Mechanical sharks, meanwhile, were conspicuous by their absence at the recent Neemrana writers’ festival. Instead, Outlook did its bit by sending in the real thing:

Everyone knew the risks of organising such a mammoth meet of writers from across Africa and Asia. And the second Neemrana litfest seems to have succumbed to them all: quota-filling, string-pulling, backdoor entries…. The result: a roll call of has-been and never-was writers who will probably pay for their ambitions by long sessions on topics chosen by some especially inventive torturers of the literary-minded. A sample of what’s in store for writers at the heritage resort 126 km from Delhi: Legacy and Assertion—History and Ethnicity, Language and Culture (Politics of writing and language…. Race, ethnicity and hegemony… “Margin” to “Centre”). And in case they didn’t have enough, an after-dinner session with this ominous agenda: Articulations of the poetic medium… Orality and enscriptions. Translated into English, this probably means poetry reading by Sudeep Sen and Co.

And just as you were saying, come on, 40 writers from Africa and Asia meeting in a Rajasthan heritage hotel can’t be all bad, the headlines told their own story:


‘Asian, African writers celebrate identity, legacy’


‘Is identity a form of racialism?’


‘Power of word, biggest deterrant [sic] to dictators, say writers’

Oh well. We trust the kababs were good, the Rajasthani dancers did their thing with the matkas on fire, the Scotch and wine flowed, and that every panel discussion topic had the requisite three colons and a ‘Whither’ inserted.