Festival of the Politically Correct Sissies: Part 1

There’s nothing literary about the Jaipur Literary Festival. It’s as political as political is. The list of who’s who that make up its firmament year after year reads like the Forbes List of Liberal Fundamentalists.  Perhaps Dalrymple’s List of Liberal Fundamentalists is a more accurate phrase. What “literature” have Shobaa De, Manil Suri, Pankaj Mishra, Ashis Nandy, Sonia Falerio, Suketu Mehta, Annie Zaidi, Anurag Mathur, and Tarun Tejpal written? Here’s a sample of the kind of “literary” discussions you get at that “festival:” political trash, milking the victimhood mammary, non-existent identity issues, gender nonsense, and the rest.

And it isn’t surprising because what has been bandied about as literature starting roughly from a couple of decades after World War 2 is usually this: sob stories of oppressed/colonized people, shrill & vacuous feminism, and increasingly, micro-sub-specialization of the Oppression/Victimhood sob stories—here’s an idea for your next novel: The Utterly Agonizing (or Utterly Heroic) Story of a Black (oh wait, make that “African American”) Muslim American Woman, the child of a single dad, who struggles against all odds to become a pilot in an international airline. For added drama, have this pilot-chick go in search of her mother who had left the family when this pilot-chick was a kid. In the course of her flying to various international destinations, bring her to India where she finds that her mother was a Dalit nurse who had briefly stayed in the US, fell in love with this pilot-chick’s African American Muslim father and gave birth to her.

THIS is the specimen of “literature” served at vulgar political charades like the Jaipur Literary Festival. Hell, you don’t even need to read such books in full: just the title & a few words in the blurb is enough to give you a fair idea of the variety of the manure within.

If you look at it, the Jaipur Literary Festival is an evil food chain of sorts. It was founded by a person, who Harstosh Singh Bal describes best:

…what is of interest in this context is not Dalrymple the man, but Dalrymple the phenomenon. How did a White man, young, irreverent and likeable in his first and by far most readable India book, The City of Djinns, become the pompous arbiter of literary merit in India?

“Pompous arbiter of literary merit in India” pretty much sums up William Dalrymple who seems to have gamed the system quite well.  He spouts exactly what the “native” secular-liberal fundamentalists want to hear—Google for “william dalrymple hindu fundamentalism.” And as Hartosh Bal’s essay says, Dalrymple has mastered the art of exploiting the Macaulayite Indians English writer’s insatiable drooling for the riches & recognition that getting published by the UK literary establishment bring. Earlier, a Genocide Suzie had to go through a pretty painstaking process to get the attention of the British literary world followed by the consequent goodies. Today, Dalrymple offers a shortcut: Home Delivery, year after year. Who knows, even a S Anand might win the Booker in 2014.

As a garnishing of sorts, they’ll invite a Kapil Sibal to ruminate meaningfully on The Truth of Poetry and the Truth of Politics despite the fact that Dalrymple & co know the exact nature of the “truth” of Sibal’s politics of Zero-loss. Sibal, the man who recently issued a fatwa against free speech, was invited to the same jamboree to which a writer, who continues to live under the sword of another fatwa by Islamic fanatics was also invited. The irony of this was perhaps lost on Dalrymple. Maybe not.

Enter Salman Rushdie.

Salman Rushdie’s prose is mellow and he crafts it with a finesse that’s hard to attain. And that’s pretty much all there is to his novels. Without exception—that includes Midnight’s Children—all his books are a bore to read. He is, in the memorable phrase of Richard Crasta, a “public school writer.” His writing is—no matter how exquisite the language is—fit for submittal for grading to a high school headmaster. But his short stories, like the Prophet’s Hair and the Shelter of the World are delightful to read. Yet they still do not fall in the realm of literature as understood as an art form. Yet Rushdie continues to remain a huge draw. The reason is the same: he was the first Indian writer in English to make it phenomenally big and thus set a template for other hopefuls to emulate. And the reason he became enormously successful was simply because of one word: politics. Midnight’s Children proved that Churchill was right when he said that Indians were fit to be governed by others: check out the elaborate passages in the novel that describe the Emergency among other bad stuff that happened post Independence. The chunk of the Brit society that wanted to feel good about having done a service to India by oppressing it was enthralled: nice brown boy writing in flawless English about what an awful place India has become! As were those Empire-nostalgic racists who wrote reviews like “The literary map of India has to be redrawn… Midnight’s Children sounds like a continent finding its voice.” In other words: we fucked them for 200 years and now they’re fucking themselves.

Look what happened ever since: every wannabe Rushdie began to ruthlessly mine the Indian society to unearth its “inherent” evils—which usually meant this or that variant of the “caste system”—and reinforced the Western stereotype about India as a backward, and primitive nation. Pick any random novel by the likes of say, Rohinton Mistry. You find stuff like “…and the Brahmin lifted his buttock and farted loudly in the face of the poor low-caste labourer working on the farm who hid his disgust and continued to stand there reverentially with folded hands,” fantasizing all the while, “One day, I will become Salman Rushdie!” There maybe a Vikram Seth and a Genocide Suzie but Rushdie still remains nulli secundus. Dalrymple isn’t unfamiliar with the slobbering of our own desi literary imitation-coolies. Here’s Hartosh Singh Bal again, telling us how this works:

Since the original article was published, the Dalrymple bio at the Jaipur Lit Fest website has been amended. The additions in the few days since I wrote my piece are telling. They include the Crossword Prize for Non-Fiction for The Last Mughal, the first Asia House Prize for Asian Literature for Nine Lives and the French Prix D’Astrolable for The Age of Kali. These additions only serve as a tacit admission of the truth of what I had written: ‘This director of an Indian literary festival does not consider it important to mention an Indian prize he may have received or an Indian publication he may have written for. His eyes are trained on the recognition that Britain’s literary world offers (even if there is the hint that commercial success in India has started mattering), and in that recognition lies his strength.’

Not bad. Dalrymple’s flexible spine makes the necessary twists to suit the occasion. However that maybe, he gives our wannabe Rushdies an opening of sorts right on home ground. In return, they mine deeper to extract newer and newer muck. The politics of the day actively encourages “social justice” of this sort. Sibal & co get invited. The Food Chain runs flawlessly with all the right ingredients.

Which makes us revert to the same question: what business does an Oprah Winfrey have in an ostentatious “festival” of literature? This news report explains:

…Oprah’s underprivileged beginnings and how she has focussed her energies on helping not just abused women (Oprah was abused growing up)…

So there: that again fits the template for who is an authority on literary matters: the right skin color, the right gender, the right kind and amount of beatings & abuse you’ve received…actually no. What really counts is that how effectively you encash your sob story. A person with dignity never recounts his or her painful past much less use it as an instrument for financial and/or career success. Oprah Winfrey has made Abuse Porn an insanely-successful multimillion dollar commercial venture. And that says a lot about the stalwarts and stars at the Jaipur Literary Festival who erupted in spasms of rapture at her mere presence there.  Or for that matter a guy like Tarun Tejpal whose paper uses extortion-like methods to get what it wants,  and whose qualifications as a literary luminary are at best alleged. Or a pretty face like Nidhi Razdan. It’s actually a tad uncharitable to blame Oprah: she came here because she was invited. 

The fact that no serious regional writer was invited to this “festival” is very telling. The ones that do get invited—H.S. Shivaprakash, U R Ananthamurthy, and Girish Karnad for example—are invited purely for ideological reasons. The White Mughal and his Indian courtiers ensconced in the fancy enclaves of their own making rarely go beyond the outskirts of India’s big cities. Which is why they have zero knowledge of the vibrant regional literary scene in India. A regional literary festival is a festival in every sense and—I have been to several—is far richer and enriching. Literary discussions happen there with none of the politically correct nonsense spouted in the name of Writing and Resistance and The Good Muslim.

So let’s just call the Jaipur Literary Festival by its proper name: it is the Festival of the Politically Correct Sissies. Forget literature, most of the luminaires that dot this charade care nothing about free expression, and their support for Salman Rushdie is as fake as Rushdie’s fame as a literary genius. They’re self-aggrandizing, brazen careerists and will sway according to the changing wind. They hit you when they know you can’t or won’t retaliate. They make the right noises as long as it’s safe for them to do so. They abandon the very ideal they claim to hold dear at the first hint of danger and scoot like cowards. They are sissies. Part 2 of this post shows how.

30 comments for “Festival of the Politically Correct Sissies: Part 1

  1. shanth
    January 30, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    What can I say???

    Simply exhilarating…

  2. Ranger
    January 30, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    Folks, India Today magazine has carried out its annual nationwide public opinion poll called “State of the Nation” poll. Results are very revealing.

    People of India’s most popular choice for the post of prime ministership is Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat. He gets 24% of the votes of all people polled. The nearest contender to Modi is Rahul Gandhi, who gets 17% of the votes.

    Modi has for years won the popular opinion poll in India Today for the title of most popular chief minister in India. And he wins that title this time as well. But this is the first time he has been voted as the person most people want to see as the PM of India.

    This is fantastic news because this shows how popular Narendrabhai is in India.

    Also, BJP/NDA has done much better than Congress in the opinion polls.

    This shows we dont give the people of India the credit they deserve. They are not as stupid as we thought they were. They have their own mind and will not be led blindly by the anti-Modi mainstream media, NGO classes and academia. Modi I repeat – is the most popular politician in India and the person most people want to see as India’s prime minister.

    Now, I am looking forward to the next election. Its gonna be fun.

  3. prasad
    January 28, 2012 at 10:22 PM

    great work sandeep. you are my kind of kid. Train more of your generation
    to think like you.

    52 yrs ago when I left India I used to get disgusted
    at the petty level of corruption. By today’s standards it was no corruption
    at all. psuedo secular Con party in the hands of s foreigner who hates India
    destroying the great civilization of India. This Foreigner woman who is
    most corrupt herself calls iNDIA a composite civilization. This can happen
    only in India. what is a composite civilization.
    when I was growing up in India I can look up to many
    great leaders who sacrificed their lives for the country, yeah I want to
    grow up like them. Now who do you look upto sonia gandhi, MM singh.

    80% Hindus must blame themselves for choosing a
    semiliterate woman, to lead the nation with mafia like politics.

    My hope is people like you who call a spade is spade

  4. Amit
    January 28, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    Wise Infidel:

    It is indeed a paradox that while leftists in South America and Central America and elsewhere in the world are sympathetic to native cultures and don’t whitewash their history; in India, it’s the exact opposite where the leftists, in a deranged manner, are totally hostile to the native culture and do their best to undermine it by whitewashing history.

  5. S S
    January 28, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    Bravo! Sandeep. This article of your is something, whcih is needed to be a part of literature syllabi of Indian universities. English as well as Hindi literature courses. It will set many many things instatntly right. Yes, I seriously say so. TRUTH has an independent power, it compels an ordinary mind to register something in a way that no cosmatic arguments could ever totally erase. Hence my evaluation.
    Thnaks!

  6. Tarun
    January 27, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    Superb – For once we have knowledge as to how these shams operate and are controlled.

  7. Gujjubhai
    January 27, 2012 at 6:02 AM

    Bravo, brother!! You are truly an inspiration to us. Please keep shining the light on the cockroaches and making them scurry for cover.

  8. Wise Infidel
    January 27, 2012 at 4:45 AM

    We need to write our own novels, essays, blogs, movies etc exposing the vulgar criminality of decimation of native cultures of the Americas, N Africa, Middle East, Europe, now India, Mongolia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, China etc next in line for cultural annihilation by he same abhorrent abomination called subversive cultural rape by abrahamic evangelist brigades always talking of superiority of monotheism that has no place for feminine divinity that our Kali Maa has!!.

    Regards and thanks,

  9. Wise Infidel
    January 27, 2012 at 4:30 AM

    When will the pseudo Indians stop taking our land even after death for *burial*?! When will the pseudo Indians yell from roof tops that their belief system has the only absolute path to God/salvation as KKK type supremacists?!! When will the pseudo Indians stop poaching our men and women for marriage and end conversion by evanjihadis? When will the pseudo Indians end levying infidel/pagan tax via bollywood and convent schools??? When will the pseudo Indians end enslaving us into secular servants and secular clowns doing the bidding of the anti-socials against the secular public??!!! When will the pseudo Indians stop demonizing our leaders and our civil rights org-s denying us leadership? When will the pseudo Indians start respecting our constitution and give us equal status under the law???!! When will the pseudo Indians help ensure social justice, economic equality and political stability w/o any drama and naked public dance? When will the pseudo Indians stop acting as hitlerian nazis indulging in hitlerian lies as propa-gandhists, full of hype and spin as in the trashy movie Slum Dog where we were shown as the rioters? When will the pseudo Indians end hitlerian antics of ethnic cleansing of Kashmir, Kerala, Assam, etc. ? When will the pseudo Indians end genocidal pogroms and murderous riotssuch as that happened for khilafat, jinah’s Direct Action, Saddam’s hanging, Rev Falwell’s remarks, Danish cartoons, Kashmir relics, jewish entry into al aqsa mosque, most of which totally unrelated to India or any Indian??? Boycott cricket and bollywood, islamic/western business and products, expose vulgar anti-social elements!! Power to the Om Shanti people!! Regards,

    You agree that Civil Rights and Human Rights for Hindus denied ?

    Pls read
    http://humanandcivilrightsforall.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/social-economic-political-and-cultural-crimes-in-india-part-ii/
    and
    humanrights.sulekha.com or dalitpower.sulekha.com
    genderequality.sulekha.com

    Do oyu agree Civil Rights and Human Rights for Hindus denied??

    As in Guetamala and other Catholic countries, unholy father and his cronies dominate the political and economic scene,
    ——————————–
    Colombia has significant natural resources and its diverse culture reflects the indigenous Indian, Spanish and African origins of its people.
    It also has a highly stratified society where the traditionally rich families of Spanish descent have benefited from this wealth to a far greater degree than the majority, mixed-race population. With few avenues for social mobility, this provided a natural constituency for left-wing insurgents.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/country_profiles/1212798.stm
    ………………………..
    It also needs to address social inequality. Elite families of European descent control most of Panama’s wealth and power, while about 40% of the population live below the poverty line.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/country_profiles/1229332.stm
    ———————————————-
    now in Asia the same vatican crimson brigades are ru9ijning lives; here, are accomplice to criminal mullas to retain neo-colonial power by savage grip via intimidation, mafia extortion, smuggling, trafficking, theft, poaching of our women, power grab, land grab, etc etc.

    Thanks,
    Wise Infidel
    27 Jan 2012

  10. January 26, 2012 at 7:01 PM

    About time someone told the truth about the Indian Literati filled with Macaulan thoughts and penning books which finds no favor with one of the largest english speaking populations of the world. It is only beacuse of idiots like them that we Indians find foreign author books on economics,thrillers,romance etc far more exciting and infact relate to than the so called “desi” writers. What in the world was “Midnights children” about…… and what was the style of english in it. I can understand Sydney Sheldon,Michael Crichton,James Hadley Chase and Paul Krugman but I couldnt understand a single word of these desi writers. It is a shame that Indian English literature which should have thrived but has fallen flat to its large English speaking Indian community. There is more to India than writing torrid stories of poverty and abuse for glory.I understand that the western world only likes to hear torrid stories about India and reward them for their views.But YOU HAVE TO SELL IT TO THE INDIAN AUDIENCE. Go to any Landmark Store in India, what are the books that are selling like hotcakes.None of the authors that this article mentioned only foreign authors and art of living books of Robin Sharma.

  11. Vinod Sankar
    January 26, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    Hi Sandeep: Your views and messages need to reach a wider audience of ignorant Indians. My humble suggestion is that this cause can be better served if you reduce the expletives and raw anger we sometimes see in your essays.
    As much as you and other concerned Indians are infuriated by the goings on in our country, the overall cause of removing ignorance and becoming well informed would be better served by using civil language. Your best essays are based on extensive research and make logical conclusions without the seething anger we notice in this particular essay. Thank you.
    - Vinod.

  12. January 26, 2012 at 12:40 AM

    Hard-hitting in Sandeep signature-style! Awesome!

  13. shek
    January 25, 2012 at 10:49 PM

    a place for secular ,liberal , multicultural, ‘ i am hindu but hate hinduism ‘ ,get s—t scared of criticising anything to do with islam , desperately engaged in oneupmanship in getting approval from pathetic nonsensical white writers types toadies -that is the world famous litfest at jaipur for you. time there were warning signs placed to prevent the noble and fairminded from straying into that quicksand where the likes of rahul bose,shoma chaudhary ,javed akhtar and barkha dutt preyed.

  14. tushar
    January 25, 2012 at 10:21 PM

    But Sandeep, more important than the writers is the fact that the barbarians, who ought to be controlled with an iron hand, have got another taste of getting their way. We all know how dangerous this is. Will this be your topic in part 2?

  15. shanthigram
    January 25, 2012 at 10:16 PM

    Nobody calls spade a spade with such aplomb as Sandeep. Thank you for another brilliant article.

  16. RV Anand
    January 25, 2012 at 3:43 PM

    @.Vinay :

    “” Really ?? Does this also hold when representatives of one community says the other community robbed it, murdered it, raped it for centuries upon centuries, for the sake of a few votes.””

    Why do you want to confuse the isuue by using “community” in place of ” person ” Makes a lot of difference .

  17. Jooske
    January 25, 2012 at 2:10 PM

    Here is a list of words and sentences that hit for six.(all in one article!)

    sissies

    liberal fundamentalist

    “literature”

    evil food chain

    Dalrymple Home Delivery Service ( based in Delhi?)

    pompous arbiter

    Kapi Sibal ruminates meaningfully (can he do it?)

    inherent evils of Indian Society ( there are many right?)

    imitation coolies

    “festival” (India has a festival every day of the year somewhere but this variety? there is a harvest ?)

    abandon the very ideal they hold dear ( dont they always do that)

    scoot like cowards

    do not google william dalrymple hindu fundamentalism (I thought there was no such thing as hindu fundamentalism?-same as a hindu nazi another william dalrymple phrase)

    by the way did you like The King’s “photo”? in
    Harstosh Singh Bal article

  18. Jooske
    January 25, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    Another masterpiece from Sandeep.

    Some comments are dealing with Fiction and not Reality ( Non Fiction).

    Perhaps they should visit a library.

  19. prachetas
    January 25, 2012 at 1:14 PM

    @Tima @ vinay

    Sandeep talking about a very low grade fiction passing of as “Literature”, while you are referring to a community that is talking of facts (recorded and written into stone). It is a fact that your favorite community committed mistakes and then in fear of punishment and retaliation sought to creation of a mullah-military theocracy in Pakistan and a pseudo secular congress in India.

    Dont you think attempts to correct past wrong doings wont be made and political mileage cant be drawn if the wrong doings are acknowledged and the apologies are rendered.

  20. Mukul Agarwal
    January 25, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    Heartbreaking to read the truth of Indian Literature. Great article but really sad

  21. Radhika
    January 25, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    I don’t blame you for your fury. I watched the events unfolding at this “lit fest” with amazement, then I found out that the whole sordid mess had been organised by Sibels sons, one of whom has Namita Gokahale as his mother in law, and it all fell in place. He it was who was pulling the strings all along. The master of chicanery and utter stupidity disguising itself as low cunning with a perennial smile on his face. The “lit Fest” had to be such a mess. It could not have beena anything else with Sibel as the master mind

  22. ethicalman
    January 25, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    “the Festival of the Politically Correct Sissies”…very rightly said. Only muslims and christians are allowed to be politically incorrect and disregarding about the country, whereas Hindus have to be ready for Hindu bashing all the time..this country is going straight to hell ..

  23. Tima
    January 25, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    @Vinay

    Not only that. The community says they are also correcting the past wrong doings now.

  24. Gaurav
    January 25, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    awesome… simply awesome! keep writing…

  25. Jay
    January 25, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    “…The White Mughal
    and his Indian courtiers…” aptly sums up the gathering. Awesome post bandhu.
    BTW, it goes without sayin’: Its a pleasure, privilege and an honour to read your posts.
    Look forward to Part 2.

  26. tushar
    January 25, 2012 at 10:37 AM

    Very interesting piece.

  27. atweet
    January 25, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    i hear that a lot of alcohol and sex happen on the sidelines of this festival. No indian culture for it maybe.

  28. Vinay
    January 25, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    “”“What really counts is that how effectively you encash your sob story. A person with dignity never recounts his or her painful past much less use it as an instrument for financial and/or career success” –
    Brilliant.. Please write more often. “”

    Really ?? Does this also hold when representatives of one community says the other community robbed it, murdered it, raped it for centuries upon centuries, for the sake of a few votes.

  29. sat
    January 25, 2012 at 9:48 AM

    “What really counts is that how effectively you encash your sob story. A person with dignity never recounts his or her painful past much less use it as an instrument for financial and/or career success” –
    Brilliant.. Please write more often.

    Your template for the next novel might be taken up and might win something too.

  30. CHANDRA
    January 25, 2012 at 8:49 AM

    master piece….

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