Friday, February 1, 2013

Literature Festivals—The Indian Version

Image Courtesy: Google
The epilogue to Jaipur Literature Fest was a police notice to the organizers. The police had asked them to stay in the city until the investigation on the sociologist Ashis Nandi’s statement is completed. Ashis Nandy, a prominent figure in the Indian socio-political and cultural scene had made a statement regarding corruption during one of the speeches he made in the festival. His whiplash was not just targeted at corruption alone, but caste. And not just any caste, but those who are traditionally classified as the “lower castes”.
Image Courtesy: Google

Ashis Nandi said; “most of the corrupt come from the OBC, the Scheduled castes and now increasingly STs, and as long as it was the case, the Indian Republic would survive.” The question of truth in this statement is meaningless to search for. As one can see, he had made a blind generalization on the relationship between corruption and people from lower caste. People from these communities enjoy reservation in government jobs and academics. But corruption is not the doing of lower-caste people alone. People from those castes and communities who belong to the elite quota also attach the same evil to the system, when they are chosen for jobs on the basis of baksheesh or political influence. In other words, corruption is mainly an issue that has its causes hidden in the ground level building of the system.   

Lit Fests are not exactly meant for preaching a higher order of consciousness or even art. They are meant to propagate self-righteousness and political propagandas. Or that is the idea any one can get from watching and hearing what is happening out there. A select few who can read and write, can afford to buy books and can pay for the transportation to the location of the festival and manage to get a free pass, or even get to participate in these festivals. And Ashis Nandy played his part to add masala to the world of high-artfulness.
Ashis Nandy
Image Courtesy: Google

But this year’s Jaipur Lit Fest was not just about a caste monger. It was also about absences. The Hindu right wing deftly managed to keep the Pakistani writer’s at bay from the Fest. Needless to say, Pakistan hosts a bunch of very promising literary talents, including Kamila Shamsie, the Orange Prize runner up for her novel Burnt Shadows. The Hindu right wing’s demand not to include writers from Pakistan to the fest was in resonance with the surging patriotic spirits in the post-LoC breach period by Pakistan’s cooli-army.

Due to some reasons I could not attend this year’s J L F. With Indian Literature festivals getting more and more violent and shifting in centre towards mean and pitiable political stunts, it seems my lack of presence was in itself was a reward. But as an enthusiast of this art form of words on pages, I would sure be looking for some action in real. I have written down reminders for the upcoming major Literature Festivals in India. One is the Bangalore Literature Festival, which was conducted during early December, in 2012. The hope is that this year too, probably from December 7th to 9th we can expect this Festival. Another forthcoming literature festival is the Goa arts and Literary Festival. It is a five day festival, which started from December 13th, the previous year. So this year too we can expect it around that same time. These two are special because of the places they are planned in.
Kamila Shamsie
Image Courtesy: Google

Of course, it is not just about books or meeting their writers, but the traveling to places and meeting people and seeing cultures. Goa and Bangalore seem to be welcoming places for someone who loves mild weather and tourist spots. In no way would these two places be less significant compared to Jaipur Fest.
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