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Voices, Rhetoric, Discourse, Dialogue and the Need to Listen

vikram sampat
Feb 2016

Voices, Rhetoric, Discourse, Dialogue and the Need to Listen

When does an active, engaged discussion become mere words with a lot of sound and no meaning?

Vikram Sampath, Haji Syed Salman Chishti and P Sivakami explored this tricky issue in an enthusiastic session named The Need For Dialogue: Discussion v/s Rhetoric that combined Haji Syed Salman Chishti’s unique Sufism-inspired worldview with Vikram Sampat’s poignant insight and P. Sivakami’s immense experience. Author Sanjay Roy moderated this session, which was specially curated by the Jaipur Literature Festival.

The second session of the first day began with Sanjoy speaking about how sometimes, we need to sit down and listen. We need to allow artists and authors to function freely. Authors, according to him provide the world with windows to another universe and help individuals travel to a destination in their imagination which they cannot be a part of physically. On this note began the session on the “need” to listen, which seems foremost in today’s world.

Vikram Sampath, who had written a column about why he wouldn’t return his awards in solidarity with all the issues going on, said he has always tried to coin the meaning of the term “intolerance”. He hasn’t succeeded so far. He admits, how media houses got involved in the controversy surrounding his involvement in one literature festival, and made things worse as he himself was the reason lots of people were backing out from the festival.

He thinks, the most terrible thing in our country right now, would be this urgency to label people and put people into definite blocks.

Vikram Sampat

Vikram Sampath

P. Sivakami, on being asked about the voices of the minorities, begins with how one song, with one “beeped” word put the singer into news for two whole days. She says, the problem lies in that, we don’t have the heart to listen nowadays. She narrated her experiences of working in close relations with tribals and how this experience taught her how important it is to give in and hear out the other person first, which she learned when a tribal woman refused to say anything other than “we don’t have water”.

She said, “if you want to have a meaningful conversation, you need to create it.”

P. Sivakami

P. Sivakami

Haji Syed Salman Chisti, on being asked about the “oasis of calm” the Ajmer shrine where everyone is welcome, said the understanding of unconditional love is the principle of the shrine. Everybody, without being conscious of their own actions, they come here, as they feel safe under this roof.

“Once we stop listening, we are denying the whole of humanity their own voice or the other point of view,” he said.haji

This is the code of the Sufi believers. And since none of us know everything, it’s important to listen to all tales and voices. Sufi always recognized the need to connect with the masses and to establish a connect.

The two holy cows are history and religion, he said. They’re sensitive, even if they are ancient. He delved deeper to try and understand where exactly does intolerance creep in.

The session also discussed whether we have stopped listening to the preaching of the scriptures. Donald Trump, how the world attempts at times to correct perceptions and more.

This session, most importantly, if you ask me, was very different. While most literary sessions talk about issues related to books and writing, this session brought up the another aspect of life that perhaps haunts us all. The fear of our voices not being heard and our opinions not being appreciated. The session made it clear, that the talent to listen is as important as speaking, because if everyone talks, there’ll just be noise and not a discussion.

As Sanjay ended the session, its a duty on our part to listen, to give importance to voices and ideas, which have the power to illuminate the darkest of nights.


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