Hyderabad Literary Fest: a dash of culture and realpolitik

Former Planning Commission chief Montek Singh Ahluwalia. File   | Photo Credit: G. Ramakrishna

It was a dash of culture and realpolitik on the last day of the virtual Hyderabad Literary Festival.

The day began with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni talking about her book ‘The Last Queen’ which reimagines the life and times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s youngest queen Rani Jindan. Then it was a dash of nostalgia as Montek Singh Ahluwalia took a trip down memory lane. Mr. Ahluwalia recollected growing up in Secunderabad between 1950-57 when his father, who worked in the Defence Accounts, moved to the city with the Indian Army after Police Action. “I studied in St Patrick’s High School. I played cricket in a small village called Karkhana. I remember an extremely pleasant and peaceful time in the city,” said Mr. Ahluwalia, when asked about his connection with Hyderabad.

Speaking about his book ‘Backstage’, Mr. Ahluwalia said, “Many of us were aware that our policies need to change. I had the opportunity to see the change take place. It began in the 80s and really intensified in 1991 and continued thereafter. I tried to document how the policies changed.”

Mr. Ahluwalia who had an insider view of change in the economic policies under P.V. Narasimha Rao and Dr. Manmohan Singh was in conversation with Prabhakar Parakala. He credited his deceased wife Ishwar for writing the book. “She told me ‘for God’s sake write in a manner that an ordinary person can understand you are not writing the economic survey again’,” confessed Mr. Ahluwalia.

In another session, well-known scholar of Hinduism, Devdutt Patnaik, held forth his view of the country. “India was created through pilgrims. It is something we don’t realise. We want to see history through the lens of kings. But it is not correct. Common people travel slowly and create a network. It is the temples, rituals and practices that bind us culturally,” said Devdutt Patnaik about his book ‘Pilgrim Nation’, which charts the evolution of India as we know it.

In a late evening session, Farrukh Dhondy shared his encounter with Rumi when he took a flight to Australia and a friend handed over a copy of Rumi’s poetry. “I encountered rhyming couplets. Rumi had used Iambic pentameter in the 13th century. Meaning and music go together with Rumi. Music has to go hand in hand as music is part of the meaning,” said Mr. Dhondy, speaking about ‘Rumi: A New Translation’.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 4:23:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/hyderabad-literary-fest-a-dash-of-culture-and-realpolitik/article33651683.ece

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