Real India: Namita Gokhale: the revolution will be written!

Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook20Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

NEW DELHI – Namita Gokhale — novelist, publisher, sparkplug of the annual Jaipur Literature Festival — says the essential (maybe the only) revolution in India today is literary. She’s envisioning something like a galactic explosion outward from a Sanskritic big bang of three or maybe five thousand years ago. Abetted by digital technology, in deep sync with the info-tech surge in the Indian economy, her Indian literary supernova today is a force for liberating language communities, women and what used to be “untouchable” or “unhearable” voices. “Many languages, one literature” is the stand-by mantra of Indian writers. “Simultaneous” and “subversive” are the contemporary tags on a booming Indian literary space that she says is “beginning to see itself in its own mirror.”

It is the multiplicity of voices. It’s the spaces both democratic and technological — you’ve had a very stratified society for thousands of years. People are breaking out into an individual and individuated understanding of themselves. It’s a big deal for women to be able to be given new spaces, for people from different castes, different repressive backgrounds to be given new spaces and equal opportunities.

There’s huge collateral damage … but it is a new India in the hope that many people bring, with education, with the right to assert themselves. Of course all this hope is surrounded by hopelessness and damage. But there is a new India, fighting for its voice through many, many languages, through many literary traditions coming together to speak not as one voice, because in India we would never speak as one voice. Not in an orchestra either, because an orchestra is not an Indian concept. But in what is called a jugalbandi. Jugalbandi is when two people sing and perform together in a way that has complex classical structures, but is completely improvised in that moment. That is a Jugalbandi…

Namita Gokhale in conversation with Chris Lydon in New Delhi. July, 2010

  • np0909

    I was so underwhelmed by this interview, I could not listen to the end. What exactly does she mean by her high-falutin’ lingo? “It’s the spaces both democratic and technological — you’ve had a very stratified society for thousands of years. People are breaking out into an individual and individuated understanding of themselves” Huh? In a country where farmers are committing suicides and sizable percentages of people are hungry, illiterate and worse? Where the educated middle class is comprised of rote learners? I don’t blame the rote learners – they are making the most of what they have and they are doing what they must do – but, there needs to be a recognition that the circumstances, by their very nature, limit just how much people can accomplish.

    Also, “It’s a big deal for women to be able to be given new spaces, for people from different castes, different repressive backgrounds to be given new spaces and equal opportunities.” Who is giving these spaces, pray tell? So long as the spaces are being given, and not being taken, wrested, grabbed, no truly new spaces are being created at all.

    Chris – I am from India – I found your interview of Bharata Raja Reddy – he of the halting command of English – the most telling. He was honest, forthright and completely unreconstructed. He could be the protagonist of Adiga’s “White Tiger”!

    Ram Guha was the most articulate and Tejpal was interesting as well. All the others were merely spouting the Infosys and Thomas Freidman-esque lingo of the so-called shining India. Gokhale was the most shining (or should I say “least shining”?) example of the lack of critical thinking and the lack of articulate commentary.