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Literature-Cinema Conference at the Rome Film Festival’s Focus India Event, 24th Oct, 2007

A writer is an explorer of existence, not just its intimate chronicler, nor only its moral or political witness. While Women’s Writing is a necessary invention of our time, and though it is a fact that more women have been writing, the world over, in the last hundred years, I would still wish to address this subject without gender preconditions, but as a human being…

A tradition implies history. But history is an ever changing thing and the one certain thing about tradition is that it changes continuously to renew itself. When it doesn’t, it stagnates.

In his essay, The Meaning of Art,(1921) Tagore said: The tradition that is helpful is like a channel that helps the current to flow…

Tradition in India is a complex thing as different currents flowing alongside, merging or jostling with each other or, in direct confrontation sometimes. This is because India inherited not one but three traditions with Independence: the Hindu, with its offshoots, the Muslim and the Christian or English tradition. A fabric at once rich, complex and challenging.

Tagore’s concern was already with the human condition around him: how would India’s chains be unshackled, how would its imagination be set free?
When in the name of Indian art we cultivate with deliberate aggressiveness a certain bigotry born out of the habit of a past generation, we smother our souls under idiosyncrasies… So let us take heart and make daring experiments…

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In My Own Write / Verve Magazine 1999

I ate the best pears, four years ago, in Kargil. I bought them from Ahmed Mian's fruit-stall next to the the bus stand. Ahmed Mian handed over the pears without looking at me. His eyes watched the main street as the army convoys rolled by. Grey lumbering trucks and jeeps and armored cars juddered incessantly up the street. He regarded them all with a kind of melancholic absence. After my fourth visit to his shop he asked if I wanted to go to Srinagar. His brother had a nice houseboat on the lake. I showed him my ticket to Leh. The old man's eyes glazed over quickly: I had ceased to exist.

Ahmed Mian's absence was palpable throughout the street where soldiers strolled sullenly and little boys ran errands, keeping carefully out of their way. Men of all ages sat about on the pavements, with a blank, preoccupied air. A heavy sense of unease hung over that street, as though they sensed something that was about to happen. But in this knowledge, tourists like me hardly mattered.

There was another kind of absence on this street. I did not see a single girl there in two days. Nor a women, young or old. An undercurrent of tension saturated the air... Only later I realized why there were no street-lights at night in Kargil,… and why, no one ever seemed to be able sleep in that surly town…

To escape the claustrophobic air we went for a walk, but were soon stopped by the army repairing the road. I did not think about the LoC then. I did not consider that the mountains all around were full of bunkers, guns trained on us, possibly, even as we walked. Along this very road, people have been killed, mountains bombed and riddled with bullets, and where soldiers still stay awake in the same bunkers, in frozen night winds, waiting for world leaders and men of religion, to change their minds.
So much gets passed off in the name of God. Frontiers, prejudices, terrorism, war. All this despite the fact that God belongs to all religions, and is, by this very evidence, free…