Literature from the South is pan-Indian, even global: Kerala Governor delivers the opening keynote of TNIE's Dakshin Lit Fest

Governor of Kerala Arif Mohammad Khan inaugurated The New Indian Express' Dakshin Lit Fest 2020 virtually with his wise words and implored us all to make the most of COVID-induced loneliness 
Arif Mohammad Khan | (Pic: Express)
Arif Mohammad Khan | (Pic: Express)

When one considers the range, volume and tone of the literature from South India, we realise the extent to which they have contributed, and continue to strengthen literature and the literary tradition of the country. Thus, it would be appropriate to say that the literature emanating from South India is essentially pan-Indian or even global in its nature and outreach, said Governor of Kerala Arif Mohammad Khan and indeed, what better words could serve as the opening keynote address to The New Indian's Express' Dakshin Lit Fest 2020. Being live-streamed from December 21 to 24, this lit fest brings together over 32 South Indian authors for 14 invigorating sessions. From bestselling authors like Anand Neelakantan, Ashwin Sanghi to other renowned names from the South like P Lalita Kumari (Volga), Benyamin, Roopa Pai and many more, this fest has something for everyone.

While introducing the governor, Editorial Director of The New Indian Express Prabhu Chawla recounts how this year, after taking Odisha Literary Fest online and going beyond the geographic confines of the city, the aim was to do the same with Dakshin Lit Fest 2020. After all, "COVID has held the world at ransom for over a year now and for many of us, words have been a solace and what better companionship can we hope for,” he asks.

Calling Tamil language and its contribution to other Indian languages "unparalleled", the Governor, who is a writer himself, says Silappatikaram is comparable to world classics and called Tolkappiyam the first Indian text in eco-aesthetics. "India is united by grand mythologies which have been told and retold several times," the former union cabinet minister goes on to highlight. He went on to establish his point by citing the example of the Malayalam book Ramacharitham written by Cheeramakavi, a king of Travancore and Kambar Ramayanam written by Tamil poet Kambar. "This is how literature and ideas efface distance," he says. He also refers to the first translation of Karl Marx's Das Kapital which was released in Malayalam in 1912, five years before the Russian Revolution and how, in Kerala, writers like Valmiki, Shakespeare and Marx are household names. Hence, he cites how Southern perspectives synchronise with global narratives.

Arif Mohammad Khan | (Pic: Express)

The Governor took a moment to caution against literature getting watered down as propaganda and added that writers truly hold a huge responsibility. "There is no limit to a writer's freedom — they should decide where their own freedom ends," said the 69-year-old. He also said that though we have been forced into loneliness due to the pandemic, it is in solitude that imagination thrives. "The aim of literature is the good of the world. Its purpose is not just to reflect the world, but to redeem the world. It is not to mirror what is visible to the eye but to recreate the experience. Solitude enables the writer to glimpse at the vision, clothe it with sensitivity and shape it into words," he says.    

The Governor concluded by quoting Rabindranath Tagore's work, Call of Truth, and says, "Gurudev has articulated the importance of a refusal to surrender the dignity of intellect into the keeping of others. The idea of Bharat needs to reveal itself through the literature of various languages. We should be able to freely discuss the idea of Bharat without being offended by divergent views. I say this because our perspectives on global narratives are essentially Indian, whether they come from the South, East, West or North."

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