Feminism, writing tips, and comedy on second day of Mountain Echoes

Lit fest: Stand up comic, Sorabh Pant, aided by an atsara, had the audience in splits throughout most of his session on the rather serious subject of women’s rights, at the second day of the literary festival Mountain Echoes, yesterday.

The stand up comic, spoke about his novel, Under Delhi, which is about a woman, who fed up with the misogynistic and sexist men around her, turns into a vigilante every night to even the score.

Sorabh Pant said that he was often asked by other men if he is “anti-men” because of the novel, which he found weird, as “I’m a man myself”.

He is often referred to as a male feminist as well. The author said he is simply using his comedy to make the message, that women deserve equality, more palatable. “I’m not going out there burning my bra,” he said.

He added that if a woman did something stupid, he would make fun of her too. “That’s equality.”

He said the solution is not castration, but for Indian men, of which he estimated 10 percent are sexist, to be surrounded by strong and funny women.

He expressed wonder that women in Bhutan drink as freely as men. “Which is awesome,” he said.

The best selling conspiracy fiction author, Ashwin Sanghi, and awarding winning writer, Janice Patriat, shared some tips towards becoming successful.

Ashwin Sanghi, who spoke about his novel, The Rozabal Line, a thriller fiction about Jesus Christ surviving the crucifixion and settling down in India, explained the unusual structure of the book, which was described by the moderator as similar to an article on the internet, with hyperlinks, taking the reader in many different directions.

Ashwin Sanghi said that the attention span of human beings or readers have been in constant decline and that by 2013, the average was estimated to be eight seconds, a second less than that of a gold fish. He added that the reality is that it is tougher to get readers to turn the pages of a book.

As a result, he wanted a book that flowed, where pages would turn themselves. He said this was achieved by sharing the manuscript of the book with others and asking them, if they had turned the pages or if the pages had turned themselves.

In response to an aspiring writer, Ashwin Sanghi said that to be a good writer, you first have to be a good reader.

Janice Patriat said that it takes a lot of time to become a successful writer and that the many stories written along the way, no matter how terrible or cringe worthy, would contribute to getting there.

The writer from Shillong also said that the toughest aspect about writing, is not writing, especially when you’re aware that it is the method through which you want to express yourself.

However, she also said that when confronted by writer’s block, simply consider it a break. She said it is important to free yourself from one’s own expectations. “You can be your harshest critic.” She also pointed out that there is no such thing as original writing and that writers are constantly stealing from one another.

Random House’s editor-in-chief, Meru Gokhale provided some tips on getting published.

Meru Gokhale, who described herself as a gambler, said she often had to trust her gut in deciding what to publish. The qualities sought in a writer was the honesty of the person’s voice and the uniqueness of the story.

She said the story should be able to bridge what the author is saying and what the audience wants to hear. However, she also pointed out that the writer should write what they want, rather than for the market.

The editor also said that every manuscript sent to them is read and that ensuring a synopsis that is concise and clear is provided, helps in bringing it to the top of the pile.

The day’s sessions ended with Sorabh Pant treating an audience to perhaps Bhutan’s first stand up comedy event.

Almost everything and everyone was fair game, from a young audience member who claimed to love reading but could not name a favourite author to a Punjabi man wearing a bright purple shirt.

Phalluses, Druk 11000, ema datshi, among others, were also enthusiastically covered.

During the session, Sorabh Pant issued a veiled threat that he would not be able to leave Bhutan, as he was broke and dependent on the sales of his books during the literary festival. His books sold out.

Gyalsten K Dorji

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