The cellphone novel will revolutionise Indian literature
— Manreet Sodhi Someshwar, writer
The current big thing in Indian literature is what a leading national newspaper eloquently termed ‘illiterature’: the explosion of ill-written English novels, oft brimming with SMS lingo, with nary a hoot to grammar or punctuation. Selling for the price of a coke and popcorn combo, these novels have stirred the sluggish scene of Indian publishing. A slew of new writers, new publishers, writers-turned-publishers, distributors doubling as publishers, writer-agent-publisher abound in this froth — search for the avatar and you will find it in the Indian market. So, what will further revolutionise the Indian literature space? My hunch is it will be the cellphone novel. It is quite the phenomenon in Japan where an entire generation has grown up with cellular technology a thumb away. As the penetration of mobile phones increases in India, and cellphone companies offer unlimited transmission of packet data, there will be a surge of ‘writers’ who will start converting their current endless texting to simple stories built with short sentences, smileys, and SMS. Will it be a positive revolution? Who knows? Quite likely, and fittingly, it will be the apogee of ‘illiterature’.
Art should be made mandatory in the educational system
— Shibu Arakkal, digital artist
You’ve used the word ‘revolutionise’ so the idea I am going to suggest is going to be radical: Just like how there are countries where it is mandatory for citizens to do a stint in the army, art as a subject should be made mandatory in the Indian education system, one where every student in the 10th, 12th or at the graduation level must pass a course in arts to get his/her degree. I also have a simple logic for advocating this: Fact is, Indians as a race are good at making a living but don’t know how to live. We live in this almost subconscious, automaton state where we don’t seek anything — as long as we have got a bank balance, children going to a good school and parents taken care of, that’s all we are happy with. And then we look at Europeans and admire their lust for life. We don’t live, we just exist. This is where I have to reiterate that unlike what most people think, art is not a luxury it is a necessity. I think kids need to be exposed to arts from a very elementary level because they have the ability to absorb what they see, and early exposure to art improves your ability to think, helps develop a better understanding of situations and surroundings, and it is also important for one’s emotional and intellectual development.
We need to have more radio channels
— Papon, musician/composer
I think we should have more radio channels dedicated to independent Indian music — that would be a great help. I think we need platforms where the music comes to you, as opposed to you having to go out and search for it. Radio is definitely one of those platforms, so with more channels for independent Indian music, we’d be in a better space in a couple of years’ time. It would not only encourage musicians to make more music – because there would be more platforms where it would be heard – but also get audiences to listen to it, because they could do so even when they’re driving to work.
Encourage Indian handloom more than anything
— Ritu Kumar, fashion designer
I think it should be a series of ideas and not just one idea, to begin with. But of the many ideas one can propound, the big one we have to concentrate on, if we have to retain the unique, indigenous identity of Indian fashion is to understand and encourage Indian handlooms, embroideries and the crafts. India’s textiles’ heritage is as old as the Europeans, but while they, especially the Italians work at preserving it, we are not putting enough efforts into it. We’ve got to work at encouraging and expanding the reach of the indigenous crafts because, truth is, the Chinese have realised this uniqueness. They’re in fact trying to learn our crafts and are looking at mechanising them — they are trying to make their power looms create what our hand looms do, and get their silks to look like our tussars... we have to understand our country’s USP and instead of discouraging our handlooms, we’ve got to accept them as they are. That is what, I think, will make a huge difference to what Indian fashion can evolve into tomorrow.
As told to Mahalakshmi Prabhakaran