The evening was kicked off by a not-so-recent, but a telling event that showed up India’s warts in a brazen manner — the Gujarat riots. Mahesh Bhatt, filmmaker and columnist, chose to read the political column on it from the acclaimed author and The Indian Express columnist Tavleen’s Singh’s latest book, Political and Incorrect: The Real India, Warts and All, organised by The Express Group and HarperCollins India .
“I want to read this and pitch it to certain people,” said Bhatt in his characteristic forceful style, citing his reason for reading it. “I learnt as a reader and a layman what a riot is; and (also) that we learn nothing from our mistakes. It (the riots) had a state of approval and support and there is a danger and a nightmare of it recurring again,” he said.
Bhatt set the stage for the book’s launch by reading an article from the book from the section, ‘second decade—1998-2002’. Bhatt and actor-activist Shabana Azmi read chapters from the book. Singh’s book is a compilation of her widely read columns in major newspapers and magazines. The articles, written in Singh’s characteristic irreverent style, are hard-hitting chronicles of the political history of the country and present a harsh picture of the self serving ways of politicians, bureaucrats, the religious divide, missed opportunities and misplaced priorities.
Singh was relieved that in the last six years there have been no major riots, except for the one in Indore recently which she said was not on the scale of Gujarat. Bhatt said, even a single communal death anywhere in India was a shame.
It was an eclectic audience, businessmen, theatre persons, prominent city personalities, who came together for the launch of the book at Crossword. Every chapter reading was followed with a discussion with Singh, Bhatt, Azmi and Kumar Ketkar, editor, Loksatta.
Shabana Azmi chose to describe Singh and herself as ‘women with strong opinions who have no hesitation to voice them’; yet, she said, that did not stand in the way of their friendship for Singh to attack her on her political beliefs and not have it ‘reflect on our relationship in any way’.
Azmi, who read two chapters from the book said, “Both of us (the author and she) look at problems and seek solutions to them and recognize there are diverse ways to look at it. I think