Now this has become a fad to engage in controversies in literary festival. That is fine, but they have nothing to do with literature. Literary festivals should engage in literary discussions, and introduce the world to new authors and talent. But we have politicized literature in warped ways.
Yes, I am referring to Ashish Nandi's comment which he says is a radical view of thinking, Indian academics he contends are lying supine, and not questioning or challenging existing norms. Fair enough, but what was such a statement doing in a literary festival, and hanging in the air, for the media to gleefully pick up one more meaty news? Remember what happened last year in Jaipur?
It is high time we look at the credibility of literary festivals, and what purpose they are meant to serve. If we invite historians for panel discussions, we can invite scientists as well. The sessions should alternate between book readings, literary discussions, book launches and talks by writers. Focus should be on new talent. But we find the same people coming again and again, and then certain statements or actions tend to appear inflammatory. I am not commenting on the merits of Professor Nandi's statement, but does all this fall into the zeal and commitments of a literary festival?
Again and again our literary meets such as the one in Jaipur, touches sanctities, arousing emotions involving communities, and threaten to disintegrate societies. In India we are uprooted: from class disinctions, divide between majority and minority, uprooted from the very ethos that we live in, the ethos of poverty and deprivation. Instead of raising issues such as these in relation to literature, we bring the culture of hate and animadversion. This is the heinous beauty of Indian society and polity, we talk but do not act. And then we go to a literary festival, not to plummet high ideals, but to participate in the culture of seamless divisiveness, to propitiate, what we think privately. There is no compassion or for that matter dispassion.
What do we do in such situations? Write more talk less, involve children into aesthetics, so that they do not pick up strands of the amorphous culture of them and us, an inveterate syndrome in Indian society. Let us cry our hearts out, but not shout raucously. What has the force of the latest avatar, corruption to do with literature? Can we examine this in literary and societal contexts? And can we for heaven's sake encourage fresh, new and invigorating talent into the literary scene?