Monday, November 24, 2014

Times LitFest and Tarun Tejpal

One of my friends and colleagues, who I respect greatly, thought that I am keeping silent on the Tarrun Tejpal and Times LiFest issue as it played out, and that Basharat Peer and Swapan Dasgupta displayed sense of values and courage of conviction when they decided to boycott the LitFest because Tejpal was there, and that they took a moral stand against Tejpal. I am sure she is right about the decisions that Peer and Dasgupta took. But I do feel that this is indeed knee-jerk response of namby-pamby liberals.
It would need greater courage to point out that The Times of India has scrapped the books page in what is claimed to be the largest circulating newspaper in the country, and the paper is without a books page for the last 20 years. And this paper now wants to bank-roll a LitFest! I would have preferred if the dissenters boycotted the LitFest to protest against the philistinism of the paper, which runs a frivolous Edit and Opinions page. I would have preferred if the dissenters had said that Tejpal does not deserve to be at a LitFest not for his alleged crime but because he has no literary judgment or political judgment to speak of. Tejpal is facing a trial for the alleged crime and the courts will decide on it. But what is at stake is literary, intellectual stature which has been built up through sheer hype of his tehelka venture and the so-called crusading journalism against corruption. Tejpal has the right to do what he wants to do and to do what he believes in. But the honest dissenters did not ever question the validity of his so-called crusading journalism and his uncritical and uneducated literary calls. Tejpal is not alone in his status of a literary parvenu. The whole band of India's English writers belong to this group. Perhaps Vikram Seth would be an exception. What one should be challenging is the fake intellectuality of The Times of India and of Tejpal and all these literary festivals as such.
The literary festivals in India are an intellectual sham, and perhaps similar festivals abroad are a sham too. They do not promote literature, they do not encourage the reading habit. The people who attend these festivals are nice people but books are not their cup of tea. It is no sin to have contempt for books and literature. Books are stupid things and people who are addicted to books should enjoy their addiction and not pretend that they are superior to those who do not have a similar addiction.

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