January 23, 2009
Tarun Vijay the former editor of Panchajanya and director of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation comments on what Vikram Seth' did at Jaipur literary festival
Of late, Vikram Seth is making news for all the reasons other than literature and values of an author. Frankly, what he or anybody does in his private life is nobody's business and hardly anyone would be interested in that.But public figures cease to be considered as islands of uninterrupted permissiveness the moment they appoint their agents and public relations executives. They want money and fame and a foolish crowd of pen holders seeking their haphazard autographs to boast in London and Amsterdam's dark parties continuing till early morning with the last drops in their bottles of vintage wines. Fine. They are ticketed to their fantasy lands buy virtue of their imaginative minds and a pen that can be diverted to write anything provided the lure of the awards are strong enough.Dream. Desire. Delink yourself with the world and drive at breakneck speed in your crazy world of fancies. To each one, his one.But the same freedom has to be given to those whom you want to be your fans, readers and money providers by buying your books. They, too, have right to say Vikram, you are a debauch and a scum on the world of letters. There has to be a difference e between grace and garbage. Between sexual acts of a maniac and love of the soul. Between literature of the sublime and a pen available for bazaar, between a lonely soul in search of her beloved, like Heer Ranjha and a prostitute.Vikram, by the sheer arrogance of his behaviour, has lost his world to the dark and evil elements of de-Indianised elite, which finds a company of Miss Mayo. He can't say that what he did, he did because he liked it, because he is used to it, because that's the way he is. Take it or leave it. He was not sitting in the comforts of his study, if he has one apart from his bar. He was in a state where the values of Rajputana and the culture of the language society that weaves a fabric called Rajasthan is quite different from the ghettoes of award winning alleys of the west or the emasculated Caribbean environs of a Himachal based cottage. He was face to face with children of various schools of the state and in full media glare he wanted to show his areas of darkness in some hope. Whatever that can be. Maybe, he was trying to be too honest with him and wanted to show that this is what he does in private. But, that's a dangerous proposition. They, I mean these species of the western-left outs, do many things in private with their doors cautiously shut. Would he try to do the same things, quite honestly, in full public glare, next time, during his reading of his new creation?Drinking in public is an offence punishable under criminal act and to cite it would be an old clichÃ©. Yawning. Drinking and speaking to a public is a new factor added by Vikram. Sometime back there was a furore seeing Shah Rukh Khan smoking in a movie shot. Amitabh Bachchan romancing a girl half his age in a movie was frowned upon. Why? They were stupid cultural police? It would be interesting to know the idea of a social living according to Vikram. He has every right to choose his space of life and of course death. But does he have a right to insult and abuse a land and her people? There is hardly anything the organisers of the festival could have done to prevent what has happened. They are the people who are too obsessed by the sheen and the embroidery that makes this kind of an English man's bizarre show 'successful' and secures headlines.When Matthew Lawrence wrote about drunken authors, I was reminded of philosophical psychopaths who loved to discuss hipsters. Hipsters mean someone who rejects the established culture; advocates extreme liberalism in politics and lifestyle. Vikram has every right to be so. But at a price. He can't be like a Norman Mailer's time-transcending path breaker of the hip-hop variety and yet be a soul who seeks respect enveloped in Euros. Perhaps Jaipur being an old civilised city was too decent to a hipster who chose to abuse its fragrance that says trust the guest.