Like many literary festivals of the present day, Times LitFest in Delhi one too was a sham due to the over-indulgence and ‘narcissist’ presentation of TV anchors-turned-authors.
Gone are the days when literary festivals used to be an important forum for intellectual discussions, with literature as the focal point. But, with the growing influence of television channels in the form of news, information, entertainment and also serving garbage, the TV anchors and, a few journalists and columnists have taken the centre stage in the lit-fests, like the one happened in the recently concluded Times LitFest in Delhi. These anchors and journalists are the ‘new age authors’. Almost, every anchor, whether he or she is from an English channel or Hindi, is a ‘one-book wonder’. Declaring oneself as an ‘author’ in the CV is the in thing now.
But, what makes them different from those authors, whom we grew up reading? They were writers who portrayed a vivid picture of the society, the socio-economic and political conditions, the problems, and, painted an impartial picture by remaining non-partisan. Whereas, these news anchor-turned-authors, instead of portraying a true picture, write books with an agenda.
I had the opportunity to attend the three-day Times LitFest just as another common man and what amazed me was that more than 25 journalists, columnists and news anchors participated as ‘authors’ and ‘moderators’ on various discussion panels. And surprisingly, all of them have written books. They were there to promote their books, which they did blatantly as ‘salespersons’. Barring a few like Amitav Ghosh, Amit Chaudhari, Amish, Ashwin Sanghi, Kiran Nagarkar, Katherine Boo, Taslima Nasrin, etc, rest hardly have any credentials as a writer in true sense.
These so-called ‘authors’ instead of adopting a non-partisan view, blatantly pursued their ‘agenda’, by openly displaying their political and ideological leanings, which are usually biased. Some went ahead shamelessly to appease their political masters. Audience in the form of connoisseurs of literature hardly got to listen anything on literature, its changing trends, new works in the field of literature and the world of modern writing. In majority of the panels where anchors and columnists were the discussants, the objective had been to push their personal political agenda, keeping an eye on rich dividends in the future.
Telling about one such panel discussion will be enough to drive the point home. It was a session on ‘Writing on Namo: Deification or demonization’, where all the four including the moderator (Ajoy Bose) were journalists. The panelists were Madhu Kishwar, Kingshuk Nag and TV journalist Rajdeep Sardesai. The purpose of the discussion was to analyse the mind of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was Modi praising to Modi bashing, where the latter dominated the discussion.
The Times of India and a news website Firstpost on December 1 gave details of the discussion, and who said what.
Rajdeep Sardesai, who once was a known face on NDTV and CNN-IBN, is now with India Today channel. It would be a damn lie if I say, the discussion was anyway literary. The entire focus was on to malign PM Modi. Sardesai left no stones unturned to go hammer and tong to malign Modi and in between, he urged the audience to buy his book and read more about Modi, whom he described as ‘Narcissist’, ‘complex character’, ‘pretty insecure man’, etc. He was demonised and was compared with ‘Hitler’—responsible for the ‘genocide’ (it referred to Gujarat riots, which was never a genocide).
Kingshuk Nag was comparatively controlled in his statements, and said, “If needed Modi can distance himself from the RSS. He will marginalise the RSS.” Madhu Kishwar presented her justification on why she felt Modi wasn’t a ‘criminal’ and how sinister forces worked towards maligning Modi.
At the end of the discussion, both Rajdeep and Madhu Kishwar got into a verbal duel on Modi’s credibility and lashed out at each other as street fighters. Claiming that he has proofs and he has mentioned these facts in his book, Rajdeep said, “Between 2002-2005, Modi marginalised the Muslims in Gujarat and dumped them. In the last 24 years, Modi made no real effort to come to terms on Gujarat riots.”
I don’t know whether this ‘celebrated journalist’ ever got to know – which Narendra Modi is real – the one who used to hail former RSS chief MS Golwalkar as his ‘guru’ or the latest one claiming Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel as his ‘ideal’? This question he posed before the panel while discussing in a vitriolic manner.
Immediately after the session, Rajdeep got busy with the young crowd, by giving autographs, taking selfies and promoting his book written by him on Modi. Even, he didn’t lose any opportunity in Modi bashing and tried to convince a small crowd “how closely as a journalist who had covered Gujarat riots in 2002, got to know the ‘real Narendra Modi and his role in it’”!
So, who’s narcissist and insecure– Narendra Modi or Rajdeep Sardesai? It hardly matters, because the particular ‘anti-Modi’ stand, (even continuing after Shri Modi became Bharat’s PM) has paid Mr Sardesai well. In 2008, the UPA government awarded Padma Shri to him!
Like many literary festivals of the present day, this one too was a sham due to the over-indulgence and ‘narcissist’ presentation of TV anchors-turned-authors. The only relief was listening to a handful of true authors. One wonders whether it was a LitFest or a LitterFest! As a common man and a literary freak, I appeal to organisers of this and other literary festivals not to reduce these events to a political drama and nuance.
(The opinion expressed in this column is solely that of the writer – Nameless Indian)