Last night, at the Jaipur Lit Fest, my husband, writer and journalist CP Surendran, does a smoker a favour and asks someone at another table for a light. Minutes later, a man comes over and physically attacks him. Apparently, he was a Khalsa sardarji and you aren't supposed to ask them for a light. How does anyone divine these rules? Dunno, telepathy maybe.
You could brush off the incident as "one of those things that happen"... except that it happened at this mega literature jamboree where you assume people who are interested in ah, the life of the mind, are gathered. Turns out you can't ever assume such things. The guy conversing with that Nobel Laureate, hanging out with that hot writer, begging this or that worthy for her autograph could as well be a psycho waiting to be insulted.
It's in the observance of the daily civilities that the state of a nation and its cultural life becomes apparent. In the street, in our homes, in our institutions, at art and literary festivals, it would seem that we just cannot be bothered with being civil. And increasingly, it feels like India is a token democracy full of weirdos teetering on the edge of abysmal stupidity. Truth is ANYONE here can punch you because
a. You ask for a light
b. They don't like your face
c. They like your face
d. You've messed with their tenuous sense of 'honour'
e. Any other damn reason you can think of.
Apparently, the crowds thronged the Jaipur Literature Fest. Wonder how many of them could read... or think straight.