BLF 2022 – “Despite technological advances, you still can’t taste sushi online”

File photo of author Pico Ayer

File photo of author Pico Ayer

Noted travel writer Pico Iyer remembered Bengaluru 48 years ago as a 17-year-old as a “sleepy city” with bicycles and quiet parks. “Compared to when I was 17 and now 65, the city has changed a lot,” he said at the 11th Bangalore Literature Festival (BLF) in Bengaluru on December 3.

When he talks about why we should travel, he may have created the illusion that globalization is shrinking the world, but it isn’t. “Once in Vancouver (Canada), I sat in a virtual reality booth that showed the Amazon forest (Brazil). Coming out, I’m more aware of what experiences I could never get virtually. Although we can watch and listen to many Rolling Stones concerts on our cell phones, there is nothing like a live performance. Even now, you can’t taste sushi online,” he says, adding that it’s still very difficult to fall in love with something.

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Speaking about his trips to North Korea and Iran, he said it shows how little we know about the countries that have emerged the most in an age of information overload. He recalled his feelings deja vu in cities of both countries.

“I had the strange feeling that I had traveled west from Las Vegas for three days and arrived in Pyongyang (the capital of North Korea) and returned to Vegas. “The appearance of Iranian cities was similar to Dubai,” he said. He spoke of meeting a taxi driver who was educated in London (UK), fled Iran and sought asylum in the UK but sneaked back with his family every year to pay respects to a Sufi saint.

“I spent four years of my life reading everything about Iran so that I could write a novel about a country I had never been to. I wrote about Iran, but spending four hours in the country gave me a new understanding of the country and culture. We’ve never heard of people escaping Iran sneaking back to the homes they ran away from, but missing it so much. I understand that Iran is connected to these conflicts. “I’ve seen pirated copies of Steve Jobs’ autobiography sell quickly in Iran, but that hasn’t made them less hostile to Britain or the US,” he said.

“Today we are 200 cultures divided by a common understanding. Travel is not for spectacle, but for new eyes, it is not to move, but to move. A photographer who has worked on the refugee crisis once said that looking at statistics gives hope and looking at faces gives hope. We need to put a face to the statistics and travel to inspire hope,” he said.

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