Let me be honest: this is possibly one of the most riveting literary events I have encountered so far, and not just because it was on a boat. The idea of sitting with Amitav Ghosh and discussing his Ibis Trilogy (Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke, Flood of Fire) is perhaps a dream come true situation for a lover of his works, and I fell in love with his writing after I read In an Antique Land, which remains one of my favourites from him.
Amitav Ghosh was joined by Pradeep Kakkar, where the first part of our journey was when Amitav Ghosh talked about the perimeter and backdrop of his trilogy. I believe that reading Amitav Ghosh’s writing is perhaps more pleasurable to me because of the manner in which he elaborates and creates a background which is quite easily visualized.
Therefore, photos and paintings of Varanasi, Ghazipur, Munger, Buxar, Patna, Barrackpore, and finally the port of Calcutta were explored. One of the most interesting things which Ghosh showed us were the photos of the opium factories in Patna – apparently Patna Opium was highly priced, and even today, in Ghazipur, one of world’s few legal opium factories and certainly the largest. It is interesting to note the manner in which opium would be harvested and sold – some paintings revealed the opulence, and some depicted the rather poor conditions.
In the second part of the event, there was an interaction between Pradeep Kakkar and Amitav Ghosh, where the idea of ‘Climate Justice’ was brought in, as well as the huge damages created by the higher carbon footprint and heavy pollution. However, the pollutions were still being trivialized perhaps, where countries stand at high risk of being razed to the ground through natural disasters, and a few indicators could be seen from the way Yemen got struck by two cyclones in 2015, where the cyclones shifted from being formed in the Bay of Bengal, to the Arabian Sea.
Pradeep Kakkar was curious about the extent to which the situation can be called dire – however, it is definitely a matter of concern, and should be explored to greater depths, where emphasis should be made on the extent to which our carbon footprints is rapidly depleting our natural resources, and increasing erosion. An example of this is the considerable soil erosion in the Sunderban region – the water has already reduced the population there, who are migrating to other parts of India and working there.
Of course, hope still floats. The ending of this session was about awareness and trying to reduce our carbon footprints. For more such exclusive events such as this, keep an eye on this blog, or go to their website, or follow hashtags #TataSteelKalam and #KolLitMeet.
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee is blogging in association with Kolkata Literary Meet, 2016.