|René who frisked me at Heathrow|
It's some twelve days since I last posted though there would have been much to post about - just too busy, getting things done on time.
I am in New Delhi a day before the start of the World Poetry Festival, to which I will link just once here. It is a great privilege to be invited and an even greater one to be chosen to give the Inaugural Speech tomorrow morning. It wasn't an honour I was looking for and it is a little awing, but I wrote something this afternoon that might be OK. Having spoken it, I am due to read for about 15 minutes. The full session will begin after lunch.
I have been in Delhi before, maybe three-four times in all, the first time for Katha, then after for the marvellous Almost Island conferences that has had guests such as Bei Dao, Claudio Magris and, this year, László Krasznahorkai. Those event were at the IIC, near the Lodhi Gardens. This will be at the Meghdoot Theatre Complex which, I am told, is only a few minutes from this hotel.
Delhi is bright and sunny. It is about 29C so I have dressed lightly for it. I have also brought a lot of books, as requested, to give and display. It was a night flight on Air India, which is comfortable enough, though not great on food, or technical things (my screen wasn't working) nor particularly attentive in terms of staff, but it's good enough for everyone else and it's good enough for me. Sleeping is always a problem and was this time. I had my Kindle and carried on reading Zweig and maybe slept for two or three hours.
I was met at the airport by the kindly librarian of the academy and driven to the hotel. Security is quite high here in a gestural sort of way. On entering the hotel I was nominally frisked with a detection device waved respectfully in my direction. Back at Heathrow, boarding, I was frisked with a brisk, antagonistic thoroughness by a man with a comic moustache rather like René in 'Allo 'Allo, (see above). He must have had a toothache. Then something in my hand luggage (I bet it was the Kindle) caused it to be searched and passed through security again. I was clean. I generally am.
Going to a festival anywhere is like entering a different time zone on a different mental planet. It is a little like being thrown into a pool. Once you are in you are in, and the mind has to be fully engaged or else it drowns. Everything is denser, everything more intense.
This one is organised by the Ministry of Culture and the Sahitya Akademi. I am not sure what difference that will make, but we shall see.