On the contrary: Let's stick to the point!

Given this lofty pedigree, very few thinkers were able to resist the siren-call of BIC's star-studded December even.

The Bangalore International Centre was founded with a “noble vision to encourage the intellect, engage in dialogue and stimulate the senses, while providing an enabling environment for cultural and intellectual events.”

Given this lofty pedigree, very few thinkers were able to resist the siren-call of BIC's star-studded December event: a conversation between Strobe Talbot, President of the Brookings Institute, the renowned Washington-based think-tank and the historian, Ramchandra Guha.

The original topic was the amusingly titled, “Lady and the Trump,” but once the people had spoken, it was hastily amended to, “Trump, America & the World.” Perhaps the best thing that can be said about the evening was that it started on time. Oh, and the dhokla was pretty good.

Mr. Talbot, former Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton administration, is an authority on weighty issues such as global governance, nuclear arms control and foreign policy, which is why the captive audience found it a little mystifying when he prefaced his opening remarks with a poem.

In fairness to him, he candidly admitted he was suffering from a literary hangover (the Litfest) which is fine and dandy, but when an audience has signed up for walls, gals, illegals and groping, enduring Randall Jarell's verse, even if it involves a woman at the Washington zoo and sundry wolves, foxes and bears, takes some coping.

Hitting us with the entire poem was a tad excessive, in my opinion; surely a stanza or two would have sufficed, especially since Talbot's declamatory skills fall somewhat short of Randy's verse. As my friend Anuvab may have said, “Uncle, you stick to foreign policy, leave the rapping to Eminem…”

The fundamental problem with this conversation was that it meandered in the manner of an ox-bow lake far from the chosen topic: we heard about Modi, demonetization, Guha's passion for Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Pakistani cricketers and sundry politicians from Nehru to Churchill, but of the Donald himself, there was scarcely a mention.

Which is a pity, since we were all looking forward to an in-depth discussion of the maverick who managed to defy the pollsters, snatch the Presidency from Hillary and fended off the competition to become Time's Man of the Year.

The other discordant note was that both speakers were given to breast-beating: it was like being at a Sivamani concert since they had apparently forgotten that they were wearing lapel mics and the senior citizen in the next seat finally disconnected his hearing aid.

Eventually we came to that awkward moment when the floor is thrown open for questions and before you could say, “Melania” or allow that familiar, pregnant silence to develop, a hundred hands were in the air. What is it about us Indians that we are unable to frame a simple question without inflicting our childhood, our lineage and our up-to date CV's on a hapless audience?

The interlocutor who was chosen had a good question, “Should ex-generals/faujis voice their political choices in a public forum thereby influencing political outcomes?” or like good soldiers should they just fade away?

Unfortunately the ex-armyman felt obliged to make a statement and follow it up with a couple of questions. Mercifully Ram, using his Stephanian debating society skills, had the major de-mic'd before he could whistle Colonel Bogeys' March.

This tendency to waffle and skate around the issue is quintessentially Indian and is precisely why so many of our debates concerning the burning issues of the day generate far more heat than light. Until rigorous, analytical thinking becomes an integral part of our curriculum, we will be very far from that that heaven of freedom that Tagore envisioned…

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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