BY RAMNATH PAI RAIKAR | NT NETWORK
“A book is like a garden carried in the pocket,” says a Chinese proverb. Unfortunately, not many are interested in carrying a garden around with them. Dr Shivshankar Awasthi,
the secretary general of Authors Guild of India, who is presently in Goa, feels that although the significance of books will always remain in human life, much more needs to be done to inculcate a reading habit, especially among the new generation.
“Books are man's best friend, and the significance of books will always remain in human life,” said Dr Shivshankar Awasthi, the secretary general of Authors Guild of India, a 38-year-old organisation formed to provide a forum to authors for discussing mutual problems as also issues concerning writing and writers. “And unless the reading habit is generated amongst the youth, there is no future for the new generation,” he added.
Dr Awasthi is presently in Goa to attend a two-day convention of the Authors Guild of India, to be held this weekend at the Goa University premises. The three sessions of the convention based on the theme ‘Book culture in the present scenario’ will discuss all aspects as related to literature, publishing, royalty and so on.
Speaking to NT BUZZ, Dr Awasthi, who works as an associate professor with the Delhi University, said that books, since their introduction, have always been the main medium for dissemination of knowledge. “Unfortunately, with the advent of video and internet, books, which give an accurate expression to knowledge, faced difficult times,” the secretary general of AGI observed, stating that India, a developing nation witnesses hardly 90,000 books being published annually, which is a matter of great concern. “If one takes the ratio of actual literacy rate of the country and the book reading population in India then we could really get some astonishing facts,” he noted.
Lamenting that the mindset of purchasing books for reading purpose is sorely missing among Indians, Dr Awasthi said that on one side the literacy rate is increasing in government records, while on the other, the number of people reading books is drastically on the decline. “Today, the time has come to ask if school students really do know to read books,” he maintained, informing that the two-day Goa convention will be discussing as to what measures writers and publishers can take for popularising the book reading habit.
The AGI secretary general also drew attention to the fact that present day writers are aggrieved because they don’t find publishers to publish their works, and if they do find publishers as well as find buyers for their books, the royalty is hard to come by. “It is a real tragedy that writing is not getting established in India as a profession, although Indian government’s Book Promotion Policy aims towards publication of good books, and encouraging new writers to come forward,” he bemoaned.
“Today, the purchase of books in bulk is restricted to few government organisations and as a result publishers are fixing the prices of books – sometimes very exorbitant prices - as per their sale targets,” Dr Awasthi opined, adding, “I feel that publishers should bring in transparency in their business, especially in the sale of books.” He further said that another mentality prompts people to go for English books, especially to read them in public places like trains, aircrafts, etc, for it possibly enhances their status.
Speaking further, Dr Awasthi stated that the AGI has no complaints about e-books. “In fact, a very small section is linked to e-books, and I feel that we should accept the advances in technology, especially that of text moving from leaf of a tree to paper to web,” he mentioned, noting that piracy however, is a point of worry.
Dr Awasthi, in reply to a question said that the forthcoming convention will also try to erase the feeling of insecurity as well as inferiority complex in writers who write in regional languages vis-à-vis English writers.
On a parting note, the AGI secretary general said that today the real problem in the field of writing is the battle of the writer for his very existence, and every writer is fighting his own battle alone. “As for the National Book Trust, till date it has published around 1,600 titles, which is quite a small number, and the NBT should move much forward,” he concluded.