India Foundation in collaboration with Nehru Memorial Museum and Library hosted the first and second Ideas Series Talks on May 10th, 2018 and June 1st, 2018. ‘Ideas Series Talks’ is an initiative of the Foundation that aims to give a platform to both amateur and established authors, thinkers, social figures, journalists and entrepreneurs to interact with a young audience. The Talks are held in an informal environment and the audience consists of young research scholars, entrepreneurs journalists and students.
In our first talk, Dr Shonaleeka Kaul, Associate Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, spoke on her book, “The Making of Early Kashmir”, where she discussed her reinterpretation of Kalhana’s Rajatarangini that maps Kashmir’s geography, her people, her traditions, her folklore, and her history over two millennia. She gave the audience an historical perspective of Kashmir by first answering the question, “what is history?”, “how does a land became a homeland?” and “how are cultural identities formed?”.
She talked of the oversight in our textbooks over Kashmir’s true history, her origins and her culture. This ignorance causes all kinds of misconceptions and fabrications about Kashmiri identity, both within and outside the Valley. Dr Kaul also discussed how all cultural markers in Kashmir indicate to its Indic and Sanskritic past. How Kashmir had deep and extensive connections with other centers of Indic civilization as far as Tamil Nadu in the South. Dr Kaul also discussed the academic rigor that is required on our part to revisit texts in Sanskrit and reinterpret them.
In the second Ideas Series Talks, India Foundation invited Sanjeev Sanyal, the Principal Economic Advisor in the Ministry of Finance, and an author of many books including ‘The Ocean of Churn’ and ‘Land of Seven Rivers’. The talk was focused on his latest book, ‘Life Over Two Beers’, a collection of short stories. The talk was attended by 28 participants.
The second Ideas Series Talks was a conversation between Sanjeev Sanyal and Abhinav Prakash, Assistant Professor of Economics at Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi. Sanjeev Sanyal spoke of his experience in writing ‘Life Over Two Beers’ and the decline of short stories. He argued that although the decline of the art of writing short stories was blamed on the popularity of television serials since in the 1970s, it is a false narrative, as novels, or long-form writing never declined. He said that it is possible that people lost interest in short stories altogether and believes that there is a need to document life in the 21st century through short stories. Indeed, his book subtly reflects everyday realities of the 21st century person, through satire.
On speaking of his book, Sanjeev Sanyal said it was a fun book to write, many stories were based on personal experiences and that he generally travels to or has visited all the places he writes about. He also spoke about how Indian literature has a history of satire, but this was lost to comedy. With his book, the author hopes to simultaneously revive the art of satire writing.
Sanjeev Sanyal also spoke of the general culture of writing in India, the need for more young people to write and the option of self-publishing. He also said that we must focus on replacing stories with stories and not stories with critiques. Overall, the talk was informative and well received.
Both the talks were followed by a question and answer session.