Mar 15, 2009

SAARC Writers Conference Agra

Author is yet to die…

Uday Prakash
(Keynote Address)

We are living in a time when the death of author has already been pronounced by many scholars long before. Author was dead along with the ‘End of History’, it has been said so repeatedly since then that it appears as a truth.
And, when we look at it, it essentially comes out as a thoroughly factual statement. We, it seems, now are here, in 21st century, living posthumously. It’s a miserable life in posterity of some breed, class or font, ceased to exist anymore.
This year in January, I was making a small film on legendary Rajasthani author Vijaidan Detha, who had met with an accident and toiling to regain his lost memory, he said ‘ The age of writer is gone. In this town, where I live, out of 6000 people, it’s rare to find a person with book and with pen. They have mobiles in plenty, thousands of them.’ Obviously, I titled the film: ‘Author in the Age of Mobiles’.
Interestingly, the same celebrated thinker, Francis Fukuyama, who had pronounced the death of the history and the last man, in his new book ‘Our Posthumous Future’, makes an alteration about his earlier proclamation. He says:
‘Hegel had been right in saying that history had ended in 1806, since there had been no essential political progress beyond the principles of the French revolution, which he had seen consolidated by Napoleon’s victory in the battle of Jena that year. The collapse of socialism in 1989 signaled only the pronouncement of a broader convergence toward liberal democracy around the globe.’
Well, now just think about these two phrases, ‘Liberal Democracy’ and ‘Political Progress’. We, the authors, who are here today in Agra, coming from SAARC countries, must seek the genuine answers, we must make an effort to redefine and deliberate over these two phrases in our own contexts. Do we really have, or ever had, true liberal, modern democracies in our respective countries? Or have we sincerely witnessed ‘Political progress’ since we were told that we are now independent nations and its citizens? Is it true that we now taste the fruits of that utopia dreamed by Rousseau about ‘Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity’ and so on? Had descendents of Gandhi, Marx and others have tried ever to create societies which have been transformed medieval , feudal, colonial shapes to a modern, tolerant, liberal and democratic one?
Obviously no! Not anywhere.
Time is dark and gets worsened when we see what’s happening all around. In 1980s we were told: ‘Nothing to worry. The Third Technological Revolution has arrived. Information Technology, along with electronics and bio-genetic labs, is going to create a fabulous, prosperous, peaceful ‘Global Village’ very soon. The new science has now replaced the old politics with its outdated technologies. A new technological civilization has arrived with its new-tech generation. These new drivers will take us to bigger horizons. We silly, unintelligent, childish authors started dreaming the dream of Sahir Ludhiyanvi : ‘Who subah kabhi to ayegi …!”
And what was the aftermath?
9/11, clash of civilizations, growing terrorism and its retaliatory violence, collateral damages, carpet bombings, dismantling of earlier nation-states, new torture centers, POTA and TADA, Special Arm Forces Acts, disregard of UN charter of Human Rights Declarations…..
Author, one of the most vulnerable and powerless creature, witnessed a ghastly, horrific nightmare everywhere. On one hand we saw multiple Airliners, Huge skyscrapers, shopping malls, metro rails and markets full with modern gadgets….! We saw beauty ramps, our girls becoming miss universe, miss world, our masala films getting Oscars…and hundreds of channels showing dance India dance, laughter challenges, reality shows…And on the other hand we saw Mumbai Terror attack, Cannaught place bomb explosions….genocides..Encounters…criminals occupying apex political positions, corrupts sitting on top bureaucratic seats of powers…
This part of Asia, where the new Sun was to rise in the middle of last century, is overwhelmed with darkness, drenching in the blood of its own people….
And we also witnessed conflicts of all sorts, most violent and always on rise. These conflicts are fragmenting all grand-narratives in to narrow, tiny, sectarian pieces. Our minds and souls are restructured, our identities as a modern author has been confiscated and we are given now most retrogressive, obscure, and disgraceful identities of our religion, caste, race, color etc…Time here is now rolling back.
Unfortunately, we the citizens of South Asian countries do not have a homogenous society like most of the western countries. We are plural societies with a great variance of multiple races, religions, languages, castes, colors, cultures and so on. And we also see growing hostilities between all SAARC countries. In fact, they appear in state of a war now. TV channels, news papers are attempting relentlessly to make us all warmongers, enemies of each other. Forces are now on their business to convert us in to subhuman, soulless consumerists, greedy debauches, neo-colonial bastards and citizens of empire.
Castism in my country has been equal to communalism and racism. According to one survey, conducted by CSDS a single caste and its sub-castes monopolize the language I write and live in i.e. Hindi.
I end up this somber note citing about one anecdote. Last year I scripted a film, which was based on my own novella Mohan Das. It was a story a lower caste dalit, who has lost his identity. Mightier do take away everything here in my beloved country as they do in Panama or Pakistan. This film had its premiere in Osian Film Festival, New Delhi, in July 2008. I was not invited, as writers have hardly any space in Bollywood film world. I was passing through a bad stretch of time and was completely down and out.
I was in my village, in Madhya Pradesh searching for modes of survival. It was 19th July, 2008. I had sunk in to depressions. Suddenly my cell phone rang. I picked it up. Ajeet Cour ji was on the other side. Her voice was trembling:
‘Uday ji, I had cried only three times in my entire life. But today, watching Mohan Das, I wept seven times….”
I know she is an author. I’m an author too. Our identities have been taken away. We are Mohan Das and we have strong bonds with each other.
Let us be together…lets cling to each other….lets raise our voices…
Lets make a pronouncement here at Agra, a city of love that History might have ended, we are not concerned with that, but words are still living…
Words are ‘power inscribed’….so the author will remain the final ‘authority; to give a verdict against all other powers…
Jai Ho !!
13th March, 2009