The contributions of any writer must reflect the social conditions and environment that prevails during his contributing period in genuine terms. Though such contributions need not be narrative like documentary or monograph, sprinkling here and there some social realities may find a mention either explicitly or implicitly. Such an approach in writing is applicable to all Indian writers, irrespective of the language they write in which their literary acumen is evident. For an Indian writer, such social concern coupled with responsibility is much more. But, many writers do not engage themselves so in their discourses.
The current year selection for the award of Nobel Prize for literature to Bob Dylan, is a breakthrough in the annals of globally significant award. In the field of literature, so far only the writers and poets who were popular and significant through their contributions were selected. For the FIRST time, a singer has been selected for the Literature Nobel prize. Change in the convention led to the selection of Bob Dylan who has been influential in popular music and culture. His cultural influence has impacted the common man, whether he /she is educated or not, talented or not, does possess calibre or order of high IQ. In that way the selection of Bob Dylan for the award of Nobel literature prize is very meaningful, trendsetting and serves the purpose of literary award and more so to the category of literature that stimulated the humans to sensory exercise.
Recently Adtiya Sinha, the veteran journalist and writer had a chance to analyse the literary contributions of R.K.Narayan, the Indian writer in English who hailed from Tamil Nadu on whose behalf some influential in India lobbied for the award of Literature Nobel prize when he was alive.
Aditya Sinha quotes from the WhatsApp message of one of his friends. The message decries the caste conscious approach of R.K.Narayan, highlighting the numerically microscopic population viz. Brahmins, ignoring the existence of Dalits and generally the section other than the Tamil Brahmins. Aditya Sinha says, “The main cast (in R.K.Narayan’s novels) is all Tamil Brahmins. The children in the streets and in the background have neutral names. Even the love interest in The Painter of Signs, Daisy, turns out to be originally from a “good” Tamil brahmin family. She contributes to the novel’s despondent ending. And the food in the novel is always vegetarian. The reality of villages is that most people are meat-eaters; they are not bound by purity issues, unlike the Tamil brahmins. During my four-year stay in Chennai I noticed that not only is biryani ubiquitous, but that biryani food-carts are commonplace.
A comparison between R.K.Narayan and his brother R.K.Laxman the popular cartoonist has been made. R.K.Laxman’s popular cartoon, ‘Common Man’ was not reflective of the common man of Indian society. It is said that while their common man gives the impression of being everyman, with his modest dress, his Gandhian spectacles and the umbrella tucked under his arm, he is an everyman only for the urban middle-class, acidly observing middle-class problems. Unstated is the fact that he is not lower caste. The common man is thus not so common. Sinha further says, failed to ever examine the omnipresent phenomenon in his society, caste, something one cannot turn one’s eyes away from. The WhatsApp friend says, “He (R.K.Narayan) deliberately overlooked the caste dynamics of rural Tamil Nadu.” The attitude of Caste’s beneficiaries in India that is Brahmins is akin to the recently circulating news sites: “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” Tamil brahmins, though only three per cent of the state’s population, similarly feel oppressed, though they control the popular narrative, projecting Tamil Nadu as filled with pious, vegetarian, musically-minded engineers. When I was an editor in Chennai, most people I met in academics or professional life were Tamil brahmins. Narayan’s greatest champion was an Iyengar family that owns a national newspaper. Narayan may have tried to deal with social evils like religious superstition or overpopulation in his novels, but that was of little good because he never went to the root cause of social evil in India: caste. It’s probably just as well that he wasn’t awarded the Nobel Prize.