Writers are not politicians. By nature a writer is “intolerant’- intolerant to injustice, violence, discrimination, backwardness, poverty, prejudice, bias, irrationality, taboo, cliché, distortions, exploitation, abuse, torture and several other similar issues. A writer is no writer if s/he is tolerant to a chosen one and intolerant to another. There is no subject under the Sun which is outside the coverage of literature. It is this universality of literature and the objectivity of the writer which places literature above everything else, though it may or may not be a commercial success. But writers are neither in commerce nor in politics, though there is no subject outside the jurisdiction of literature. For writers, judges, judiciary and the justice dispensation system are as good subjects to write about as political ideologies, economic theories, social critiques or scientific knowledge. They are not afraid to write about God or theology. It is this fearlessness, independence, objectivity, neutrality of a writer that makes his endeavour great and immortal. We don’t know who wrote the Vedas, but we read the Veda even today and admire the quality of their content. Milton may be dead but Milton lives forever. Can someone kill Skakespeare or Kalidas? Yes, their works may be burnt by someone for some reason, but they will continue to occupy the mental space of the society and memory of the learned. The drama being played in India by some Sahitya Akademy awardees for literature in the past in the name of growing intolerance in society is facetious and hence laughable, because they have been “tolerant” to all the wrongs listed in the opening sentence above for no less than 60 years!
There is no bar on poets, dramatists, playwrights, novelist, short story writers, essayists or critics. They have always enjoyed complete freedom, excepting the Black Emergency for 21 months, and could have used the power of their pen to hit out at whatever they consider “intolerance”. But they have converted it into an ugly political saga. Do they feel that they are unlikely to enjoy the political patronage enjoyed so far by them under the previous dispensation? They also seem to have lost the ground, with the new dispensation publicly professing zero tolerance to corruption and development of all and togetherness of all. The average writer thrives on material fit for political propaganda and breaking news in the most superficial manner, selecting his target according to the nuisance value, indulging in overflow of emotions of hatred against whoever or whatever s/he considers in conflict with her/his personal view or perception. Such literature has a short life. A writer is a visionary, who is farsighted and capable of evaluate issues most dispassionately beyond the compulsions of here and now only.
Once the divisive and fissiparous forces lose the battle and the masses see through the game being played in the name of literature or journalism, it is the end of a decadent literary culture and the beginning of a new era. In India, the advent of this new era has been considerably delayed by putting a premium on mediocrity at the cost of precious literature. As the year 1947 was a turning point in the history of India, so is the year 2014, which changed many things. Literature can’t remain chained to the past. It has to break free of the culture of political patronage and establish its power to influence society and provide it intellectual leadership. This demands a new mindset and work culture. The change that was brought about by the people of India in 2014 promises to change attitudes, perceptions and resolutions of the masses as also the classes. India has changed. It is a promise to honestly translate the vision encapsuled in the Constitution of India. When all in the society rise together, walk together, put in their best efforts together, the result is all round development, prosperity, peace, harmony and happiness. Perhaps our award-returning writers find it awful to handle themes in such an environment. They need the illogical viewpoints, self-created conflicts, divisions in the society, slogans and vitanda (mere argument for the sake of argument to prove the rival point of view unacceptable because the objective is to defeat the opponent, real or virtual). Only literature suffers in such a climate. Even the best of event management companies can’t salvage literature from the Literary Festivals of the community of such writers.
It is a healthy sign that they are vacating space in the Indian literary world, occupied for long by them through political patronage, literary brotherhood and commercial interests. It will allow the new talent to bloom, which has so far been kept at a distance forcibly by erecting barriers to block the entry of new talent & fortify themselves from any inroads of fresh air of literary creativity. That explains the total famine of good literature in the country for several decades. Is it any wonder that I cannot suggest even a single literary magazine of high standard today; whereas I could have suggested at least a dozen 50 years ago!
Are the writers responsible for all this? No, no, no. It is due the lure of the electronic media, especially the television, which offered high commercial returns for their talent. But high payments don’t come for free. The television channels, like the newspapers, are owned by top business houses. Slowly and slowly, writers learn to meet the market demands; editors start taking orders from the owners; owners are wary of risks in business and don’t play Ramnath Goenka; editors have tasted prosperity, power and influence for the first time and don’t let go of it; the condition of the “unrecognized” writers is comparable to that of the workers in the Unorganised Sector of Industry/economy; readers start losing interest in literary works of low quality resulting in loss of trust in the integrity of the writer; and the environ abundantly suits the commercial interests of all the stake holders.
Globalisation, social media and the internet has contributed to the decline of literary creations of immortal quality due to the unprecedented explosion of information and knowledge. No writer can take the reader for a ride, as comparisons of available material, reliable information, profundity and incisiveness of writers elsewhere in the world pales poor outputs for which the market fails to find buyers. In such a scenario, only the best quality of writers can stay on course. Others must accept the reality gracefully. Technology has been disrupting businesses for years. In the new environment, the writer has to grow up. There is hardly any reserved space available for writers thriving in monopolistic environs. It is a competitive world, even in the literary world. The ongoing upheaval has thrown up a challenge to the writers the world over. That includes Indian writers too. It has opened opportunities for the members of the global knowledge society, to promote new breed of writers to take up issues of the new society, in a new expression suited to the contemporary life, in a novel genre or improved literary genres. Literature is forever.