Thinkers, Change-Makers Galore: Sagarika Ghose on the Times Lit Fest

Sagarika Ghose

SheThePeople.TV is delighted to be partnering with the Times Lit Fest Delhi this weekend, presenting a panel called  The Future is Female: Women Reinventing India. We asked the Festival Director, well-known journalist and writer Sagarika Ghose for more information on the theme — [email protected], the emphasis on change-makers, and of course, the names she’s most excited about!

1) The over-arching theme of the TOI Delhi Lit Fest is [email protected] — can you take us through your thoughts on setting this as the theme? 

Independent India enters its 70th year next year, 2017, and we thought we would give ourselves a head start on the [email protected] celebrations by dedicating Times Lit Fest-Delhi 2016, at the end of 2016, to this theme. Where does the boldest and greatest democratic experiment in history stand after 70 years of independent existence?

Where does the boldest and greatest democratic experiment in history stand after 70 years of independent existence?

We thought bringing together authors and thinkers on this question would help us begin a conversation, both introspective and celebratory, a conversation that focuses not only at the record of the past but also looks for new ways forward. Our sub-theme is “Change Begins Here”, so the full title of the Fest is `[email protected]:Change Begins Here’, because we wanted the Fest to be about books and ideas that capture the context in which we live and also flag the exciting new changes ahead.

2) What does India @ 70 signify to you as an author and journalist?

For me, [email protected] is about the continuing unfolding of the idea of India. The idea of India was dreamed of by some of the most idealistic thinkers of their age and the India idea is constantly being subject to many changes, is forever being re-defined, re-interpreted, contested and argued about. Newer and more dynamic ideas of India will continue to appear. At this moment for me the challenge to the Nehruvian consensus from the Right is an example of a fledgling democracy coming to terms with its different realities, an experience from which am convinced and hopeful that the idea of India will emerge even better defined and stronger.

3) It’s quite a diverse line-up — Who are you most excited about at the festival?  

Yes, Times Lit Fest Delhi reflects the zeitgeist of the national capital, so we look to invite speakers and authors who are defining current issues in politics and civil society. I am thrilled by our line up this year–every author we have is so exciting and am sure each of the sessions will be more scintillating than the next. We put a lot of thought into the subjects to make them provocative and edgy to facilitate some great discussions.

India@70 is the theme of the TOI Delhi Lit Fest

Some names to look forward to at the Times Delhi Lit Fest

Am delighted we have Ruskin Bond, Nandan Nilekani, Ramachandra Guha, Arvind Subramanian, Kanhaiya Kumar, Sharmila Tagore, Swaminathan Aiyar, William Dalrymple, popular politicians like P. Chidambaram and Asaduddin Owaisi, salient voices from the government like Ram Madhav and Suresh Prabhu, am particularly excited about the SheThe People panel, the panels put together for us by think tanks like Brookings and Carnegie, the Delhi Times panel, the radio Mirchi panel, thriller writers like Ashwin Sanghi and Ravi Subramanian, the wonderful Devdutt Pattanaik, the lovely Namita Gokhale, the highly inspiring Paralympians and of course, my big crush the supremely talented Farhan Akhtar in a keynote address cum performance will be among our many highlights. But it’s unfair to single out names, because am actually looking forward to each and every panel and hearing all our fabulous authors.

Also Watch: Sagarika Ghose on Feminism in India 

4) As we wind down a fairly tumultuous year, do you think it’s the artists and thinkers, the change-makers who give us the most to be cheerful about? (Especially for people who might ask what’s the relevance of a lit fest/ cultural event…)

Of course, I think India is known for its practitioners of the arts and thought, those who do language, words, who use linguistic inventiveness to challenge truths, who use the power of ideas to shape our times. There’s so much creativity in our country — the Indian is a born iconoclast, the spirit of subversion runs deep and we remain argumentative and incorrigibly contrarian. That’s why I think Lit Fests are important because they are a forum for a free and unhindered exchange of ideas, where authors and thinkers can give full rein to their thoughts.


5) And finally, what can you tell us about the book on Indira Gandhi that you’re working on?

Ah, my Indira Gandhi book! Yes I have loved doing it, researching it, travelling to her stomping grounds and getting to know her. There are at least a dozen highly authoritative biographies of Indira Gandhi, she’s been photographed from birth until death, given endless interviews, so there’s very little I can actually add by way of fresh research. So its a biographical portrait and a sort of dialogue between a citizen and her, which I hope the reader will find interesting.

This is the second edition of the festival, and it is open to all — Check out the schedules for Saturday and Sunday.

Do check out the SheThePeople.TV panel on Saturday at 15:10: The Future is Female: Women Reinventing India feat. Sapna Bhavnani, Mallika Dua and Kanika Tekriwal, moderated by Shaili Chopra.

And stop by the panel on The Devi – Dayan trap on Sunday at 15.45: In search of the modern Indian woman feat. Swati Chaturvedi, Malavika Rajkotia and Kavita Kane, moderated by Amrita Tripathi.


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