Should’ve posted this ages ago, but was very busy goofing off. Ruchir Joshi and Indrajit Hazra went to Lille for a writer’s festival that’s part of a larger Oriental scene-type thing, and all they brought back were hangovers and these memories:
Rather incredibly for a northern-European town replete with 18th century classical-baroque architecture, there are giant elephants paving either side of the road. It turns out that before my arrival to Lille, Bollywood art director (of Lage Raho Munnabhai fame) Nitin Desai has already been here. Instead of a French version of Unter der Linden, Berlin’s famous boulevard with lime trees on either side, Lille’s Rue Faidherbe is lined with bedecked Nitin Desai elephants — not to mention giant deepa stambha. I guess if it’s Lille 2006, it has to be Deepawali. So much for running away from the bright lights of New Delhi…And I, mon ami, was supposed to be one delightful representative of India’s cultural delights.
My mind, of course, was less focused on answering difficult questions — “Is there punk rock in India?”, “You have a negative character called Ajit Chaudhuri in your novel. Is that a camouflaged depiction of your fellow Bengali writer Amit Chaudhuri?”, “Are you a misogynist?” — and more inclined towards discovering Lille’s nooks and corners.
“…Could there be a similar reason why, all too often, Westerners, especially the French, have feted and felicitated some our most mediocre painters, film-makers and writers? Could it be that the different segments of the famed French intelligentsia are actually all too aware of how pedestrian some of the ‘names’ are that they have invited over from India? Could it be that it isn’t, as we suspected previously, plain old laziness and ignorance but shrewd insight that has led to some quite bizarre celebrations of so-called ‘maitres Indiennes’ at the expense of genuine talents? Where the exotic poseur-painter, the pseudo-cineaste, and the loud charlatan of a writer have all served to bolster some fraying Gallic sense of cultural self-esteem?
The fact that some would immediately include this writer in their list of usual suspects didn’t stop the thought from accompanying me all the way from Lille in northern France to Marseilles and then Arles in the stupendously lovely south.”