Kalam on the Net held online last week was Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet’s attempt not to let Kolkata miss out on a very literary January that we have always been blessed with! The literary festival organized in collaboration with The telegraph at Victoria Memorial Hall was postponed, but what we had instead were fantastic sessions spread over four days from January 25-31. From Booker Prize-winning author Damon Galgut to trailblazer Indra Nooyi, programming has made us momentarily forget about the online fatigue we all seem to be struggling with and instead tune into social media to watch live interactions. The Telegraph brings you small previews of the festival online which can be viewed on the Kolkata Literary Meet YouTube and Facebook pages.
Damon Galgut in conversation with Sandip Roy
Nominated three times and winner of the Man Booker Prize for the third time, the question Damon Galgut has probably answered the most concerns his feelings after winning. “We are preparing for another round of being one of the shortlisted five when it happened twice,” he said cordially to author Sandip Roy. The duo were in conversation during the first session on January 25 around the award-winning novel by Galgut The promise. A reclusive writer who stays away from social media, Galgut spoke about everything that went through his mind from inception to running this novel. Also the author of books like arctic summerIn one strange room and the impostorGalgut describes The promise as an “unconventional book” that he never thought would ever win the Man Booker Prize. “He jumps very quickly between particular points of view. Sometimes, in the space of a single sentence, the perspective changes from one to the other. I was often worried while writing that these abrupt ‘cuts’ wouldn’t reach the reader,” he said. Spoiler alert: it’s done!
Spanning four decades, The promise is the story of an Afrikaner family and their inability to keep a promise made to their black maid Salomé. The conversation encompassed Galgut’s writing style with the use of “angles” to denote conflict in emotions. The South African author who resides in Cape Town has given the world a seminal novel about family, generational trauma, loss and love.
Indra Nooyi in conversation with TV Narendra
TV Narendra, CEO of Tata Steel and Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of Pepsico hail from the same alma mater that is IIM-Kolkata before tracing their respective corporate careers. Of course, the topic of discussion was Nooyi’s new memoir my whole life where she traces her life as a young girl in Madras to her illustrious corporate career which proved to be an inspiration to many. She started the conversation by pointing out moments in her life that gave her the confidence to understand that she was gifted and could chart a great path forward. “When I took children on stage for a debate, I felt confident. When I played cricket and everyone around me realized that it was okay for a girl to play cricket, I gained confidence. When I played music with my band on stage, I felt confident,” she said. Academics interested her the least, it was everything that came with academics that made her the woman she is today.
Her idea behind writing the memoirs was less to commemorate her journey than to inspire children around the world that a little girl from a conservative South Indian family can also achieve what she sets out to do. Preaching a sense of curiosity and the thirst for knowledge as the only path to excellence, she was sure of a mantra –– “there can be no confidence without competence”. The skill shines through every page of his memoir, which could well be misinterpreted as a book on leadership.
André Aciman in conversation with Malavika Banerjee
Professor at the City University of New York and author of the acclaimed novel call me by your nameAndre Aciman was stunned by the response to his novel from his Kolkata readers when he first visited the city in 2019. The long-awaited sequel to his novel Find me was published in the pandemic and formed the crux of the discussion which was held on January 29. »call me by your name was written as a distraction from a larger, more complicated novel I was writing at the time. I ended it abruptly knowing full well that I would have to come back to it one day,” the author began. Find me returns to Elio and Sami, a decade after their summer in the previous book. Spread across time and space, Aciman spoke of his love for stringing together vignettes of his characters’ lives instead of a full birth-to-death narrative. “I didn’t want to do that because someone already did it a hundred years ago and that’s Marcel Proust. I like shorter previews and so Find me is composed of these different bodies. Otherwise, you would have to write everything in between and that didn’t interest me,” he said.
Aciman’s inimitable and endearing sass also made appearances in this conversation as he talked about time and aging and how he approaches it in the novel. He reiterated his refusal to age because the body lies but it’s what you feel inside that counts. “I still often tell people that I’m really 12. That I’m naive and will believe anything you say. I’ll be very shy and timid and self-effacing like I was when I was 12! Very precarious — I’m still that person! he exclaimed. Aciman also writes essays when he’s not caught up with his college classes. Check out a glimpse into his life in the pandemic and how his mind works “young” by revisiting the recording of the session when he was in conversation with the director of the festival Malavika Banerjee.