Author Archives: Anita Sethi

‘Only Connect’

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A dispatch from Doha airport: What better place than an airport to reflect on the sometimes strong, sometimes tenuous connections that bind us.

Airports – those liminal places between here and there, where (if you are lucky enough to have a waiting lounge comfortable enough to allow space for thought), we pause for breath to reflect on where we have just come from and where we are going. I have a few precious moments to update this blog, before catching the final connecting flight to Male. The plane from Nairobi to Male was full of passengers of many colours and creeds heading to connecting flights, as is this waiting lounge here, too.

It is interesting that although Mombasa is geographically closer to the Maldives, separated by the Indian Ocean, there is no connecting flight (but instead I headed back to Nairobi and then via Doha). Some places in the world are indeed more cut off than others (from transport links, for example).

However, one thing that can connect, irrespective of place, is the Internet. (Ironically, this airport has one of the highest speed Internet connections I have ever used!).

This indeed shall be a strong theme throughout the Festival, for events will be collected into a huge “online festival” and online library archive. Youngsters will also learn how to connect with their own histories by interviewing their parents and grandparents – the stories will form an important archive of Maldivian life and thought throughout the years. This theme was also prevalent at the Storymoja Hay Festival in Kenya, where we discussed the impact an oral storytelling tradition has to one’s understanding of personal and cultural history.

I shall also be focusing on the theme of connection in the Workshops I will be giving to students, exploring new media journalism, writing, broadcasting, the power of the Twitter-sphere, and blogging. I hope that some of the students will be able to contribute their thoughts to this blog itself, so creating a giant web of connection.

Reflections on the Indian Ocean

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I’m very excited to be heading to the Maldives today (I’m almost there, just a few hours away!), where the inaugural Hay Festival Maldives kicks off with a host of enticing events, “celebrating one of the world’s most hopeful new democracies and oldest island cultures”.

I’ve been preparing a Workshop (first photograph) to give to students (see next post for more details), and am also very much looking forward to chairing sessions with two brilliant writers: the bestselling author and social commentator Shobhaa De, and the foreign correspondent and author, Peter Godwin.

In the week of Booker Prize mania back in England, in which the grandees of literary London waft through the Guildhall and Groucho, I’m also greatly looking forward to being immersed in local literature of the Maldivian islands – just as worthy of the highest prizes but which rarely makes the radar as do Booker Prize winners.

I am en route to the Maldives from Kenya where I attended the excellent Storymoja Hay Festival in Nairobi. I then continued on to Mombasa. There by the sea which stretches all the way from Mombasa to the Maldives, I reflected on the fascinating life of the Indian Ocean (second photograph), its deep pleasures and its perils.

Hay Festival Maldives will be an opportunity to focus attention on the opportunities and challenges facing the Maldivian Archipelago through climate change, as well as celebrating 2000 years of the island’s history.

The Maldives is threatened by rising sea levels, which would turn the island inhabitants into environmental refugees. The President of the Maldives spoke fascinatingly on this issue at the Hay Festival earlier this year.

What can be done? What part can writers and artists – and indeed each and every one of us – play in combatting climate change? I shall chronicle the various ideas here as they arise.

Hope to see some of you there – or if you can’t make it to the Maldives, your company would be most welcome here in cyberspace.