Sunday, January 26, 2020

Hyderabad Literary Festival - Session on 'Games Nations Play' with Gideon Haigh and Stephen Alomes

This edition of HLF, I was asked to moderate the session on ‘Games Nations Play’ with two Australian writers - Gideon Haigh and Stephen Alomes. Gideon Haigh is considered as one of the best cricket writers today and Stephen Alomes is a writer, poet, teacher and an artist.
At the HLF, Vidyaranya School
Apart from bowling off-spin for his club South Yarra Club, Gideon has written 40 books if my count is right, give or take a couple, 27 of them on cricket. Books ranging from coverage of Ashes, Kerry Packer, club cricket with the Mighty Yarras (about which he is very passionate and still plays), bios of Border, Iverson, Warne, Trumper, commentaries on the state of Aussie cricket including one titled Crossing the Line. He’s written business books on Office cultures, CEO Cultures, and a couple of non-fiction books thrown in for good measure. His latest book ‘The Standard Bearers’ is a commentary on eight Smith-less tests against India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Gideon Haigh, Stephen Alomes and me
Stephen is a Professor at RMIT, Tasmania and has written stories of varieties of Aussie nationalism (A Nation at last?), war memory, Australian football – the people’s game, a book on Australian creative artists in London called ‘When London calls’. He draws expressionist portraits which explore the faces of populist leaders. His yet to be released book ‘Selective Ironies’ is a collection of prose and poetry.
More us - Games Nations Play
We had a body of work of about 50 books on stage to cover in 30 minutes so we got going pretty quickly. Gideon was Games, Stephen Nations and I called Play.
Anjali checking out some books
I asked Gideon about the Aussie approach to cricket and how has it changed over the years? More so in the context of the Smith-Warner incident and how the win-at-all costs culture crept into a champion team like Australia? Gideon said that Australian sportsmen, as a culture, like to win and don't mind not being nice about it. However they crossed the line and heads rolled and it was a matter of shame and hopefully, things are now in better perspective. I asked Stephen about his work and he spoke of nationalism, populism, expressionist portraits, footy (a team in Telangana called Telangana Saints). He also expressed his desire to get more followers on Instagram and read out a bit from his poem.   On Sledging, Gideon said that Aussies played hard but left it all on the field and they cannot understand why the others can't take some talk. He also said that cricket was never a gentleman’s game? Stephen spoke about Australian footy and why it is as popular as it is. They spoke articulately, passionately and we really had very little time to do justice to anything. A couple of questions and we were off.
The area for performances
I found Gideon and Stephen extremely nice and warm people. I spent time with Stephen in the lounge and he told me all about his work. I gifted him two books of mine 'This way is easier dad' and 'The Men Within'. Apparently, he had been a slow left-arm spin bowler in his time. Gideon had already bought a copy of 'The Renaissance Man' - he said he knew Sridhar. I gave him copies of 'The Men Within' and '50 Not Out'. After the session, we headed off for some lunch.
Up the stairs to more sessions
Other writers I met were Jerry Pinto who I had met in Mumbai when he came to speak at Dilip D Souza's library, Samhita Arni, who wrote that delightful Mahabharata when she was eight and now writes fantastic stories. Anand Vishwanatha, Shankar Melkote, Prakash. Others I met were Neeraj, Vanathi, Achyut Menon. Jayesh, Vanathi, Pallavi, Arjun. Pleasantly surprised to meet a couple of MBA students there too. One lady told me she had bought the 'Renaissance Man' because she had read about it in the papers.

Though everyone seemed to like the venue Vidyaranya, I personally found it too cramped, parking is a huge issue.  Anjali and Abhinay went and attended a session by Deepa Kiran and Anjali said dreamily - I can listen to her all day. 

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