Welcome to Mindfest ThinkPalooza 2013! Today’s sessions include ‘Did we Really Pay a Hundred Thousand Dollars for This’ with Sarah Palin; followed by ‘If We Say Eight Percent Growth Enough Times it Will Magically Come True’ with Economic Einstein Montek Singh Ahluwalia. Tomorrow morning, we discuss ‘Banal Delusions of Grandeur’ with Shah Rukh Khan. We end our exciting weekend with a speech by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi titled ‘Is That a Riot in Your Pants or Are You Just Development to See Me?’
Recently, Kapil Sibal, our Union Minister of making-Chidambram-look-less-douchey-in-comparison gave a speech at a public forum. In his address, he said that the government shouldn’t be blamed for all the problems that plague the government. He then referred to himself as a poet. Even though Kapil Sibal is a poet like Uday Chopra is an actor, no one in the audience objected to this assertion because it’s cruel to contradict the self-deception of the elderly. After the speech, Sibal turned into a bat and flew back to his lair on a remote island in the Arabian Sea.
Our patron saint of cultivating eyebrows using pubic hair was speaking at something called ‘adda.’ It was one of those conferences organized by news organizations to create a ‘buzz’ about their ‘brand.’ They could commit actual journalism to achieve the same result without spending so much money, however, that would mean losing this huge opportunity to get together with their peers to
get drunk and gossip ‘ideate’ and ‘strategize.’
Thinkfluence this! Hosted by people who like to think that they’re influential and attended by people who take themselves way too seriously, these conferences are full of Very Solemn People who have Come Together to Deliberate on and Solve All The Issues Plaguing the World Today. You can determine each forum’s degree of uselessness by the amount of fancy corporate jargon contained in their title. Whether it’s a ‘conclave’ or a ‘thinkfest’ or an ‘ideas festival’, these conferences have become an unintentional parody of each other.
As seen on teevee! These conferences are what would happen if all the usual busybodies populating our news shows go on tour. It’s the same trite panel discussions, except with tepid applause. Even their structure is the same! You get one session with whoever is the fascination of that week’s newscycle. One session with a bollywood ‘star’ not currently shooting a movie, one session with whichever Indian politician is not involved in a scam that week, and one session with war criminal Pervez Musharraf, whose knack of showing up at places where he isn’t wanted never seems to fail him. There also has to be an appearance by at least one American guest, so as to lend the conference the ‘respectability’ it so desperately seeks.
Some of my best friends are rich and famous! Now, the purpose of the sessions is not to ask any hard questions, because then the guests will stop showing up. The real purpose is to make the proprietors of the news organization or their editors feel important. So most of the sessions end up being nothing more than an exercise in stroking egos. Real questions are for people who don’t accept invitations to your dinner party.
My question is more of a statement. However, the most hilarious/awkward moments of these conferences happen when, after a session, the moderator invites questions from the audience. We’re one of the few countries where audience members asking questions have to be told that they shouldn’t use their time with the microphone to go off on a large rant. Most of the time the moderator has to interrupt the audience member trying to hijack his Q&A session and then try his best to translate whatever froth the person spewed into a coherent question. And when they’re lucky enough to get an actual question, it’s usually something the moderator and his guest have already answered. That’s because members of the audience have spent the weeks leading up to the event figuring out – what they think – is a clever question to ask, and they’re not going to let all their hard work go to waste by trying to come up with something more relevant.
If only there was some sort of event or venue where all of us could get together to discuss this and find a solution.
(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)