In his new role as the vice-president of the Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters, Chandigarh-based Hindi poet and writer Madhav Kaushik in an interview with The Indian Express talks about how he stands for equality of all languages and the dignity of authors.
You are the second Hindi writer in the history of the Sahitya Akademi to be chosen as its vice-president. This must be a proud moment for you. How do you see your new role?
Yes, it is a special moment. My election as the vice-president of the Akademi has erased the myth that there is a lingual divide in India. In the recent election, 50 of the 60 non-Hindi writers voted for me and this is a personal victory. It indicates that literature and litterateurs are above any divide. I stand for the equality of all languages and dignity of authors and in my new role I hope and strive to be a bridge between various Indian languages and bring people closer to the literature from different parts of the country.
What plans do you have for the promotion of literature in the region and Chandigarh?
My priority is to organize poet meets in Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal and bring poets writing in various dialects on a common platform and in the process initiate a documentation of these dialects. We have a rich history of oral traditions and to preserve these, we must initiate a process of publication. Holding seminars on new trends in literature being written in marginalised languages is valuable. Chandigarh and the region witnesses many literature festivals in English and I hope in association with the Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi, of which I am the Chairperson, and the National Akademi, we will organize a literature festival in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu early next year and invite writers from across the country, writing in different genres, with a special focus on natyalekhan (theatre writing), as this is an area we don’t talk about. In our region, many valuable and major works of literature have not been given due promotion. These must be preserved, got into the limelight and valued. To promote literature, inter-translation is paramount, for we don’t read what is being written in various Indian languages and this is apathy towards writers.
What in your opinion is the status of Hindi literature in today’s time?
I think Hindi is very well represented. Look around you and you will see so many newspapers, blogs, and websites in Hindi, with new and powerful writings emerging from various parts of the country. More and more young people are reading on the internet, kindle, and phones. The circle is wide and new changes are auspicious for literature. Literature travels beyond barriers and borders and e-publishing and digital presence is important to reach out to a larger audience. I am from Haryana and know this region well. I travel across the country and I have to admit in our region people read less and literary poverty is too much. Go to Bihar and common people can be seen walking out of literature festivals with bags of books, while here, we many spend money on clothes and cars, but hesitate to buy a newspaper for just Rs 2.
You are the author of 30 books, including collections of ghazals and have won many awards for your work. Tell us about your writing and the role of a writer in society. And what are you working on these days?
I am a mouthpiece of the common man and believe in writing about society and change. As writers, we must liberate ourselves from ideological shackles. We must not write for a few people or limit ourselves to writing about an ideology. Writers have to step out and write for everyone, for a liberated author will liberate society. Literature brings about change, it may not be visible, like an iceberg, but provides us with social insights and brings about mental change and then social change. We have so much to gain from literature. Because of literature festivals, writers are celebrities now and the need is to have more literary activities to get people closer to books. Here in Chandigarh, we have grown tremendously in the field of literature. Debates and sharing of ideas are important. If we all work together we can do miracles, for we cannot have one-man shows. Here, we have the support of the government, media and people and it is heartening to see so many young people writing and participating in literature festivals and activities. The road ahead is brimming with creativity and hope.
I will soon release an anthology of poetry titled ‘Candle March’ and a collection of ghazals ‘Udhne Ko Aaakash Mile’.