It’s fitting that P Sainath, eminent journalist and tireless chronicler of rural distress, was invited to give the keynote speech at a two-day conference of the Film Writers Association held in Mumbai. Sainath followed writer and poet Ashok Vajpeyi, who sets the tone by demanding that the FWA members, many of whom write for television, deal with the “doosre”, the others. “If there are no others, what is the difference between human life and that of a worm’s?” Vajpeyi said.

In his stirring speech, packed with a familiar mix of anecdotes, barbs, statistics and polemics, Sainath emphasised the need to look at the rising inequality in India and “intersections” of the multitude of realities that characterises the country. “Whose stories do we choose to privilege,” he asked. “How much of a voice do we give those whose stories we tell?”

Among the choice quotes: “You cannot plead a lack of inspiration of ideas and stories – this is a country where they kick you in the face.”

“The dream of an Indian farmer is to be born an European cow.”

“How agonised we are when people die, and how untroubled we are by how they live.”

P Sainath delivering the FWA keynote speech.