The Comedy of Errors
Ram Jethmalani, who made quite a splash at the festival dressed in a yellow jersey and shorts with knee-high socks, sat next to Robert De Niro at an afterparty and told him, “I think you were a little too harsh on America.” De Niro, whose session was slotted for the next day, was bemused and said, “I’m yet to speak.” While Jethmalani digested that, it was left to Tehelka’s Managing Editor Shoma Chaudhury to clear the riddle. “Ram, I think you are mixing De Niro with John Pilger, and you are the only man alive who could do that!” But clearly, grand men don’t synapse well because Sir VS Naipaul thought De Niro was a “magnificient man”, but he hadn’t seen a single film of his.
Beware, I’m the taxman
Even when he’s off duty, Finance Minister P Chidambaram is a man on high alert. At the art auction on Day 2, as paddles were raised for contemporary masters, Chidambaram’s ears pricked every time an artwork was sold. He couldn’t resist commenting wryly, “I’m glad there are still some rich people left in India. I just hope they are paying their taxes.” In an unusally relaxed mood, he spent the latter half of the evening listening to a midnight performance by the Venetian ensemble, Interpreti Veneziani.
The Man Who Would Not Be Seen
Author and professor of politics Gary Bass spent half his time at THiNK dodging photographers and trigger-happy fans. He was determined to remain invisible and not get his photographs taken. Story goes that he has been going around asking websites to take his photo down. Though he never explained his aversion, his session and his interaction with Internet-cynic Evgeny Morozov convinced him to take off even the session video. So, Gary Bass came, he spoke, but where is the proof?
Soul and string
Rockstar Remo Fernandes electrified the stage with a high-energy performance on Friday night. As he sang his popular number Jalwa, actor Farhan Akhtar sporting our signature THiNK hat, jumped impromptu on stage to sing a duet. The audience rocked on, chanting Farhan’s name, and some climbed on stage to dance with him. Clearly, the music nights at THiNK had some magic, because the next evening, scientist and innovator Jerry Sanders was found gyrating to his ‘inner sufi’ and Arif Lohar.
I move like jagger!
Shanta Bai, a Lambani artist from Karnataka, may have divorced at 18, and used her craft to claw her way out of poverty. But the self-possessed, award-winning artist has not lost an atom of joi de vivre. Having moved the audience with her passionate defence of crafts as an enabling economic force, Shanta Bai displayed the quintessential quality of THiNK: she broke the stereotype and spent her evenings living it up. She loved the beer and the music and danced with gusto.
Look who’s talking
Mullah Zaeef, co-founder of Taliban, was paired with former CIA counter-terror chief Robert Grenier in one of the fieriest sessions at THiNK. On stage, neither gave the other an inch. But off stage, the two went to the lawns by the sea and spent more than an hour talking. No one knows what they discussed, but if they had got together 12 years earlier on such seemingly amicable terms, and convinced their opposing sides, perhaps Osama bin Laden would have been restrained before 9/11 and 5,00,000 Iraqis and 30,000 Afghan civilians may still have been alive. After THiNK, the two left for the airport in the same cab. Wonder where they left that conversation.