Two gentlemen breathed warmth in Hyderabadi winter with their hot debates under Hyd Park, a new platform for debates with flexible format. Started in November 2015 by novelist Sriram Karri and advocate L. Ravichandar, Hyd Park aims to bring unlikely people for a talk. HYM Editor SM Fasiullah met the duo, who love words and ideas, at Hyderabad’s cultural place Lamakan for a conversation. Below are excerpts:
HYM: Two months. Three successful shows. How it all started?
Ravi: Karri Sriram is a man of great ideas. He has a unique urge of putting his time where his mouth is. All the three programs were successful, thanks largely to him. It’s his passion.
Sriram: I would say it’s not our first venture. The fact is we have waited long to do something like this. Ravi has put in his about 35 years in enhancing and enriching the culture of Hyderabad. From antakshiri to quiz, debates and TV, he has exposure of all these formats. And we had the opportunity to do a lot of things together in the past.
But it is just clicking very well this time. Even the name Hyd Park was Ravi’s idea, contrary to what he might say. We are very happy with the response we have received in a big way in social and mainstream media. It’s good coming together. We both share passion for what we are doing.
HYM: Why a talk show like Hyd Park?
Sriram: We have been wondering about doing things together. We have done lots of things earlier. For example, a few years ago we had Debate Central. But it was only in Lamakan, and it had very fixed format. It became popular, but didn’t had the flexibility. We went back and said how do we do it differently this time. We have studied lots of models both national and international. And we felt will keep the format flexible.
In all the three events, only thing common was Hyd Park logo. Everything else was very different. And it will continue to be so. The idea came many times in the past, but this avatar was born recently. The name Ravi suggested sounds similar to Hyde Park in London, where there is a Speaker’s Corner for people to speak up. The name Hyd Park worked well.
HYM: How Hyd Park of Hyderabad is different from Hyde Park of London?
Ravi: There is an ‘e’ there, but not here (laughs). There the idea is fixed to a place. Here the idea is more vibrant, and it could go anywhere.
Sriram: We would like to bring people from various walks of life to discuss a variety of ideas. What you will see is seldom any two events look similar. We can do a talk show, debate, or group discussion. You will see talk on variety of subjects, not just technology, politics and books. We will also talk about movies and anything as long as people can come together and have a discussion. We are very broad here. The only nice thread between the flowers in the garland is Hyd Park. That’s all.
HYM: Who decides on topic of debate, and how it is done?
Ravi: Nothing like that. The idea gets picked. If there’s good idea then why would anyone say no. No fixed criteria, only idea matters. It could be any idea. If a group of people is interested in Mohenjo-daro civilization and want to have a debate on that then will go for it.
HYM: Which celebrity Hyd Park wish to have for debate in 2016?
Ravi: I think I will say Aamir Khan (laughs).
Sriram: We have a list of 39 people with us. It’s about opportunity. I may wish Aamir Khan, but he may not be willing for various reasons. In any case, we can’t stop trying to bring people for a talk. Our list includes film stars, politicians, authors, intellectuals, economists, national figures, and international personalities.
HYM: What would be your dream event to do in Hyd Park?
Sriram: Bringing Mark Zuckerberg on Hyd Park to debate Free Basics would be a wonderful thing to happen. Aamir Khan and Ravi taking about movies and intolerance would be a fantastic evening. In Hyderabad, I would also wish to bring Asaduddin Owaisi on our show to talk about variety of subjects. We are very open in this matter.
HYM: Would you take Hyd Park from urban set up to rural areas as well?
Ravi: As an idea we are open, but don’t forget we both work in Hyderabad. Therefore, event management outside Hyderabad is beyond our scope. There must be someone to take care of logistics, and other things. We are ready to go anywhere, provided there is convenience.
Sriram: Ours is an open source idea. As of now we have thousands of followers on our Facebook page. But over a period of time we would ask people about ideas, whom to bring for talk, etc. We are open as long as format is fair, and non-discriminatory. The best thing about Hyd Park is that anybody interested in it can become part of it.
Ravi: There’s no topic in the sky we are shy of discussing. We are even open for a debate on same-sex marriage, if there’s demand for it.
HYM: In a pluralistic society where people seems sensitive, what’s the benefit of involving in debates?
Sriram: We love debates for three reasons:
First – In debate you listen to people you disagree with. For example, Mahesh Murthy and I had a debate recently. We have huge respect for each other. I am willing to listen to him without anger, without wanting to say I will kill you blah, blah… So the core of democracy is in our spirit to engage with ideas we disagree with. And that is something debate teaches. Our democracy must survive. We must have debates.
Second – It gives the ability to stand for ideas you believe in while disagreeing respectfully. I may disagree with you, and respect you. But I will fight and stand for my idea.
Third – Last and most important is the ability to represent and stand for those who cannot voice for themselves.
Debate is essential for any society. The reason why people resort to violence is when they feel they have no voice. Debating platforms takeaway the need for violence.
We have realized that there’s no need to fight violently, rather fight with ideas. Those who love debates will never be violent. It is important for a society to offer debate platform as an alternate to violence.
HYM: Where you want to see Hyd Park in next two years?
Ravi: California (laughs).
Sriram: We want to bring unlikely people for a talk on Hyd Park. Imagine a most extreme debate: between Ram Madhav and Asaduddin Owaisi respectfully, or Swami Agnivesh and LGBT community, or God and atheist for that matter. That would be our dream. We may or may not get there. But we will really push.