Ok, I was so laid up and couldn't resist writing, this one came almost impulsively. It definitely runs the risk of not letting the visitors read my previous post which is definitely more relaxed piece. But, when am on a roll, who can stop me from blogging. And before tonight, don't be surprised if there are 3 more blogs! Read on, mate!
Arudathi Roy is not just the God of Small Things who aspires to alter the scales of the Algebra of Infinite Justice, she also is a bandwagoner! And she is no loner in this area.
Writers, especially novelists these days, have become much more media-savvy than others. Perhaps they need to be more so. People in show-biz or entertainment industry or music industry all are more visible as personalities with faces. Writers unfortunately are personalities with not too many photographs in the press. Of course, things are changing now. But pray tell me, how many of you remember the face of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Raja Rao? Raja who? I understand. And all I need to do is say Rushdie or Rowling and the faces come flashing on view. With the changing face of the publishing industry and its need to survive, public relations and advertisement gimmicks have improved. Things are at a stage where writers are given advance and news written large about it now-a-days. The Visual and Video Media is playing a large part in reckoning the fortunes of a writer and the publishing industry. Good, good. But it has its flip-side. Like what I am talking about Ms. Roy.
She has successfully managed to keep herself in news. Two books and a celebrity. Because her first book was the recipient of Booker? Not exactly. Booker has its role, though. There is a long list of writers who win awards or become best sellers and a couple of acceptance speeches carefully worded and delivered, some magazine or newspaper's feuilleton pages commission them to be columnists. Every country has its example. And that perhaps is how Ms. Roy is more popular than her one book wonder. When you are a savvy writer who knows you can't come up with classy works everytime, you bide your time, keep visibility by churning out weekly columns on eclectic subjects ranging from Dr. Sirleaf's ascendancy to become the first African woman head of state to the squareroots of algebra and Sanjeev Kapoor's cooking to Rang De Basanti, publish it timely as a collection of essays by a popular publisher who has the muscle to publicise... lo and behold! Another Bestseller. The aura does it all. Am not saying Ms. Roy's Algebra book spawns from Sanjeev to Sirleaf. I haven't even read it. But the pattern is familiar. From Umberto Eco to your columnist writer next door. They just sing anything for their supper. What difference it makes whether you sing covers or originals as long as you sing well!
So, Sahitya Akademi recognises her book. She de-recognises them. If she accepts the award it is a news... sustainable for a month. Now it is an event. Ms. Roy refrains from acceptance. Ms. Roy protests. What protests? The protest is going to get shit, because it is getting tiresome. Too many writers are playing Errant Knights to Protest Lady-in-Distress. It is disgusting. Ms. Roy doesn't seem to have any specific personal politics that is meaningful. Isn't it sick sometimes when people who are already public figures get into these activist trips? It doesn't make sense. Beyond a point it just comes through as pure gimmick. Is this what they call insecurity? Identity crisis?? What is the need? And the Akademi is not going to give it to someone. So, her name will be on the proud annals of .html pages of the Akademi Website with something apolegetic in parenthesis, as a sour reminder that they have been rebuffed. Akademi must not pander. Come to talk of it, The God of Small Things was not even great. The Brits have no sense of recognition. Someone uses their vocabulary breadth and syntax expanse very well and amusingly, without discomfiting them, they give them Bookers and Whitbreads! 'The world', I tell you, like the Bard said in Richard II (I think!), is one huge "Caterpillar of the Commonwealth."
And people like Arundathi Roy, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie realise this. The Publishing industry realises this, the governments that issue orders against them and those that protect them both realise this. I do totally agree their politics is serious. They are committed to their beliefs and hence protest. But there has to be something called temperance. But again, probably without these buildups, the prospect of future Nobel for Literature does probably not exist. Nobel is a noble prize that recognises people who strive for peace through various fields, one of which is Peace itself. And its history seems to be getting more and more strife-torn, buffetted with figures that Fight for Peace (what an oxymoron!), its pages riddled with attention seekers as well as quieter ones who let their work talk. Now don't tell me the Rushdies of the world are genuine voices with genuine problems with a genuine right to voice anything. This Blue Ribbon is the biggest shit invented to cover up any and every crap talk. There needs some line to be drawn regarding Democratic Freedom of Speech. It's not about what we talk, but how we talk. Remember Tagore, Gandhi, Martin Luther Jr, Bishop Tutu, Nelson Mandela. And how they expressed their protest.
I think Ms. Roys and Pamuks of this world are witty but not responsible in their talk and actions. Being fire-brand and rebel is passe! Let them remember it. To hide their rebellion behind ideological discourse is not justification enough to claim the crown of attention. It is 'sad' attitude. Ineptitude not to let their writing work talk. To bring in the branding got through one field to strengthen the cause of another is glamorising the other. Which is demeaning. Hope the so-called protestants with rebel genes in their blood realise that your work speaks than your speech works. Gone are the days of rhetoric. With the prevalence of television channels and rhetoric writers dime a dozen, enough and more secretaries can be hired to pen rhetorical or soul-stirring, mob-swaying speeches. And the joke of it all is that there is a mob out there who just come to listen to a good speech, in the absence of a good movie to go to. It doesn't necessarily mean they're going to support you or vote for you.
(Sorry about the harshness, folks. But it comes from the heart. Because it hurts to see someone rebuff someone who tries to recognise you for your goodness. I may not be a fan of Sahitya Akademi. But I guess, if someone recognises you, you must have the basic courtesy to accept it with a large-heartedness than use it as a platform to fart your protest in public... and the anger was directed at someone else! Ms. Roy sucks!)