Did Nehru Centre pull out of Khushwant Singh Lit Fest due to ‘Delhi pressure’?

The first London Khushwant Singh Lit Fest was almost derailed after Nehru Centre pulled out. Singh’s son Rahul says “political pressure from Delhi” was behind decision as his father was a BJP critic

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media
user

Hasan Suroor

Imagine you’re all set to launch a high-profile event. The website is up, publicity material is printed, and the invites have gone out. But suddenly you’re told the venue, booked months ago, is no longer available.

Well, this is what happened to the first-ever “London Khushwant Singh Literary Festival” last week. It was nearly derailed after Nehru Centre pulled out at the last minute leaving the organisers scrambling for an alternative venue.

“Thanks to our friends we finally managed to find a place at The Mayfair hotel but at one point we really didn’t know where to go. We felt very let down,” said Rahul Singh, Khushwant Singh’s son, hinting at “political pressure from Delhi” behind the decision because his father was a BJP critic.

Nehru Centre claimed it was only a “provisional” booking and no date had been confirmed.” But, Rahul Singh insisted May 17 was confirmed.

“We chose May 17 after consulting them.”

Ironically, it was a former High Commissioner —Navtej Sarna—who had come up with the idea of such a festival to coincide with the ongoing “India-UK Year of Culture”, and offered help with sponsorship.

“Then he moved to Washington but the High Commission was still very supportive...we don’t know what really happened,” Singh wondered.

A bureaucratic cock-up? Or political vindictiveness?

“Usually they’re worried about Islamophobia, acid attacks, and the far- Right. But for the next month they will be focused on one thing: how many hours until sunset? Followed by: how many minutes till sunset?” wrote prominent British commentator, Muddassar Ahmed

Countdown to Iftar

Having to go without food and water from dawn to dusk everyday for one whole month is no picnic even in the mildest of climates and the friendliest of time zones, but it turns into a real test of endurance when the day seems to go on, and on —as it does in Britain these days.

As millions of Muslims around the world observe Ramadan, an old issue is being debated again. Instead of imposing a rigid “dawn-to-dusk” schedule on everyone, is there a case for local adjustments to accommodate Muslims who live in countries where the day is too long?

“In Reykjavik(Iceland)...the sun will set at midnight, only to come back in about two hours. That means the fasting time will be as long as 22 hours, allowing for only one meal a day,” wrote the leading Turkish writer Mustafa Aykol in The New York Times.

In Britain, where the sun rises at 5 am and sets around 9 pm these days it means a 16-hour long fast. Which tests the patience of even the most devout Muslim.

“Usually they’re worried about Islamophobia, acid attacks, and the far- Right. But for the next month they will be focused on one thing: how many hours until sunset? Followed by: how many minutes till sunset?” wrote prominent British commentator, Muddassar Ahmed.

One proposal being debated is to allow Muslims in these countries to follow the time zone in Mecca or the nearest Muslim country. But who’ll bell the cat?

Apparently, she’s on a crash course to whip her accent into shape by “toning down her American twang”. And it seems she has already learned to say “scone” the way Brits do —with a short “o”. But clearly there’s still some way to go. “Posh-speak” is, well, posh-speak. Hard to acquire overnight at 36.

Oh, my “Gawd”!

She has everything — looks, confidence, style. Even the Queen approves of her. So, what’s not to like about the latest addition to the British royal family —the newly-minted “princess” Meghan Markle?

Well, it’s that old British snobbery about American English and accent. If there’s one thing many Brits—not least her royal in-laws —could magically change about her it would be her Yankee diction. It’s “God”, Meghan—not “Gawd”, as you pronounced when exchanging your wedding vows. And “body”, not “bawdy”.

Apparently, she’s on a crash course to whip her accent into shape by “toning down her American twang”. And it seems she has already learned to say “scone” the way Brits do —with a short “o”. But clearly there’s still some way to go. “Posh-speak” is, well, posh-speak. Hard to acquire overnight at 36.

London, last week, saw hundreds of Afro-Caribbean immigrants legally settled here being suddenly declared illegal and threatened with deportation. A number of Asian immigrants, including Indians, are now reportedly facing similar problems.

Racist? Moi?

Anyone following the developments in Britain in recent weeks can be forgiven for concluding that it’s a deeply racist and xenophobic society where the government’s official policy is to create a “hostile environment” for immigrants in the name of checking illegal immigration.

It saw hundreds of Afro-Caribbean immigrants legally settled here being suddenly declared illegal and threatened with deportation. A number of Asian immigrants, including Indians, are now reportedly facing similar problems.

And last week, the UN special rapporteur on race relations, Tendayi Achiume, reported “an environment of increased racial discrimination and intolerance” after the Brexit vote.

That’s one face of Britain. Here’s another: three of the four people tipped for next Governor of Bank of England are foreigners: Raghuram Rajan, Shriti Vadera, and LSE Director Minouche Shafiq.

Finally...

...And, finally, the downside of being rich in Britain, according to a study, is that they are more vulnerable to asthma deaths than the the poor of the same age. An analysis of 1,500 cases shows an “unusual and unexpected pattern”: mortality among children and younger adults is more common in affluent areas, perhaps because of a higher prevalence of a threatening form of asthma which progresses rapidly and causes death.

For all the latest India News, Follow India Section.