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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Monday, August 14, 2006


The clouds hovering above us made positively ominous sounds. The wind howled through the Southern Cross University marquee. As I walked in, I wondered if it would even be half full. If I were the audience, I'd rather sip my cup of chai tucked under my comforter, preferably with some heating.

Nothing, not even the weather kept the crowds away. That sure was a sign. Of the true book lovers in them. It was a heartening start. I wondered if our sounds were even travelling to the other half of the marquee, the part where the rain drops seeped through - they sure were.

The panel was on 'People and Places: India and Bangladesh'. The panelists none other than the award winning Adib Khan and Christopher Kremmer. Both stellar writers in their own right.

One trawls through fiction, taking you on 'Spiral Roads', creating characters that will haunt you long after you put the book down. Remember the dwarf in a New Delhi slum. Adib is that rare mix of wit and intelligence and the audience was charmed with all his black, white and cricketing tales that took us all on an unforgettable journey from Bangladesh to Australia.

Christopher Kremmer was a TV journo in his last avataar. He is also better known as the best-selling author of 'The Bamboo Palace', 'The Carpet Wars' and his recent 'Inhaling The Mahatma' - which too is destined for the best selling charts. No two ways about that.

Among other flattering things it's been called “an affectionate, insider's portrait of a dazzling, maddening but always fascinating country” and that happens to be India.

In fact, so many of these so called outsider-insider accounts of India are trapped with bringing out the worst of India and presenting what can only be called gangland entertainment. Alternately you get the taxi driver accounts of New Delhi. You know how the author steps into a cab early in the morning, then heads to one place after the other and by the evening you have a chapter in verse - one which happens to be such a drawl that you instantly skip most pages to get to the end of it all.

Kremmer's account is none of those. He has been lived through some of the most traumatic and dramtatic times that have marked the last 10 years in India. His account is narrated with extreme sensitivity. When Bombay burns you feel the pain, not the hate. The characters in the book are so human you can almost sense them next to you.

My favourites are Hari Lal, who made an intensely personal journey with Kremmer at a time when he needed the time to pause and reflect. As a contrarian to Hari Lal, is his man Friday, Sanjay Singh. His 'can do' spirit epitomises the spirit of the new, resurgent and tremendously confident India.

Truly I couldn't have asked for a better 'Homecoming' than being able to spar with these two greats. The fact that it happened at Byron Bay, in an audience that was largely Australian, clearly speaks volumes about the state of our world. One which can be a place where cultures and connections don't have to be on a collision course. The written word has shown the way, can the rest follow?