Times of India Literary Carnival, Day 1, Mumbai

Day 1 Times of India Literary Carnival, 2011, discussion between Arnab Goswami, Mohammed Hanif and Chetan Bhagat.

First Day – Day 1 (Decmber 2, 2011) of The Times of India Literary Carnival, 2011, started off on an entertaining note with a session with Arnab Goswami, Mohammed Hanif and Chetan Bhagat. Forgetting that he was not on television, Arnab insisted on calling the session a debate.


The “carnival” atmosphere seems to have affected everyone from the moderator (Arnab), to the writers on stage, to the audience. Arnab was his usual self, grinning away and asking silly questions. Sample these words of wisdom from Arnab:

  • Has purity has been lost in Indian writing (this is classic Arnab).
  • Make this debate spicy (to Chetan before the discussion).
  • Can literature be nationalised? (another classic).


The audience too was in the “carnival” spirit. Sample these:

  • Which set of authors is better – Indian or Pakistani?
  • Audience member to Chetan – How can you justify yourself as an author when you write so poorly?

Some interesting points made by the authors:

Chetan Bhagat:

  • My books can not win prizes.
  • The focus in India has shifted from literary authors to books like mine.
  • Indian writers are more interested in writing eloquently and don’t necessarily tell good stories (Um! Who is he talking about?). In India authors write good English sentences to be admired by their English teachers, and not to tell a story.
  • Pakistan is the flavour du jour of the western world.
  • Western validation doesn’t define literature.
  • Every story needs a conflict.
  • I write because things are so wrong here and I deal with that through my writing.
  • “Two States” was my statement on casteism told in a popular fashion.
  • I want to effect change through my writing.
  • Pakistani writers should serve as inspiration to all aspiring Indian writers to tell their stories.
  • I wrote my first book as an act of rebellion towards my boss.
  • Is the message more important or is it the language or is it the grammar?
  • Secularism cannot be reduced to – you equal to me. The issues are complex.


Mohammed Hanif:

  • Can we first stop talking about explosions, I am from Karachi and that scares me.
  • We are absolutely free in Pakistan, but at our own risk. In Pakistan, there is a gradation of things which people can be offended by. Since I am an English novelist, I get threatened by gentle women Jehadis’s and not by harsh speaking men (brilliant).
  • Pakistan English writing is read by a really small section of society, which is more tolerant.
  • I’m sure India has some funny writers. Chetan is quite funny.
  • I have never heard about writers talk about markets, felt like I was in the stock market. I didn’t even know there was a market for writers.
  • You write because you don’t even know you are a writer.
  • Strife is not a necessary condition for good script
  • The most delicious crime novels are coming from Scandinavia (In reply to Chetan’s point that every story needs a conflict).
  • Just because there is a bomb blast in my city today, I don’t write better.
  • Writers should write when they are inspired (This was mentioned in the context of whether writers should write as a routine or only when they felt the inspiration).
  • For me the writing process is almost spiritual. Writing for me a way of dealing with “being here”.
  • If you want to change society, why don’t you get into politics or become a news anchor? (rebuttal to Chetan’s point that he wanted to effect change).
  • You cannot make a film in Bombay without a Pakistani musician in it.


What a terrific start. If the rest of the carnival is as entertaining, this event will be a hit.


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Fatima Bhutto created a stir at the Times of India Literary Carnival. She looked stunning and glamorous.

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The “Bombay Boys” session was a little weird or is esoteric the correct word?

Four writers, Manu Joseph, Naresh Fernandes, Gyan Prakash and Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghavi,  talk about how they fell for Mumbai/Bombay city. Sample some of the conversation.


Manu Joseph

  • All your miseries become copy (nice quote, but does it mean anything?).
  • I live in a city, which invented schoomzing – Delhi (in response to Siddharth’s “smoozathon” remark).
  • Most Indian restaurants don’t charge for the quality of food, but they charge to ensure that some type of Indians cannot come in.
  • I find it very difficult to write female characters. I also find that even high quality female writers have a hard time getting the male character right.
  • One fundamental character of our country, of people like us, is the desire to create an island.
  • Every city creates an island which is different from the “Real India”. “Bombay is our only real city” because its elites haven’t been able to create those islands. That is the defining character of Bombay. (What does this mean?)
  • I love Bombay. I love Bombay more, since I’ve moved to Delhi.


Siddharth Dhanvant Sanghvi

  • Bombay has become a giant “Smoozathon”. There is a dearth of conversation. (Really?!? What is this carnival about?)
  • Is Mumbai as a city also suffering from a grand aesthetic failure? (WHOW!!! What did that mean?)


Naresh Fernandes

  • The economic reforms  were when Bombay became Mumbai (I thought it was November, 1995).
  • The current chaotic times have perhaps spurred the recent spate of engaging narrative non-fiction which has emerged from Mumbai (what engaging narrative)?
  • Karachi like Bombay has a siege of coffee table books, with sepia tones photographs of what the city used to be.
  • Bombay’s obsession with real estate dates back 200 years. The more things change, the more they remain the same.


Gyan Prakash

  • Mumbai is full of “hyper stimuli”. People deal with it saying things like “Tension Nahi Lenaka”.
  • Sharukh Khan is like “aloo”. Buy it from Pali Hill or Andheri, you get the same “aloo”. Just like you get the same Sharukh Khan in every film (Swades being the exception).
  • A city that is very conscious of itself being a city.
  • Bombay as a city is far more plastic than any other city.


Manjit Kripalani

  • Bombay takes wealth in its stride. Mo matter how much money you have, you cannot own anything beyond a 3 bedroom.




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