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Controversy and cricket rock Day 3 of Jaipur Lit Fest

Last updated on: January 27, 2013 13:51 IST

Controversy and cricket rock Day 3 of Jaipur Lit Fest

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Apart from controversy, it was cricket that seized control of the fest on Day 3, says Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

Delegates and participants exiting Diggi Palace, after the sessions of Day 3 wrapped up, were greeted by a group of protestors, cordoned off by the police, squatting on the pavement outside, yelling slogans.

A local Dalit party had speedily organised this protest in reaction to Ashis Nandy's remark at a session earlier in the morning, while in conversation with Tehelka publisher Tarun Tejpal and IBN 7 journalist Ashutosh, about the most corrupt people hailing from Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe/Other Backward Classes, to which Ashutosh, as well as the audience, took strong objection.

The divisive remark quickly sparked off an inferno and within a few hours an FIR had been filed against Nandy, one of India's leading social commentators.

On Twitter, Ashutosh first expressed dismay at Nandy's illogical -- and what he calls 'elitist ' – remark. But in later tweets, it seems, even he is shocked about how quickly the matter got out of hand and says:

ashutosh ‏@ashutoshibn7
liberal space is shrinking.left and right fanatics are out to kill if Simple intellectual disagreement is not acceptable.

ashutosh ‏@ashutoshibn7
my disagreement was at intellectual level but competitive politics demanded his arrest which is sad and I condemn that.

ashutosh ‏@ashutoshibn7
Those who say Nandy is casteist, does not know him. All his life he fought for Dalits and down trodden and people who are on the margins.

ashutosh ‏@ashutoshibn7
 If Nandy is arrested there can nothing be more wrong than this . I think politics should recognise the person and he is a saint .

ashutosh ‏@ashutoshibn7
 Though I objected his views As fellow panelist I believe Nandy is giant of an intellectual and above all a saint. Gentlest person I met.

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Image: Tarun Tejpal with Gurcharan Das
Photographs: Vaihayasi Pande Daniel/Rediff.com

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Controversy and cricket rock Day 3 of Jaipur Lit Fest

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The magic of the Jaipur Literature Festival is the stream and multitude of views being thrown up at this event, which is billed as the greatest literary show on earth and is like no other Indian event.

It is almost gaudily cerebral.

You feel like some sort of accidental tourist in a hothouse of brilliant ideas -- a sort of free ticket to the viewing gallery that peers into the scintillating world of intellectuals.

So one can only feel a sense of dismay when issues like these become a threat to the sense of freedom the event showcases and hope it will not hijack the mood of this multihued festival.

Apart from controversy, it was cricket that seized control of the fest on Day 3.

Like the day the Dalai Lama dropped in, anticipation hung in the air post lunch as thousands waited with nail-biting excitement for The Wall.

When cricket writer Suresh Menon and television journalist Rajdeep Sardesai saw the crowds awaiting former skipper Rahul Dravid and the deafening roar that went up when the modest, low-key Dravid reached the stage, they joked that the crowds were far bigger than what you got at a Test match. Tourists at the event could be forgiven for being totally bewildered at this phenomenon at a literary fest.

Former skipper Dravid and actor Sharmila Tagore aptly launched the biography of Mansoor Ali Khan 'Tiger' Pataudi, another former skipper and cricket great.

Titled Pataudi: Nawab of Cricket from Harper Collins, various friends and family have each contributed essays to the book.

An emotional Tagore was equally bemused by the swell of the crowds awaiting one of India's most famous cricketers. She said it reminded her of a remark Pataudi had made to her once -- that cricketers attracted more attention than film stars because there were fewer cricketers.

Says Tagore, "Everybody has asked -- how did this celebrity marriage work? Who was more popular? The actor? Because those days we were also very, very popular. Or the cricketer? Today I was given the answer. Because Tiger always said there is only one cricket captain and there are many, many stars. When I heard the roar (Audience roars once more) that (remark) kind of came back to me and I realise how true it is."

Tagore has written the forward to the book and she said hesitantly, "To find the right voice was very difficult."

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Image: William Dalrymple enjoys a session with wife Olivia
Photographs: Vaihayasi Pande Daniel/Rediff.com

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Controversy and cricket rock Day 3 of Jaipur Lit Fest

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After the book launch, Dravid, Suresh Menon and writer and academic Ian Buruma were in conversation with Sardesai in a session titled Corner of a Distant Playing Field.

When asked if the cricket dream now belongs to the small town and not the big cities, Dravid agreed.

He said, "You see, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is from a place like Ranchi. You look at Zaheer Khan -- though he plays for Mumbai, he comes from the heartland of Maharashtra."

"You look at all the young cricketers coming through today -- a lot of them are coming from some of the smaller towns and cities. That's because facilities have improved. That is one of the great things about money coming into the sport. Now the same facilities exist in small towns, villages -- you have practice wickets, nets and you are seeing that in a place like Karnataka lots of our cricketers now come from places like Raichur, Gulbarga, Bidar, Hubli."

Sardesai pondered over whether cricket has truly democratised itself or India has democratised cricket. And he asked the panel and the gathering, "Do you think cricket is an Indian game accidentally discovered by the English? Is there something about cricket that makes it uniquely Indian?"

Big crowd applause.

"Is there a divide between the cricketer who hails from a small town and a cricketer who grew up in one of India's metros?"

Answered Dravid, "That barrier has completely broken down as well. By the time (a cricketer from a small town) comes to play for India he would have gone through the process and he would have interacted with so many players from the cities and been to the city so many times to play matches. I don't think there is ever that feeling."

Sardesai examined the pros and cons of the advent of the IPL and wondered if Dravid is an IPL skeptic.

 "The positives of the IPL have been fantastic. Like you said, just a chance to share a dressing room with some of the greatest players in the world, people that you might have played against. I can surely say that over the last five years, relationships between teams and players have never been better than today," the cricketer said.

"Just the fact that you get to know someone, for example, I played for a decade against (South African cricketer) Jacques Kallis and hardly ever spoke to him or exchanged a hi or hello. And I always tended to think of him as very stand-offish. Spending three years (during the IPLs) with him you realise he is just a shy, quiet, introverted individual. You go on tours today and you will see players of different teams getting on well with each other, going out for meals."

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Image: Rajdeep Sardesai with Rahul Dravid
Photographs: Vaihayasi Pande Daniel/Rediff.com

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Controversy and cricket rock Day 3 of Jaipur Lit Fest

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Dravid said he is not uncomfortable with the media attention and hype that cricketers these days get, but he offered some words of caution, "You can become a superstar and celebrity very quickly in today's day and age. In the past, if you wanted to be a superstar cricketer you had to do what (Sunil) Gavaskar did, you had to do what Kapil Dev did -- You had to play a lot of cricket! (Audience applauds vigorously) But today if you have one or two good performances you are on all the television channels, being interviewed."

A young cricketer needs to be very clear about what he wants, said Dravid, adding that he needs to make sure he has a body of work that justifies/sustains that star status.

Rajdeep added "We have Sreeshant in the audience here..." More cheers.

A question from the audience: Indian cricketers are treated like gods off the field. How did Dravid cope with that?

"First of all, I don't think any of us thought of ourselves as gods. The game of cricket teaches you to be humble very often. You fail more than you succeed. And I think it knocks you back on your feet very quickly," he said.

The discussion, since it is a lit fest, turned to favourite books. Dravid mentions Sunil Gavaskar's autobiography -- Sunny Days -- as being a particular favorite. It is at this point that Sardesai revealed that Dravid is planning to sit down to write his own memoirs and he may be back at Jaipur Literature Festival 2014 to launch that book which, knowing Dravid, promises to be a great read.

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Image: Rajdeep Sardesai, Rahul Dravid, Suresh Menon and Ian Buruma
Photographs: Vaihayasi Pande Daniel/Rediff.com

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