It takes courage to call a spade a spade. But arguing in favor of “Is India a Mad Nation?” at a time when right-wing brigade feels empowered under Modi-led India is no less than inviting serious trouble for yourself. Nevertheless you have a right to dissent and speak your heart out.
Noted novelist and natural debater Sriram Karri dared to argue for “Is India a Mad Nation?” amid young students at India’s premier law institution NALSAR University in Hyderabad. The debater was “nervous” as he had to present his case before budding lawyers. Thanks to soothing ambiance at NALSAR and hot tea from a “tea wala” not “chai wala” for setting the mood just before the debate begins.
Karri started with reading out a few passages from his novel, “Autobiography of a Mad Nation“, which was long-listed for the MAN Asian Literary Prize – 2009. He aptly set the context for the debate, with his wit and rhetoric, by talking about freedom movement, partition, invaders and settlers, Mandir and Mandal, 1984, tolerance and intolerance, Godhra, Muslims, and Dalits before allowing cross-examination (Q&A) from students.
An audacious student asked Karri, “Before you call India a mad nation – prove it is a nation?”. In his counter, Karri said with a full confidence: “We definitely are a nation. We have a long history as a civilization. We have faced Alexander, the Great, among many invaders, and survived. Therefore we are decently more than qualify as a nation.”
When asked about India’s maturity as a modern nation, Karri replied that in order to understand nation’s stage of maturity one needs to look at the issues being debated at the top arbitrator level i.e. Supreme Court. In addition, he articulated that a model nation demands five or six rights implemented reasonably well.
We can call ourselves a model nation when powerful people, for example, if a Rahul Gandhi or an Amit Shah would be fined Rs. 500 for violating a traffic signal violation by a traffic constable without fear or care.
Another student asked about intolerance in India. Karri candidly noted: “Debate on intolerance is second most funniest debate we had in last one year. First being Shahi Tharoor’s debate at Oxford Union where he talked about returning Kohinoor to India.”
On a question about political correctness, and satire as a dying art, Karri said: “You are living in a digitally self-created world where you have to behave well. Humor is what keeps a nation alive in tough times. There’s always a way to pack truth around with. Customize it as required.”
When a student asked about campus politics, Karri posed a counter question: “Why Rohith Vemula killed himself?” After a while, heavyhearted Karri answered: “He was under the vicious grip of politics on campus. Its’ time to kick out politics from the campuses to save higher education.”
[Note: The author was among two people who accompanied Sriram Karri for the talk at NALSAR University on January 21, 2016.]