Friday, September 21, 2007

What is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Reading These Days?

Yann Martel, if you don't know who, let me juggle your memmory a bit - he is the one who wrote a novel about how a boy makes it across the ocean on a boat with a tiger for company - is angry. And when he is angry his pen quakes with words, his thoughts spill out on paper, and this is his tirade against Prime Minister Stephen Harper who cut funds to the Canadian Council for the Arts.What is Stephen Harper Reading? (link courtesy: Swathi Sambhani). Sample this:

"On March 28th, 2007, at 3 pm, I was sitting in the Visitors’ Gallery of the House of Commons, I and forty-nine other artists from across Canada, fifty in all, and I got to thinking about stillness. To read a book, one must be still. To watch a concert, a play, a movie, to look at a painting, one must be still. Religion, too, makes use of stillness, notably with prayer and meditation. Just gazing upon a still lake, upon a quiet winter scene—doesn’t that lull us into contemplation? Life, it seems, favours moments of stillness to appear on the edges of our perception and whisper to us, “Here I am. What do you think?” Then we become busy and the stillness vanishes, yet we hardly notice because we fall so easily for the delusion of busyness, whereby what keeps us busy must be important, and the busier we are with it, the more important it must be. And so we work, work, work, rush, rush, rush. On occasion we say to ourselves, panting, “Gosh, life is racing by.” But that’s not it at all, it’s the contrary: life is still. It is we who are racing by."

Or, this:

"I, for example, was 1991, the year I received a Canada Council B grant that allowed me to write my first novel. I was 27 years old and the money was manna from heaven. I made those $18,000 last a year and a half (and compared to the income tax I have paid since then, an exponential return on Canadian taxpayers’ investment, I assure you). By comparison, the equivalent celebration of a major cultural institution in, say, France would have been a classy, flashy, year-long, exhibition-filled affair with President Chirac trying to hog as much of the limelight as possible. No need to go into further details. We all know how the Europeans do culture. It’s sexy and important to them. The world visits Europe because it is so culturally resplendent. Instead, we stood around, drank our drinks, and then petered away in small groups."

What Martell and his fellow artists did when the Canadian Council for the Arts budget was cut was to picket the prime minister and his hangers-on in parliament and tell them about their outrage. Over here, no one comes forward. Why should they when they are getting a few crumbs thrown in their direction?

Wonder how many young novelists in India have got a grant from the government to write a novel as Martel got (Canadian $ 18,000 = 7,22,808 Indian Rupees)? None. Wonder why India is not producing any novelists of the category of Yann Martels? What does an Indian writer get when he publishes his novel with much difficulty after risking penury? Rs 50,000 and a plaque is what Sahitya Akademi gives to Akademi award winners.

Yes I would like to find out what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is reading these days.

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