The 10 people you’d love to invite over for a dinner and chat

This idea germinated a while ago but was doubly reinforced at the recent TEDx event we attended here in London. There were 24 speakers that day and the noble theme was ‘Democracy and Representation’. For someone who lived too long in a banana republic it was a needed lesson in the basics of participatory politics and what the current zeitgeist on it was.
For those who managed to read the above 75 words without remembering you have a lot of sleep to catch up on and now would be a good time, (a) thanks and (b) good news : This is a not going to be an awkward trundle through that civics class you snoozed through in high school. Rather this is, hopefully, an eye opening exercise in self discovery (And it is mercifully private if you do it during lunch break. The world is not ready for your lameness yet. You will get your 15 minutes soon Grasshopper )
For this thought experiment you will need :
a. Pen
b. Paper (iPad/Laptop can substitute too you electronic junkie)
c. 20 minutes of non-interruption (Gen X, that means you will need to sacrifice 8 youtube videos. Gen Y, this is 20 minutes NOT wasted in your soul crushing dead-end job)

Here is the thought experiment : Make a list of 10 people you would love to invite over for dinner and 1 question you would ask them at the dinner table. Caveat : They can be anyone, dead or alive but not fictional.

Hand on heart I have not penned my full list of 10 until now and while I have a hazy idea of people I would like to have over, I have not written them down and the idea of the ONE question just occurred to me. What I have deliberately left out is the WHY, because that would have made this post too long and tedious. ‘WHY’ should be best left as a conversational topic with friends during the entrée round when you play this game.

If done with honesty and with a wary eye on that pitiful of all sins, self-deception, it could be a revealing 20 minutes. Someone in the King James Bible first said ‘Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are‘ but then aren’t  a lot of our friends accidents of geography?  This list will do one better then for no one in this list you compile will be impacted by your geography and so this may be a truer list on who you are and on your long road to self-discovery. Also I am quite certain this list you make will not be static but mutate over time as you evolve, and hopefully mature, over the years so re-visiting this thought experiment every decade may be worth its negligible investment in time.

That said, I decided to compile my list right here and now. Why delay the journey ? So then here is my list of my 10 people and the question I would ask (Caution, some ‘people’ are combos of 2 or 3 as one cannot really think of them otherwise and some questions are more of a conversation starter):

1. Christopher Hitchens, brilliant author, orator, polemic, intellectual and journalist (“After debunking The Almighty, who were the next three people/institutions you would have loved to take down ?”)

2. American cartoonist Bill Watterson who sketched Calvin and Hobbes (“How do you personally view the world that we inhabit with all it’s fissures ? Is there hope for us ? “)

3. Author Naipaul (“If you were asked to re-draft Nehru’s Tryst with Destiny speech, what would you have penned?”)

4. Roger Ebert , American film critic (“I did not ‘get’ the brouhaha over 2001: A Space Odyssey . Please deconstruct it for me ?”)

Bill Bryson
5. Bill Bryson, a best-selling American author of humorous books esp on travel (“Tell me the most interesting thing you stumbled into off late!”)

6. Late night comedy hosts John Stewart and Stephen Colbert (“Tell me what you guys would do and enact in Year 1 if you guys were elected President and VP of USA ?”)

culture gabfest

7. Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens, and June Thomas, the three people who run the ‘Slate Culture Gabfest’ (“Tell us all the 10 things the current culture over-rates all the bloody time”)


8. Gandhi and Nehru (“Here is the current updated book of events that transpired from 1947 till today in India. Now, you guys still think we were ready ?….and oh, that gentlemen across the table is an author called Naipaul. He has a few words to say to you both…”)


9. Al Pacino, actor (“What’s the one role that you saw onscreen, thought was very good and also that YOU could have nailed it and done a better job ?”)


10. Sidin Vadukut, a columnist, twitterer and blogger (“Where does this all lead to da? what is the end game you foresee macha ?”)

There it is. At 35, this is a representative patina of my focus and interest and I have no doubt in a decade it may carry the risk of looking quaint or naive. But I’ll wager it will be the opposite and may even manage to evoke that rarest of rare nostalgia, the energizing kind.

Now, whip out the pen and paper and find out what company your mind prefers to keep.


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