London diary: Tatas out Arundhati Roy in for Britain’s famous Hay Literary Festival

Tatas pulled out sponsorship of Britain’s famous Hay Literary Festival after 5 years. Arundhati Roy may replace Tatas, she had previously declined to attend citing Tatas’ corporate sponsorship

Arundhati Roy (PTI)
Arundhati Roy (PTI)

Hasan Saroor

Tatas out, Roy in

The literary grapevine is buzzing with speculation after Tatas inexplicably pulled their sponsorship of Britain’s famous Hay Literary Festival after bankrolling it for five years to the tune of nearly £1 million. Their departure, however, clears the way for Arundhati Roy to appear at the festival. She had previously declined to attend citing Tatas’ corporate sponsorship as the reason.

According to media reports Roy had “made clear to the organisers that she would never appear while Tata was involved”. She is generally opposed to corporate sponsorship of literary festivals but is said to be particularly critical of Tatas’ hold on the Indian economy.

The festival is held in Wales, home to Tata-owned Jaguar Land Rover company. It has faced criticism after it laid off more than a thousand workers at a plant. There’s speculation that the decision to pull sponsorship was prompted by increasing local hostility to the company’s involvement with the festival.

Festival director Peter Florence said that the organisers “knew and respected [Arundhati Roy’s] position on Tata”, and were “thrilled” that she had agreed to appear.

A case of literary power trumping corporate power?

Red carpet for Chinese

Remember the time when Indian students were all the rage in Britain? How British universities bent over backwards to woo them and were accused of even willing to tweak admission norms to accommodate them?

After all, they brought hard cash to a financially squeezed sector struggling to keep itself afloat. But that was before the Chinese struck it rich overtaking the Indians in spending power. Now, Chinese students are the new flavour of the season with both the British government and universities pulling out all stops to attract them.

Last year, China was added to a list of “low-risk” countries such as America, Canada and Australia, making it easier for its citizens to obtain a student visa. Applicants from these countries are not required to produce evidence of their educational, financial credentials or English language skills.

India had lobbied heavily to be included in the list but in vain , so Indian students will continue to face rigorous checks and documentary evidence. Lord Karan Bilimoria, head of the UK Council for International Students Affairs, called an “insult” to India.

And, now , universities have stepped in to make life for Chinese students easier —going to the extent of organising graduation ceremonies for them literally on their doorstep.

“The battle for Chinese students has intensified as a growing number of British universities put on entire graduation ceremonies in Beijing and other cities,” The Times reported.

London School of Economics is among the prestigious institutions that are hosting full graduation ceremonies in China thus sparing Chinese students the expense and inconvenience of travelling back to Britain to collect their degrees which are awarded months after the examinations by when their visas expire.

Incidentally, the reason why foreign students are so sought after is that they pay nearly four times more for a course than their domestic peers do, and together with their off-campus spending they contribute nearly six billion pounds a year to the British economy. But there are foreign students, and then there are Chinese foreign students!

Desk to grave

If you are one of those who remain glued to your office desk and computer for hours endlessly, beware —-you could be at risk of early death.

Apparently, one in nine deaths in Britain every years is due to people tied to their desks for hours without any exercise.

According to research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, nearly a third of British adults spend more than six hours sedentary and almost 70,000 deaths a year in Britain could be attributed to this. Number crunchers reckon this translates into nine deaths a year.

Experts want bosses to encourage staff to stand up and stretch their limbs at least once every hour. Employers are being urged to allow activity breaks to workers to yank them away from their desks.

Stand up, please!

Way too anti-PC

On the basis that you’re judged by the company you keep, a Canadian academic has had a visiting fellowship offer to Cambridge University withdrawn after a photo emerged showing him with his arm round a man wearing an “I’m a proud Islamophobe” T-shirt.

Jordan Peterson, better known for his high-profile campaign against political correctness than his academic achievements, has mocked rights activism and dismissed the idea of white privilege as a “Marxist lie”. He has also riled transgender community with his inflammatory comments. But his “casual endorsement” of Islamophobia proved to be the last straw.

It caused outrage with several Indian-origin students and academics joining the protest —forcing the university to withdraw the offer. To which the self-styled “professor against political correctness” reacted by denouncing it as a “cowardly” act. His critics, however, are celebrating.

And, lastly, British school curriculum has become so complex that parents are reported to be taking private tuitions to be able to help their children with their homework.

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