I went to Osmania University and Hyderabad Central University during 20th and 23rd February 2017. I delivered five lectures- Ambedkar on Nationalism, Ambedkar and Constitutional Morality, Gandhi and Ambedkar, Mahatma Gandhi for Twenty First Century Youth and Ambedkar as a Protagonist of Unity, Reconciliation and Understanding. It was an incredible experience to have packed auditorium with so many students and faculty members listening to the talks with rapt attention.
Yesterday in Hyderabad I was taken to Academy Staff College to be with an MP of Rajya Sabha who was supposed to speak on literature to teachers of Sanskrit, Bengali, Persian, Telugu, Marathi, Hindi and Sanskrit. Suddenly I was asked to speak. I was at my wit's end. Howsoever, I spoke the following.
Literature is an indispensable part of life. Our classical wisdom enshrined in a Sanskrit shloka teaches us that without literature and music the life of human beings would be equivalent to the life of animals. Therefore literature takes us to a higher plane of civility and consciousness. Man of literature stand high above man of power and wealth.
I recall one incident from the life and work of late Sri K R Narayanan who was then Vice President of India. Once a newspaper correspondent wanted to expose corruption in Regional Transport Corporation in Delhi where driving licences were being issued by officials on payment of bribe.
The correspondent wanted to take a license in the name of K R Narayanan to drive home the point that corrupt officials had no compunction to issue a license even in the name of the Vice President of India by shamelessly receiving bribe amount.
It so happened that the correspondent wrongly wrote i in the application the name of R K Narayanan, the eminent writer, in place of K R Narayanan. When the official saw the name of R K Narayanan he told the correspondent that he was using the name of a celebrated writer to get a licence and, therefore, he would be easily caught by police and they could prove that it was a licence of some body else.
When the correspondent changed the name to K R Narayanan the official immediately issued the license. It clearly proved the point that a writer or man of literature is more well known than the man in high offices. This is the value of literary man who enjoys a status above the man in high positions of our Republic.
Our poet Jadumani Mahapatra in Odia literature could outwit the king by saying that he remained at the ground level as he was weighty and the King who took pride in remaining high above the back of an elephant was told by him that his high seat on a tusker was because he was very light in weight.
It was a clear example of interrogation of a man of letters of the authority of King and his reputation which was quite limited to his kingdom and the reputation of a poet transcended the boundaries of kingdom.
During freedom struggle Mahatma Gandhi underlined the necessity of developing literature which would speak to the millions. Now across the country Dalit literature is emerging and articulating their pain and pathos. It is a heartening trend affirming the anxiety and aspirations of the most neglected and deprived sections of our society.
The scope of literature is being expanded to include music. It was evident from the decision of the Nobel Committee to award Nobel Prize for literature to Bob Dylan who composed songs and performed in the public.
His compositions had content which questioned the authorities and triggered protest movements for creating a good society. Rabindranath Tagore got Nobel Prize for literature in 1913 for Geetanjali which was originally written in Bengali.
The opening line of Geetanjali "Where the mind is without fear and where the head is held high" is a great line. But the original Bengali line "Chito jethe Bhayo Sunyo" is not only great but also sublime. So the original lines in our Indian languages which are ancient and very old sound more musical and sublime. That is why it is important to uphold the literature flowing from our languages.
After all Dr. S Radhakrishnan, the then President of India had said that Indian literature is one, but spoken and written through different languages of India. It is, therefore, important to preserve our languages and literature which are rich and glorious.
My friend late Major Gopi who was ADC to President K R Narayanan and who attained martyrdom in Kashmir during an encounter with theorists in 2005 used to write poems and he published the anthology of his poems. In the preface he wrote that human beings can live without poems and literature.
However he emphasised that with literature and poems human beings cultivate a philosophical outlook which takes them beyond the mundane aspects of life and enables them to remain tuned to infinity and higher consciousness.
It is, therefore, important to develop a literary bent of mind and explore the larger meaning of life which is much beyond the day to day material aspects often causing narrow and constricted outlook.
Literature to this extent develops a non-material outlook which is essential to enrich life and make it more graceful and meaningful.
In fact wholesome literature is indispensable for making life more culturally and aesthetically rich. Without it life would be dry, drab, boring and monotonous.
It is literature which tunes us to larger dimensions and give greater depth and content to life which otherwise we would not get from mere living process based on fulfilment of senses and sensory pleasure and perception.
Therefore, we need to uphold our languages and cultivate habits to pursue literature and culture and enrich them.
# The author Mr Satya Narayan Sahu was OSD and Press Secretary to the late President of India Shri K.R. Narayanan and served as Director in the Prime Minister's Office. He is currently Joint Secretary in the Rajya Sabha Secretariat. The views expressed by the author are personal and not that of Rajya Sabha Secretariat.