRO Chairman S. Somanath’s session

The Hindu LitFest 2024 presented two heady days of sessions with topics ranging from Dalit history, theatre, democracy, art, food, writing, comedy, and so much more.

Updated - January 27, 2024 09:38 pm IST

Published - January 27, 2024 09:05 am IST

S Somanath, Chairman of ISRO, speaks at the final session at the Hindu Lit for Life Fest on January 27, 2024.  (Credit: Screengrab)

S Somanath, Chairman of ISRO, speaks at the final session at the Hindu Lit for Life Fest on January 27, 2024. (Credit: Screengrab)

The second and concluding day of the The Hindu Lit Fest 2024 built on an enriching first day, which featured conversations on M.K. Gandhi’s role in India’s freedom struggle, the daring life of freedom fighter Chidambaram Pillai, and the expectations for India’s economic growth by 2047.

See updates from The Hindu Lit Fest 2024, Day 1 here

On January 27, fashion, food, finance, and fake news took centre stage at the Lit Fest. Monika Halan led the discussion on making your hard-earned money work for you, while designer Tarun Tahiliani talked about the evolution of Indian fashion. Ramachandra Guha, Daisy Rockwell, Tejaswini Apte-Rahm, and Abdullah Khan indulged in the nuances of literature and storytelling in their respective sessions. Journalists Sreenivasan Jain, N. Ram, Pratik Sinha and Ziya us Salam discussed ways to counter fake news in a digital world. In an engaging closing session, ISRO chief S. Somanath imparted his experience of working at the space agency and spoke about the leadership that made the organisation what it is today. 

The Hindu’s team of journalists brought this celebration of literature to you in the form of this live update. This is the 12 th edition of The Hindu’s flagship event. It unfolded at the Sir Mutha Venkatasubbarao Concert Hall in Chetpet and The Hindu Pavillion on January 26 and 27.

Follow our live updates here:

Watch The Hindu Lit Fest 2024 live

You can follow a live stream of The Hindu’s LitFest here:

  • January 27, 2024 20:21
    The Hindu LitFest has ended!

    After two heady days of sessions, where we traversed the intellectual wilds, with topics ranging from Dalit history, theatre, democracy, art, food, writing, comedy---and so much more-- we are at the end of The Hindu LitFest 2024. 

    We hope you have accumulated some shiny nuggets of knowledge to gloat over delightedly for a few days. You can also read more about the sessions here, and find more tidbits from the LitFest over on X (@the_hindu and @HinduLitforLife).

    It has been a pleasure readers! This is Sruthi Darbhamulla, signing off. 

  • January 27, 2024 20:11
    “Anyone can launch a satellite”

    In response to an audience question, Mr. Somanath mentions, to collective delight, that anyone can launch a satellite. Anyone interested in launching a company to do with satellites can contact InSpace-- thus advises Mr. Somanath, Chairman of ISRO. 

  • January 27, 2024 20:09
    Systemic failure analysis process after every failure, crash: Mr. Somanath

    Mr. Somanath shares that post every technical failure there is systematic failure analysis process that is undertaken by the team. We cannot bring something back from the moon when it has crashed, but we can calculate what went wrong through mathematical means he says. 

  • January 27, 2024 20:03
    Skill comes by association: Mr. Somanath

    Skill comes by association, you have to be with a boss for 10-20 years, you cannot learn from a textbook, Mr. Somanath says, highlighting that the problems they face are unique. 

  • January 27, 2024 19:59
    Leadership about ability to transform people with you: Mr. Somanath

    “Leadership is not about some individuals but about the ability to transform the people who are with you,” Mr. Somanath says. We always talk about teams, and the spirit of the team is what drives the organisation, he says. This becomes an integral part of the success story, and leadership will become sustainable he says. 

  • January 27, 2024 19:47
    Recap: Kanan Gill speaks about his book and all things comedy at the LitFest 2024

    Didn’t catch Kanan Gill yesterday? We’ve got you covered. Read more about his session today, where he spoke with Anuradha Menon about writing, his new book, stand-up and how writing feels more freeing to him than stand-up. 

  • January 27, 2024 19:42
    Recap: The Hindu Pavillion session on Dalit History

    Earlier today, writer and historian Stalin Rajangam engaged in conversation with G. Gurusamy, writer, researcher and Head of the Department of Tamil in Arul Anandar College in Madurai district, on the topic ‘Dalit History: Text and Context Reading and reconstructing Dalit history through Dalit non-fiction.’ Mr. Ranjangam said that inadequate documentary evidence was a unique challenge faced while writing Dalit history, and therefore, it could not be primarily dependent on written text as the source.

    “Absence of documentary evidence cannot mean that Dalits did not have history,” he said. Thus, he added, there was a need to rely on oral history, proverbs and remnants in culture and traditions and deconstructing them based on the path shown by Pandit Iyothee Thass to understand the history.

    Read more here.

  • January 27, 2024 19:25
    A rich history of space research, a richer history of leadership

    Mr. Somanath traces the growth of Indian space research, starting with the contributions of Dr. Homi J Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai. He highlights the work of Satish Dhawan and the thrust he gave to ISRO’s SLV programme. 

    Next, he touches upon A.P.J Abul Kalam’s contributions, pointing out that many advancements took place during that time-- such as the testing centre at Sriharikota-- and that those who contributed to projects then became leaders later. 

    He said that Dr. Kalam would look into people’s personalities and design teams carefully-- he wouldn’t even allow two people from the same State in the same team. Mr. Somanath says that Dr. Kalam introduced a culture of review that continues till today, where a design created by someone is reviewed by a peer--- not a senior. The designer, even he is an expert, needs to answer all the questions being asked by the peer. 

    “The biggest competency he had was with people,” Mr. Somanath says of Dr. Kalam.

  • January 27, 2024 19:12
    “No one retires from ISRO”

    Mr. Somanath talks about the culture at ISRO, saying that no one truly retires from the attachment they have to the organisation. 

    He pivots to another element of the ISRO culture. Many people come for watching launches, he shares-- you may think there would be a lot of tension, but people in the control room are at ease, doing their work, and the launch happens. 

  • January 27, 2024 19:09
    Now taking off: a session with ISRO Chairman S Somanath

    The last session for today at the Sir Mutha Concert Hall is ‘Transformative Leadership in ISRO: My Experience,’ featuring S. Somanath, the Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation-- just one of many hats that he wears. 

  • January 27, 2024 18:59
    Long history for everything, even predatory individualism: Arjun Appadurai

    Mr. Appadurai says that everything has a long history, pointing out that it didn’t all begin in 2014. He highlights that Modi and BJP built on what came before-- since 1947, since even before, during the British era. 

    There is a huge canvas and a long history for all of it, he describes, including for predatory individualism. But it is being unleashed now he says, combined with majoritarianism.

  • January 27, 2024 18:51
    A Trump would fail in India: Arjun Appadurai

    Mr. Appadurai admits the shift to the right looks different in different countries. If you try to do Trump here, it will bomb, Mr. Appadurai says, also highlighting that Modi would also not succeed in US.

    But globally, liberals have lost the battle in the terrain of emotions, he says. 

  • January 27, 2024 18:45
    A sidebar: Revisit the Hindu Pavillion session on Taste of Memory

    A pre-lunch panel on A Taste of Memory: A Celebration of Food and Family, moderated by Deepa S. Reddy, had Rakesh Raghunathan and Tarana Hussain Khan discuss their journeys which combine the culinary and the nostalgic. 

    “I was never a foodie, maybe a foodie in denial. When I came back to Rampur, to my ancestral home, I started researching about the culture and there were so many little stories about food.” says writer and culinary historian Tarana Hussain Khan about how she stumbled upon revival of heirloom recipes.

    Her research began at the Raza Library in Rampur, a huge repository of manuscripts, where she found 12 Persian handwritten manuscripts dating from 1816 till the 1880s, and that’s where the Forgotten Foods project with the University of Sheffield started.

    “This is how food became central because I realised that we have lost so much,” she says, adding that her project began at a time when Rampur was going through a rapid pace of modernisation and food became one of the very few things that people held on to.

    For chef and culinary historian Rakesh Raghunathan, heirloom recipes have always been a part of the kitchen ecosystem at home. “My paati (grandmother) would bring out antique vessels from the attic, polish them and cook on a large scale,” says Rakesh, adding that he gets nostalgic thinking about his conversations with his grandmother on the kind of food she ate.

    After missing the well-made home cooked meal during his time abroad, Rakesh began replicating the recipes he grew up eating. “I bonded with a lot of people over spices and I realised that the common thread was heirloom recipes across nationalities and countries, which were not being documented and hence were fading away.”

    Rakesh’s journey began in Tirunelveli, where he came across a farming community celebrating the bounty of harvest with a one pot recipe that can only be described as a melting pot of many farmers’ harvests. 

    Read more about the session in Sangita Ranjan’s report here

  • January 27, 2024 18:39
    Now playing at Sir Mutha Concert Hall: Democracy Fatigue

    The next session is Democracy Fatigue: Why is the world moving towards the right? by Arjun Appadurai. 

    Mr. Appadurai is an Emeritus Professor in Media, Culture and Communication at New York University, one among many roles he inhabits. Today’s talk, he says, will discuss the global exhaustion with liberal democracy and its movement to the right. 

    “What is new about today’s democracy fatigue?” he asks. He will not leave us hanging, answering immediately. The first element: internet mobilisation has created the dangerous illusion that we all can find peers, allies, colleagues, and converts, whoever we want and whatever we want. “You only need one person and you have a party going,” he says. 

    The second: every nation-state has lost ground in its efforts to ‘maintain any semblance of economic sovereignty,” -- whether the US or Cameroon, “whether you’re at the top of bottom of the UN list of wealthy countries,” he says. 

    The third: “worldwide spread of the ideology of human rights has given some minimal purchase to strangers, foreigners and migrants in virtually every country,” even if they face harsh welcomes. 

    “These have deepened the global intolerance for due process, deliberative rationality and political patience,” that democracy requires, he points out. 

  • January 27, 2024 18:25
    I play with the image of Mother India: Pushpamala N

    Ms. Pushpamala shares that she is asked why she was using a Hindutva image, and highlights that it is a very generic image. She “plays with the image”, it is quite “tongue-in-cheek,” she shares. She also highlights how it may sometimes backfire- a colleague once found an image of her being worshipped as Lakshmi. 

  • January 27, 2024 18:17
    Cleaning a mind?: Pushpamala pivots to silent videos

    I have recently become interested in eugenics, Ms. Pushpamala shares. She also has been experimenting with silent videos. She plays a short silent clip called ‘Hygiene,’ featuring her as Mother India, seemingly cleaning and replacing a brain in a medical model head. In response to an audience question about its meaning, she says that it is self-explanatory, pointing out that there is no text in it. 

  • January 27, 2024 18:12
    Honouring Gauri Lankesh: Cooking red curry as Mother India

    Ms. Pushpamala describes a cooking performance to honour the slain journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was a friend. In this live performance, she cooked tomato curry, dressed as Mother India. The red recipe was chosen to represent blood, she shares. The cooked dish is then handed out to audience.

    Honouring Gauri Lankesh .png

  • January 27, 2024 18:03
    An exploration of the term ‘Body Politic’ with Pushpamala N

    Now underway in the Sir Mutha Concert Hall is a session on the body politic by Pushpamala N, featuring her body of work relating to this phrase, interpreted in a multi-faceted manner- she says that her interrogation includes herself and her body at the centre of it. Her work started with photo performance and creation of tableaus. 

    The work she shows and describes today covers interpretations of Mother India, some playful, some artistic- all creative. There is a photo of her, as Mother India, being offered a head, in the same vein as frequent depictions of freedom fighters offering their heads to Mother India. She touches upon her first live performance, titled Motherland, which includes two fake arms with national flags and her knitting on stage with red wool. (An amusing discovery she made was that she could not knit or tie knots without her glasses, so it was worked into her performance, she shares)

    She also plays with the idea post independence that India had to be rejuvenated, with Bharat Bhiksha (2018), and reinterprets a Raja Ravi Verma painting with Kichaka Sairandhari (2013).

    Still from Puhpamala presentation.png

  • January 27, 2024 17:50
    India-Pakistan relations today have newer elements: Ajay Bisaria

    There are newer elements in India’s dealing with Pakistan, Mr. Bisaria says, when asked about equations between India and Pakistan post-2014. With the surgical strikes of 2016 and 2-19, there was an answer in the subconventional realm to Pakistan’s subconventional warfare, he says, saying that this has caused some deterrence for future acts of terrorism. 

    Speaking of Pakistan’s current state. Mr. Bisaria says that it has become “a misgoverned country,” experiencing a ‘polycrisis,’ caused by the “accumulated sins of the past coming home to roost.”

  • January 27, 2024 17:41
    At the Hindu Pavillion: Another India: Events, Memories, People

    We take a moment to look at the session underway at The Hindu Pavillion: Chandan Gowda in conversation with Suresh Seshadri, about his book Another India: Events, Memories, People. Mr. Gowda is the Ramakrishna Hegde Chair Professor at the Institute for Social and Economic Change in Bengaluru.

    Stereotypes are not things to be happy about, Mr. Gowda asserts, while talking about the singular fact of there being no “image” of a Kannadiga. As far as exploring or understanding yourself goes, the absence of a stereotype is welcome, he says. 

    “Our modern education is a British-induced utilitarian-driven education, the purpose of which is to make people employable anywhere.. My book is addressed to educated India, who have been actively removed from the vast moral conversations that still exist in the country,” he shares. 

  • January 27, 2024 17:36
    An occasional Urdu lining to difficult India-Pakistan conversations

    Mr. Bisaria recounts his brief stint working with Dr. Manmohan Singh, when there was transition from the Vajpayee government to the Singh government. This includes signing off on some couplets Dr. Singh proposed to include in an early call with President Musharraf - one of these translated to ‘You make a mistake in a moment, but you suffer for ages.’

    Mr Bisaria said he found it “fascinating” that Dr. Singh was including couplets in the language of the Pakistani president in his call, saying that he encouraged him to include them. 

    But this speaking the same language didn’t always appeal to Pakistan, Mr. Bisaria shares later, saying that they at times preferred to be treated as ‘a foreign country on which India had no designs.’ 

    He also highlights how the Urdu translation of Most Favoured Nation actually became politically unpalatable (behad pasandida mulk) and how another phrase -- non-discriminatory market access-- was deemed more preferable. However, political situations were such that even this did not materialise, Mr. Bisaria shares. 

  • January 27, 2024 17:14
    Mr. Bisaria’s stint in Pakistan

    In 2017, Mr. Bisaria was summoned from a posting abroad and told that he was being sent to Pakistan. When he asked Mr. Modi what his key message to the people of Pakistan was to be, ‘it was a message of peace,’ he shared. 

    His exit from Pakistan was also surprising. It took place after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, “which hit Pakistan like a bomb,” Mr. Bisaria says. Soon after, the Parliament questioned the presence of the Indian High Commissioner, and Mr. Bisaria was told to leave. 

    When asked about his experience as an Indian diplomat in Pakistan, he spoke of harassment, admitting it to be euphemistic descriptor- talking of aggressive surveillance, questioning of guests, blocking of entry to certain areas, even touching upon instances when diplomats were beaten up. He expressed that he was concerned about ensuring the security of his staff. 

    But he points out an existing respect as well in the India-Pakistan relationship, and says that there is both latent good-will and latent ill-will, and both could express themselves at times.

  • January 27, 2024 17:05
    A hand shake, a note and a will to end terrorism

    The next incident touched upon is one that transpired during a SAARC summit in Kathmandu, in 2002. Soon after 9/11, terrorism had become a global priority, and this was a key issue between India and Pakistan. Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Musharraf were in Kathmandu for the SAARC summit, and it had been decided that the two would not talk to each other, Mr. Bisaria shares. Unexpectedly, Mr. Musharraf in his summit speech said he extended his hand of friendship to PM Vajpayee, even walking up to him and shook his hands. 

    Mr. Bisaria, in the wings, was called by the Principal Secretary Brijesh Misra, who said that they had to give a response, handing over a scribbled piece of paper. He then walked up to Prime Minister Vajpayee, on stage, and requested him take a toilet break- during which he saw the paper. 

    In the speech that followed, Mr. Vajpayee incorporated the note- ‘which said something like- you all saw that General Musharraf shook my hand, I shook his hand, but we want terrorism to end, and that would be the test of everything.’

  • January 27, 2024 16:54
    ‘What have you done, General?’: A first-seat view into Indo-Pakistan relations

    “Pakistan in many ways is a metaphor,”- this is how Varghese K. George opens his session with Ajay Bisaria, pointing out how it is a country that “thought the best way to consolidate national power was to consolidate religious collectivism.”

    With this sobering thought, he begins his conversation with Mr. Bisaria, a man with “a vantage point few can access,” as Mr. George puts it. 

    Mr. Bisaria also served as a Private Secretary to Atal Bihari Vajpayee for five years, and this is the starting part for a free-flowing conversation. In particular, Mr. George asks him about the seminal summit in Agra between Mr. Vajpayee and Pervez Musharraf in 2001, during which time a tell-all NDTV interview was aired, outlining Pakistan’s views on Kashmir. It was a note passed by Mr. Bisaria to Mr. Vajpayee about this, which served to derail the meeting between the two leaders, soon after the Kargil War. 

    “At that point, I later learnt, Mr. Vajpayee had turned to Musharraf and asked “What have you done, General?” he shares. 

  • January 27, 2024 16:42
    Evening session of the LitFest is here!

    Hello readers! This is Sruthi Darbhamulla, armed with a tea and prepared to lead you through the final segment of The Hindu LitFest 2024. 

    In a brief while, we shall see a session featuring an inside look into the world of diplomacy, courtesy Ajay Bisaria, India’s last High Commissioner to Pakistan from 2017 to 2020, in conversation with The Hindu’s Varghese K. George. Read more about the event here. The conversation unspools against the backdrop of Mr. Bisaria’s book Anger Management.

    On offer for your consumption after this are discussions on the body politic, featuring Pushpamala N, democracy fatigue featuring Arjun Appadurai and a look into ISRO and leading it, with S. Somanath. 

    Stay tuned!

  • January 27, 2024 16:31
    Let’s take a quick break before we delve into The Inside Story of India’s last High Commissioner to Pakistan, Ajay Bisaria, with Varghese K. George

    This is Priyali, handing over the baton to my colleague Sruthi Darbhamulla who will guide you through the rest of the sessions.

    Share your thoughts and opinions about The Hindu Lit Fest 2024 with us @the_hindu on X.

  • January 27, 2024 16:07
    N. Ram, Director of The Hindu Publishing Group and former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu and Frontline, discusses the challenge of disinformation in journalism

    There are two aspects to countering fake news, and one is to safeguard your own media organisation, your journalism, from the invasion of disinformation and misinformation, Mr. Ram says.

    “That’s relatively easy compared to the other challenge, but what do you do about the disinformation out there? You are a small player, compared with Meta, Google, or even X [Twitter]. Is it your task to go out there and combat heroically?”

    Mr. Ram praises AltNews co-founders Pratik Sinha and Mohammed Zubair and calls them his “heroes”. “ AltNews is more than a fact check website. They do investigative work, technically too they are very good,” he says. 

    Keeping his praises going, he also congratulates Sreenivasan Jain, along with co-authors Supriya Sharma and Mariyam Alavi, for their investigative work in their new book. 

  • January 27, 2024 15:54
    Journalist Sreenivasan Jain praises the co-authors of his new book as he opens the session on countering fake news

    Supriya Sharma and Mariam Alavi are the co-authors of the newly-released Love Jihad and Other Fictions, along with Mr. Jain.

    The presence of both Mr. Sharma and Ms. Alavi would have enriched this conversation further and brought gender diversity to this panel, Mr. Jain notes. 

    Recalling the research that went into the book, Mr. Jain shares a particular incident of note with the audience. “There is a WhatsApp forward that claims that in the movie Sholay, there is electricity that is supplied [in the fictional village of Ramgarh] to the Muslim area for namaaz, while in the Hindu area, poor Thakur has to wander around with a lantern because there is no electricity. You would dismiss this as farcical, but cut to 2019, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath made this statement from an election platform, where he said that more electricity was supplied under the previous Samajwadi Party government to the Muslims on Eid, compared to Diwali,” he says.

  • January 27, 2024 15:38
    Renowned journalists Sreenivasan Jain, N. Ram, Pratik Sinha, and Ziya us Salam take the stage to discuss ways to counter fake news in a digital world

    This packed auditorium signifies an innate desire in all of us to know the truth, Ziya us Salam says as he kicks off the session “A Viral World: Countering Fake News”.

    Ziya Us Salam is a veteran journalist and he works at The Hindu as an Associate Editor. He is also an author. His latest book Being Muslim in Hindu India is a bestseller. His upcoming book is The Lion of Naushera.

  • January 27, 2024 15:34
    Meanwhile, at The Pavilion, translator Daisy Rockwell is in conversation with K. Srilata.

    During the “Doubled Distilled Fiction” session, Ms. Rockwell says that translation has many stages and is like a journey. “At the end, the translated text stands on its own and is alive,” she says.

    Ms. Rockwell, an artist and Hindi-Urdu translator based in the U.S., has translated classic literary works such as Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas and Khadija Mastur’s The Women’s Courtyard into English. Her translation of Geetanjali Shree’s Tomb of Sand earned her the prestigious International Booker Prize (2022) and the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation (2022), further solidifying her reputation as an accomplished translator. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the MLA’s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglioni Prize and the Vani Foundation Distinguished Translator Award (2023) for her notable body of work.

  • January 27, 2024 15:08
    Is popularity on social media added pressure or a boon? Chefs deliberate.

    Chef Thomas Zacharias says that his “formula” for social media is to keep it work-oriented. “I haven’t kept up with social media as much as I should have...but I still value the reach and the credibility that you can build if your social media is backed by something offline which is also of substance,” he says.

    Five years ago, I did not have a single social media account, Chef Sashi Cheliah says. He adds that this was because of his job before he went on to MasterChef Australia, when he worked as a law enforcement officer for 20 years. He also recalls that coming into the public eye was a “very alien” feeling. Now, he sees social media as a tool to engage with people.

    Chef Manu Chandra jokingly asks if Chef Cheliah posts photos with captions like, “Feeling cute, might delete later.”

  • January 27, 2024 14:50
    Chef Thomas Zacharias begins the session by thanking the panellists for playing an important role in his life

    “Shonali, and other food writers, journalists, and editors, have done way more for promoting and bringing meaningful conversations around food to audiences than even chefs in India have,” Chef Zacharias says.

    Shonali Muthalaly draws attention to how chefs in the past used to be anonymous, but are now equal to “rockstars”. Chef Sashi Cheliah says it makes them strive for greater heights.

  • January 27, 2024 14:34
    We are back! Stay tuned for our next session on evolving trends in the culinary landscape.

    Shonali Muthalaly, an Associate Editor at The Hindu, will be moderating the session. She runs the MetroPlus and Weekend supplements. A Chevening scholar, Ms. Muthalaly writes and reports on the intersection between food and culture, and oversees The Hindu’s food vertical, building a product that engages with both diners and professionals in the culinary space.

  • January 27, 2024 14:04
    See you after the lunch break!

    We will be back at 2.25 p.m. with chefs Manu Chandra, Sashi Cheliah and Thomas Zacharias, in conversation with Shonali Muthalaly about the evolving trends in the culinary landscape.

    Share your thoughts and opinions about The Hindu Lit Fest 2024 with us @the_hindu on X.

  • January 27, 2024 13:30
    Tarun Tahiliani talks about the challenges of the fashion industry.

    There is a big disconnect between the people who make the clothes and the people who wear them, Mr. Tahiliani says.

    He also draws attention to harassment from government officials.

    “Fashion is relentless. It’s about the next thing. People are copying you. There’s so much judgement, even from the press [sorry to say], or people who don’t understand anything,” he says. He also recalls how a Bollywood actor borrowed a saree worth ₹8 lakhs to wear at the Cannes Film Festival in France, and never returned it to the designer.

  • January 27, 2024 13:16
    It’s time for India to put the maharaja and the tiger to bed, says Tarun Tahiliani

    The renowned fashion designer opens the session by talking about how India has evolved over the years, and how we can keep our identity while also embracing modernity. He also takes a dig at the extravagance of wedding clothes in the country, but praises Gen-Z for being “comfortable in their skin” and challenging conventions.

    “We don’t want our fashion to be costume...but I think the dust is settling.” 

  • January 27, 2024 12:59
    Next up: Journey to India Modern

    Thank you, Saumya. Hello, readers! I am Priyali Prakash, and we shall be looking at the upcoming sessions on day two of The Hindu Lit Fest together. After a quick break, fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani will be in conversation with journalist Rosella Stephen about the evolution of Indian fashion from the days of colonialism to globalisation.

    Tarun Tahiliani, a renowned fashion designer, founded his design studio in 1995 and played a pivotal role in revolutionising India’s fashion and retail industry. Armed with a Business Management degree from the Wharton School of Business, he noticed that India’s fine clothing and couture industry was evolving, and opened India’s first multi-designer boutique, Ensemble, in 1987. He also has a degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.

  • January 27, 2024 12:55
    Share your thoughts with us!

    That’s it from me, readers. I now pass on the coverage to my colleague Priyali Prakash who will guide you through the sessions ahead. Reach out to us @the_hindu on X.

  • January 27, 2024 12:53
    An ode to words and friendship

    Back to writing, editing and friendships. Ramachandra Guha wraps up his discussion with Nirmala Lakshman, chairperson of The Hindu Group. “This is a book about one friendship, where I didn’t tap just my memories, which are more fallible the older you get, but hard data in the form of 40 years of friendship.”

    Summarising their relationship, Dr. Guha says: “Writers change their editors as often as they change their smartphones, and some as often as they change their partners. I met Rukun Advani before I met my wife, and those two relationships have proceeded parallel ever since.”

  • January 27, 2024 12:41
    ‘Vast chunk of history is made up of the doing of ordinary folks’: Author Tejaswi Apte-Rahm

    At another session, reporter Geetha Srimathi documents the conversation between authors Tejaswi Apte-Rahm, Abdullah Khan and Nandini Krishnan about the power of rooted fiction.

    “The traditional way of looking at history is looking at what the great leader does, or the kings and queens and so on, but the vast chunk of history is made up of the doing of ordinary folks. And that’s the kind of history I want to tap into,” said Tejaswi Apte-Rahm, author of The Secret of More.

  • January 27, 2024 12:39
    Writing about your friend, your editor: Ramachandra Guha talks about his memoir

    What a delightful exchange about friendship, work, life and memory. Dr. Guha’s book is “a glimpse into the man through the epistolary history you both share”, Ms. Lakshman says. A history that goes back to the time both historians wrote columns in The Hindu.

    Dr. Guha recounts his friendship with Rukun Advani, from the time Mr. Advani “held contempt” for the author to today. The book describes “a series of accidents” that led to Mr. Advani becoming his first editor, shaping his writing career, and them becoming intimate personal friends. He is “a man who has made not just me, but at least 40 or 50 sociologists and writers of India”, Dr. Guha says.

    Dr. Guha says the book canvasses friendship, work, and growing up — emotionally, politically and professionally. It is a rare archive of growing up, something almost “extinct” nowadays, as Dr. Guha says. He has turned from a sociologist to a historian to a biographer.

  • January 27, 2024 12:00
    What goes into the making of a good book? All about writing with Ramachandra Guha

    We’ve reached session number 3 on day 2, and an exciting conversation awaits!

    Nirmala Lakshman, founder and curator of the Hindu LitFest, is in conversation with historian and author Ramachandra Guha. Dr. Guha launches his new book, The Cooking of Books, the writer’s memoir of his relationship with his editor Rukun Advani.

    “This is a book constructed entirely around letters...[chronicling] 40 years of friendship about literature, books, politics, about growing up in the age of Jawaharlal Nehru and growing old in the age of Narendra Modi,” Dr. Guha says. “Not through boozy lunches or WhatsApp messages, but through letters.”

  • January 27, 2024 11:53
    Monika Halan: ‘Make women a part of money conversations’

    Back to our coverage about money: author Monika Halal and journalist Aarathi Krishnan discuss insurance schemes, lack of regulatory mechanisms and risky financial products. Ms. Halan says life insurance products are bundled with returns are the most toxic products. “Crypto coins are not investments,” she says.

    Women’s relationship with personal finance comes to the fore. Ms. Halan says it is very important to make women part of the money conversation. “Women, put on your money oxygen masks.” She explains how the structure of the Indian family keeps single and married women away from financial conversations. her advice to young women: find the time, empower yourself, learn. Even low-return avenues like fixed deposits and buying gold are “better than not doing anything”.

    Ms. Krishnan concludes the session, offering “rich wishes” to everyone on their money journey.

  • January 27, 2024 11:48
    Smile, please: An interactive photography workshop at LitFest

    Pose for the camera! At the venue, photographer Gayathri Nair is conducting an interactive workshop on ‘How to be a pro smartphone photographer’. 

    Photo Credit: Akhila Easwaran/The Hindu

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  • January 27, 2024 11:38
    Dreaming of living in a shack in the mountains? Monika Halan says: ‘It can get very boring, very quickly’

    Ms. Krishnan, the consulting editor of The Hindu Businessline, draws attention to the aspiration of young people looking to retire early and “living the good life”, a trend also known as Financial Independence and Retiring Early (FIRE). “I’m okay with the financial independence part, but retire early concept, you should think about it. This whole romantic dream of a shack in the mountains or a cottage by the sea, can get very boring after a week,” Ms. Halan says. 

    The two agree that retirement in India is a neglected conversation. Ms. Halan offers tips: using inflation indices to estimate expenses years down the line. As a rule of thumb, she says estimate whatever expense you would incur 60 and 26 times that number as corpus you would require at the age of retirement.

  • January 27, 2024 11:24
    ‘Conversation is never about middle-class Indians, only about the rich and famous‘

    Monika Halan, author of Let’s Talk Mutual Funds, says every time the stock market has a hit high, “I have heard that market will crash and it is a bubble. India is at the cusp of a 30-year structural growth story. The stock market is a long-term wealth creator for an investor and can be dangerous for a speculator.” It comes back to a spiritual question, she says, of “Who am I?”

    Why did she focus on mutual funds in her book? Stocks are “thrilling”, Ms. Halan says, but creating a portfolio of schemes and allowing it to work in the backdrop is a more stable force. She says all of her investments are through mutual funds and she does not own a single stock. 

    Mr. Krishnan asks the authors about the boom in personal finance writing. “The stories of us, actual middle-class Indians, are never told. Our wallet rupee runs everything -- we pay the taxes, we are consumers -- but the conversation is never about us... In personal finance, the actors, the heroes, the protagonists are us,” Ms. Halan says.

  • January 27, 2024 11:12
    Let's talk about money!

    That’s a wrap on discussing faith and idol-worshipping cultures in India.

    Next up, we have Monika Halan and Aarathi Krishnan talking about finance and the process of making your hard-earned money work for you. “After the conversation which was full of spirituality, I feel a bit guilty to talk about a subject such as money which feels too prosaic,” Ms. Krishnan quips. Ms. Halan remarks: “There is no contradiction” between desires and spirituality.

    Ms. Halan previously told The Hindu about why mutual funds should be part of the Indian investor’s portfolio. Read here.

  • January 27, 2024 11:07
    A Crime Wave begins

    In the Pavilion hall, we have a mystery afoot. Authors Anuja Chauhan, Harini Nagendra, Kiran Manral and Tarun Mehrishi speak to K.C. Vijaya Kumar about the rise of crime fiction.

  • January 27, 2024 10:57
    ‘Genuine liberalism in India‘, says Amish

    In the Power of Idol Worship session, the panel discusses the attitude of diaspora Indians. To Ms. Ratnam’s question of if people living in the U.S. and U.K. are “more fierce and fanatic”, Mr. Tripathi says Indian immigrants have a mix of confidence and insecurity. Their attitudes diverge into two extremes: either they become Westernised, or desperately try to hold on to their culture. Moreover, the atmosphere of the West is also binary. “The ‘liberals’ out there aren’t really liberal [because of cancel culture]. In India, we are comfortable with multiple roots...that is genuine liberalism.”

  • January 27, 2024 10:38
    It’s okay to have an opinion, but every opinion need not be made public: Amish

    Talking about youth and their ideologies, Ms. Ratnam asks: “Why should we have all the answers, all the time?” 

    Mr. Tripathi says people need to be more mindful of how they think and how they speak. “It’s okay to have an opinion, but every opinion need not be made public,” he says. “Everyone has the right to speak, that is the traditional Indian way”, but social media creates the risk of falling into echo chambers, where people listen to only those who reinforce their opinions.

    The speakers talk about plurality. India is not as ideologically divided as the media may portray it. Mr. Tripathi says, “In public squares and elite circles, it appears like there are divisions. The real India is so united. That is one of the reasons I’m a proud Indian.”

  • January 27, 2024 10:32
    Amish: ‘Temple at the centre of India’s traditional economy’

    The conversation touches upon the civilisational moment that forms the book’s backdrop. “The modern Western economy has the mall at the centre of life. Our traditional economy had the temple at the centre of life. And socially perhaps a temple at the heart of economic life leads to better outcomes,” Amish Tripathi said. 

    He points to a sense of wariness around idol worshipping in India, despite it being an “intuitively liberal” philosophy. “Many of us represent an interesting variation of the battered wife syndrome”, he says, when women blame themselves for the violence. “Are we idol worshippers behaving in the same way?”

  • January 27, 2024 10:16
    Day 2, here we go!

    In the Power of Idol Worship session, moderator Anita Ratnam sets off the conversation by introducing Amish and Bhavna Roy’s work and contextualising its relevance today. “Five days after January 22 [the inauguration of Ram temple], while this book is about idols, our discussion will have a slightly broader canvas,” Ms. Ratnam says.

    Why select Ganesh as the idol in their book, Ms. Ratnam asks the authors? “We don’t choose the deity, the deity chooses us. It’s a little like falling in love. The head does not explain it, the heart knows,” Ms. Roy says. “Similar is the experience with idol worshipping.” She also spoke about how the loss of her husband influenced the work, with the two authors sharing the philosophy that ‘suffering can make you grow’.

    In the parallel session about navigating grief. Shweta Kirti Singh says, “It’s my karma yoga that I have written my book on pain to handhold all those who have lost a loved one.”

  • January 27, 2024 09:59
    A checklist before you go

    We’re minutes away from the first sessions. For a full list of speakers and sessions during the two-day festival, click here

    The morning begins with Amish, Bhavna Roy and Anita Ratnam exploring the cultural and spiritual dimensions of idol worship. In the Pavilion hall close by, Shweta Singh Kirti, a fashion designer trained at India’s National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), will be speaking to Chitra Mahesh, a freelance writer, about truth, pain and suffering.

  • January 27, 2024 09:57
    Highlights from Day 1

    But first, here’s a recap from Day 1 of the anticipated literary extravaganza. Nirmala Lakshman, Chairperson of The Hindu Group, inaugurated the festival, setting the tone for an inclusive, fearless and honest exchange of ideas.

    We had German author Ronya Othmann discussing the impact of war and migration on families; experts discussing Muslim identity in the age of anti-Muslim hate; and award-winning war correspondent Anjan Sundaram talking about reporting from conflict regions. We also revisited history. Gopalakrishnan Gandhi remembered the legacy of his grandfather the Mahatma, and two historians discussed the life of the freedom fighter who launched the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company

    Pivot to the present, where Anuradha Menon, Kanan, Gill and Cyrus Broacha had us thinking about comedy like never before. Author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni also told us why she profiled the Murthys in her first book. We gave in to the allure of the arts as Carnatic singer T.M. Krishna and Tamil writer Perumal Murugan spoke about their work.

    All this, and much more! Read our coverage from Day 1 here.

  • January 27, 2024 09:41
    Welcome back!

    Welcome back, readers, to our live coverage of ​The Hindu’s Lit Fest​! It’s Day Two, and Chennai is charged with ideas, stories and wonders of the word floating about on the ground at the Sir Mutha Venkatasubbarao Concert Hall in Chetpet. 

    I’m Saumya Kalia and I’ll be chaperoning you through these creative corridors today. 

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