Saeed Mirza’s words against war

N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu, brought up the point more than once – how does the audience ask questions on a book they haven’t yet read?! Last Sunday evening at Landmark, the audience worked on it, and somehow managed to ensure a decent 90-minute interaction with filmmaker-writer Saeed Mirza, who was launching his first book “Ammi: Letters to a Democratic Mother”. (first book to be published by Landmark’s new publishing wing – Tranquebar Press)
(Personally it was the reading of the essay on the “Ham Sandwich” that had me clutching the book and waiting in queue for Mirza’s autograph in the end)

Written as a response to George Bush’s “War on Terror” and the language and words used in promoting it, Mirza’s explanation of his work which is part-autobiography, part-narrative, part-poetry, essay, letters, a mixture of several genres, is that he chose to use words, to re-define those words, use patterns and hope that the various forms and genres would come together cohesively. A book which emerged from his travels through India meeting various people, came to fruit with the war on terror being declared. “Words used were democratic vs undemocratic, modern vs old, civilised vs uncivilised. I wondered how to respond to the arrogance of these words backed by material powers..” he explained.

Describing the book as a personal journey set against the background of ideas, with what appears to be a great deal of experience and humour, Mirza worked on trying to make the `novel’ “as inclusive as possible without losing out on the integrity of thought or idea…”

Ram and members of the audience raised queries on the authors views on intolerance, religious extremism and like. Mirza’s responses pointed back to the book (in a sense, I guess we had no choice but to buy it :-P) However, two points were of interest – the filmmaker who walked away from filmmaking in 1995, ended his first literary work with a film script as an epilogue, with the exhiliration of having “discovered a path that he could travel for a long time.” The second that, the writer who responded to the arrogance of the statements supporting, what in many senses is a fundamentalist’s war, ends his book with an elation that the world has not given up on hope…

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