Literature offers hope and optimism in difficult times: Vice President

SansadTV Bureau

The Vice President, Shri M Venkaiah Naidu today said that literature opens pathways to new experiences filled with hope and optimism in difficult times. “Literary texts recreate places, events and experiences providing a magical escape into a world in which we lose ourselves”, he observed.

Speaking at the ‘Times Lit Fest’, the Vice President said that in a crisis, it is Literature that poses the most relevant questions and comes up with pertinent answers. Literary figures, through their work, appeal to our imagination in a number of ways—as creative writers, moralists, guides and philosophers, among other things.

Stating that great writing reaches out to us in ways that nothing else can, he said “We lose ourselves in the world of words in an experience that transcends all limitations of time and space. There is no such thing as an appropriate time to immerse oneself in great writing”.

Shri Naidu affirmed that Literature, through multiple forms, appeals to the inner being. He observed that it shapes our consciousness and helps us evolve into more refined human beings. “At different stages in our lives, various writers and themes appeal to us. Literature has the variety to provide each one of us something that we can relate to at different moments in time”, he opined.

Asserting India has been a repository of knowledge and wisdom from ancient times, he said “it is a celebrated cradle of culture which has given the world the Vedas, priceless treasures of philosophy including the Upanishads and The Bhagwat Gita, immortal epics like The Ramayana and The Mahabharata, fables packed with wisdom such as The Panchatantra and Hitopadesa and Kalidasa’s magnificent literary texts including plays, to cite only a few examples”.

Observing that since the early ages to contemporary times, a thread of unbroken tradition could be traced in all our languages, across all regions, the Vice President said that every single language in India was pulsating with vibrant literary activity in multiple forms today. “Perhaps, no other country in the world can lay claim to such a rich, diverse, cultural, linguistic and literary heritage”, he added.

Shri Naidu said the silver lining of the last 17 months has been a rapid increase in the pace of digitalisation of activities. It has demolished barriers of access in a way that nothing else has and is without doubt, a manifestation of human creativity in the face of adversity. Not only is human imagination capable of finding ways to cope with extraordinary circumstances, but can also convert adversity into opportunity, he declared.

Lauding the Times of India for organising the event, he said,“I am told that the standout feature of the Times Lit Fest has often been the sparkling exchange between book lovers and authors”. He also expressed his happiness that Lit Fest has no entry barriers and is thrown open to all for participation. “I am certain that this is one of the reasons behind its resounding success”, he added.

“I am certain that the Lit Fest will emerge once again as a healthy platform for the exchange of different ideas and diverse views”, the Vice President added.

The Executive Editor of The Times of India, Shri Vikas Singh, Executive Vice President of Brookfield Properties, Shri Shantanu Chakraborty, Festival Director, Smt. Vinita Dawre Nangia, Shri Puesh Kumar Gupta, Director DS Group and others attended the event.

Following is the full text of the speech –

“The last 17 months add up to the most difficult period the world has endured in generations. It may be no exaggeration to say that the Covid-19 pandemic has touched us all at a personal level. People we care about have suffered and much that we took for granted has been shattered. The pandemic turned life upside down affecting millions of people globally.

In times of great turbulence, when we are also required to be a source of hope to people around us even as we struggle, comes the question, who do we lean on for support? Then, there is the perspective that in the long arc of history, man has shown himself to be capable of displaying hitherto unknown levels of resilience time after time.

In a crisis, it is Literature that poses the most relevant questions and comes up with pertinent answers. Literary figures, through their work, appeal to our imagination in a number of ways—as creative writers, moralists, guides and philosophers, among other things.

Great writing, at its core, reaches out to us in ways that nothing else can. Reading is an experience where we are not burdened by the need to project an image. We lose ourselves in the world of words in an experience that transcends all limitations of time and space. There is no such thing as an appropriate time to immerse oneself in great writing.

Literature, through multiple forms, appeals to the inner being. It shapes our consciousness and helps us evolve into more refined human beings. At different stages in our lives, various writers and themes appeal to us. Literature has the variety to provide each one of us something that we can relate to at different moments in time.

From the ancient times, India has been a repository of knowledge and wisdom. It is a celebrated cradle of culture which has given the world the Vedas, priceless treasures of philosophy including the Upanishads and The Bhagwat Gita, immortal epics like The Ramayana and The Mahabharata, fables packed with wisdom such as The Panchatantra and Hitopadesa and Kalidasa’s magnificent literary texts including plays, to cite only a few examples. Since the early ages to contemporary times, a thread of unbroken tradition can be traced in all our languages, across all regions. Today, every single language in India is pulsating with vibrant literary activity in multiple forms. Perhaps, no other country in the world can lay claim to such a rich, diverse, cultural, linguistic and literary heritage.

Literature, in these difficult times, opens pathways to new experiences filled hope and optimism. Literary texts recreate places, events and experiences providing a magical escape into a world in which we lose ourselves.

I have been informed that the Times of India launched the Times Lit Fest in 2015. The Festival which brought a number of writers together to discuss their books and views, I learn, proved to be very successful from the word go. This, in itself, is a reflection on the quality of talent the Festival showcased, as also the painstaking efforts of the organisers. I am glad that the Lit Fest had no entry barriers and was thrown open to all for participation. I am certain that this is one of the reasons behind its resounding success. I am told that the standout feature of the Times Lit Fest has often been the sparkling exchange between book lovers and authors. Another interesting aspect of the Lit Fest is that in keeping with democratic ethos of our society, there has never been a hierarchy in moderating the exchanges between authors and readers. In other words, there is no stepping down and inspiring as this feature is, it also adds to the liveliness and vibrancy of the Lit Fest.

The pandemic has overturned the very notion of going to work. A consequence of it has been that circumstances have forced many of us into a sort of isolation, cutting us off from our everyday work environment. Unfortunately, this is one of the most unhealthy dimensions of daily life, which is a matter of concern today to experts in mental health as well. The innate empathy that we develop when working in physical proximity with other humans has perhaps been seriously impacted by this new approach to work.

One of the underlying aims of the Lit Fest is to offer all of us a chance to connect again in conducive surroundings. Man, by nature, is at his best in a social setting. The Lit Fest not only allows us to hear authors expand on their ideas and catalyse thought, but also allows readers to articulate their response. Who is to say that a renowned author will not be fired by an idea that gives birth to the next book from a sharp observation made by a member of the audience?

The silver lining of the last 16 months has been a rapid increase in the pace of digitalisation of activities. It has demolished barriers of access in a way that nothing else has and is without doubt, a manifestation of human creativity in the face of adversity. Not only is human imagination capable of finding ways to cope with extraordinary circumstances, but can also convert adversity into opportunity. I am certain that the Lit Fest, will emerge once again as a healthy platform for the exchange of different ideas and diverse views. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the organisers for inviting me to Times Lit Fest 2021.

Thank You

Jai Hind!”