The Confy on Postcolonial Studies in Tirunelveli, was by default on my confy itinerary and an added attraction to be a part of, not because of the fact that the spa of the south was barely a 50 odd kms from there, or because it was the land of authentic Tirunelveli Halwah, or because I was invited to be a chairperson for a session, or because Gauri Viswanathan, the world-renowned postcolonial theorist was there to grace the function; well, what attracted me the most about the confy, and impelled nay compelled me to book my train ticket well well well in advance for the Confy was the fact that Dr. Joseph Albert was organizing it. Impeccability – thy name is Joseph Albert!
Indeed, Dr. Albert belongs to that rare breed of elegant academicians who do not carry their scholarship on their shoulders. He is the Deputy Principal of the College, and heads a lot of committees in St. Xavier’s, but at the same time, he is an unyielding stickler to academic propriety and punctuality. A decade ago, when I was part of a paper-presentation session chaired by him, he made this opening observation on the dais: ‘Participants, please do not read your Papers. We know the research you’ve done on the subject. Just present the key points for discussion. That’s enough!” He had us all there! Since then, I’ve had a great fascination and admiration for this gentleman which continues till date! On both the days of the Confy I was dazed to see the way he structured the events in such a way that everything went like clockwork.
Even before the Chief Guest of the day Dr. Gauri Viswanathan could proceed to the podium and take to the dais, he stood up with a gentle smile and told the audience: “Friends, Dr. Gauri Viswanathan will start her speech at 10.45 am and finish it at 11. 30 am. Thank you”. And she did! Before she could wind up on her talk, she said thus: I know about Dr. Albert’s commitment to punctuality, and so I shall be punctual. I shall wind it up in five minutes!!!
Secondly, Dr. A. S. Dasan’s interface with Dr. Gauri Viswanathan was a great treat to all and sundry, especially to the researchers, who were not able to relate to Dr.Gauri during her talk. She was very cordial and interacted with ease, to all the questions posed to her.
Dr. Dasan belongs to yet another category of renowned academicians who have the verve, the enthu, the spirit, the joi de vivre and the tenacity to come out with such elegance, such lustre, such brilliance in his amazing way of delivery! His passion for his subject and the way he comes out with equal gusto when asked to talk on a particular theme is indeed a delight to watch! Some of the terms like ‘You are being agencified with or without your knowledge’, are typical ‘Dasian’ structures that evoke laughter and curiosity at the same time!
Dr. Dasan was one among the first Professors from the University of Mysore, who had sent me a 'bolt from the blue' mail appreciating the ‘NET SET GO: ENGLISH’ book, many many months ago, and had words of appreciation for the flawless presentation and the vibrant layout of the book. [Waiting to meet you in Chennai in the second week of February! Welcome to Chennai dear Sir!]
Even before Dr. Magdalene,took to the dais, I told her, ‘A long and patient wait is over!’ Even then she told me that she couldn’t stand some tenets of the new breed feminists which go against some of the basic rubrics of what 'we as women stand for'! And then, it was a streak of lightning followed by a torrid thunder for a - well – over – One hour. Interestingly, for those of you who still don’t know Dr. Maggie, she is, the much-renowned scholar Dr. Joe’s [Professor of English, Gandhigram University or Dr. Joseph Dorairaj’s] beloved wife!
Dr. Bhaskaran, a wonderful friend of more than a decade, from Gandhigram University, spoke at length on Indian theatre with specific reference to the concept of the Other. Comparing Lacan’s concept of Other, with Bhabha’s concept of Otherness, he outlined through many interesting plays, especially through an analysis of Mahesh Dattani’s plays, on the concept of the Third Space.
Dr. V. John, the HoD of St. Xavier’s Dept of English, gave a convincing talk on Multiplicity and Plurality, with reference to Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children.
Dr. T. Marx, who has always been a great source of support to us at the Dept of English, MCC, an unassuming gentleman-scholar-par-excellence, with an ever-present smile, was the last but one-of-the-most effective speakers whose talk was a wonderful summing up to the Conference proceedings. His view of histories as narratives was an eye-opener of sorts which brought out the visible absences in Indian writings in English that need to be revisited, revived and even resuscitated in order to bring the truth to light.
As Dr. Dasan later acknowledged in his Note of thanks, this conference, even if it were to be held in any other part of the world would have still had this stature, and would have been such a wonderful delight for igniting and moulding academicians and research scholars of all hues and shades. Such a confluence of myriad minds and hospitable hosts is a double delight, he added.
Indeed it WAS!