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My debate with a Leftist friend over demands to cancel Pondy Lit fest

The other day I was at Khan Market in Delhi where one is bound to spot a celebrity journalist or a celebrity lawyer at any given time. While I couldn’t spot anyone, perhaps they were chilling in a boutique brewery somewhere in New Friends Colony, I spotted my Leftist friend who has blocked me on Facebook after I pointed out in her status update that despite being a communist, it is kind of hypocritic she was still working in a private bank, thereby contributing to ‘crony capitalism’ and chose to commute in her Hyundai Creta instead of taking the metro. It is amusing how people who ‘like to speak the truth’ don’t really like to hear it. My conversation with this friend, let us call her JC, went something like this:

JC: Hey, long time! Where have you been? Haven’t heard from you since a while.

I thought of reminding her that she had blocked me on Facebook and later on WhatsApp, thereby making it amply clear she doesn’t want to hear from me.

Me: Yeah, just work. Plus with 2019 coming up, days are getting busier, busting propaganda of the Leftists.

I deliberately tried to poke her instead of exchanging some pleasantries. If she has stripped me off the rights to poke her on Facebook, I was determined to do that in the real world. And my, was she triggered!

JC: What Leftist propaganda, everywhere else there is saffronisation, from schools to universities to government. Even the latest Pondy Lit Fest is saffronized. I cancelled my bookings at last minute.

Me: Why are you opposing the lit fest?

JC: It reads more like a shakha than a literary festival.

Me: How? Many people present there, like scientist Anand Ranganathan, have been vocal critics of the RSS and the BJP from time to time. And there’s also the feminist icon Kalki Koechlin, who clearly isn’t an RSS supporter.

JC: C’mon, you know these people are RSS supporters, and they don’t match the quality of our litfests. It is a waste of money.

Me: Ah, ‘your’ litfests, eh? so it’s us vs them?

JC: Don’t twist my words. I said it’s a waste of money. It is government funded.

Me: But your friends are not raising an issue with that. Their contention and problem is because it’s ‘saffron’. Hence they want to cancel it.

JC: Yes, that’s dangerous.

Me: What about your commitment to free speech then?

JC: Free speech can’t be given to ppl who themselves don’t believe in it. If we allow propagation of speech that believes silencing voices, one day we will have not free speech.

Me: Don’t you think that sounds kind of meta, since it’s you who is silencing voices?

JC: C’mon, we are fighting for free speech. You’re again twisting my words.

Me: Okay, so you say one must not be allowed to propagate a belief if that particular belief ends up eliminating an environment that enables propagation of numerous or plural beliefs?

JC: Hallelujah! Finally you get it.

Me: Then communism should be banned in a democracy no? Because if communism prevails, there is no democracy?

JC: Again you are twisting my words. Also, I’m not a communist, so if you think this hurts me, try better.

Me: But the last time I called you one, you were hurt enough to block me on all communication platforms. Clearly it hurt you enough that time. Okay, what about banning Islam in a secular democracy. Because once Islam prevails, it doesn’t allow propagation of other religions?

JC: You are such an Islamophobe. You hate Muslims just like your leader hates them.

Me: But why are you hurt? Are you a ‘saffronphobe’ if you are not going to a litfest because people speaking there, according to you, have ‘saffron’ ideology?

JC: You know what, I’ll catch up with you later.

And before I could ask her how she plans to catch up with me, she was gone. Guess I won’t be spotting her at Khan Market for a few months. Maybe I should hang out at India Habitat Centre and try and catch up with her there over a glass of chilled nimbu paani.

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