Mumbai: In a major embarrassment to the Modi government at the Centre, a day after writer Nayantara Sahgal returned her Sahitya Akademi award, another well-known author has gone one step further and written to the Nobel Prize Committee to not consider her name for the literature prize this year.
The feisty writer’s gesture is seen as a powerful symbolic show of protest against the rising climate of intolerance in India, which has now reached a situation where it is suspected to trigger greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.
In her letter to the Nobel Committee, which is set to announce its prize for literature tomorrow, Shobhaa De said India, as a country, was known for its civilizational heft. Tolerance and space for plurality of opinions was its hallmark.
“The country was so tolerant that it kind of accepted even me as an author”, she said, a line so powerful and heart-felt that it drew instant reaction from the literary cognoscenti who opined this was the most meaningful and only acceptable sentence that Shobhaa De had written in a long, long time.
“But today the atmosphere is vitiated. Another Shobhaa De cannot emerge in such a constraining situation,” Shobhaa De said and added “in the event, I request the good people at the Nobel Committee to not take my name for consideration while finalising the prize for literature for this year”.
She, however, clarified that in the future, as and when things return to normal in India, the Nobel Committee was at liberty to not only consider her name for literature but also announce her as the winner.
Shobhaa De’s stinging missive to the Nobel Committee has put India in an embarrassing situation, as the Nobel panel is reported to have sent a terse note to the Union government asking it to explain who this Shobhaa is. “More importantly, explain why is she spelling her name with double ‘aa’?”
Meanwhile, in an exclusive interview to thetire.com, the spunky eponymous online media startup known for retreading reports appearing in other news sites, Shobhaa De said that as a writer she had a moral duty to take a stand in response to the events happening in India at the moment. “I was forced to write to the Nobel committee knowing full well that I am not even in the running for the award. That is how bad and desperate the situation is in India now,” she explained.
Shobhaa, later speaking to the news portal secondcourier.com, said that Nayantara Sahgal’s bold action has shown the way for the rest of the literary folks to follow. ‘I think what Nayantara has done is very courageous. She has returned the award to Sahitya Akademi and truly exposed not only the state of discourse in India now but also the state of literature in India in the past when it was perfectly possible for someone like Nayantara to win the Sahitya Akademi award without it ever becoming a full-blown scandal.”
Shobhaa added that her initial reaction too was to emulate Nayantara and return the Sahitya Akademi award. “But then I managed to figure out at the last moment that I had no Akademi award to return. But rather than use that as a lame excuse and sit idly, I chose the riskier path and wrote to the Nobel committee,” she said.
Shobhaa’s conscientious act also brought a bunch of well-known intellectuals to write an open letter to the Stockholm-based committee thanking them for not considering Narendra Modi’s name for any of the Nobel awards. (This part of this report may not be a spoof).
Shobhaa De defiance also had repercussions in the social media. Well-known anti-Modi bot Talil Sripathi as usual tweeted, “Acchhe Din”, as he as he, even more, as usual added a link of a report from theroll.in on the recent IT raids conducted at (actress) Nayantara’s house.”In this climate of distrust, no Nayantara is safe”.
Another popular right-wing tweeter (@pupabutterfly), said: “Is Shobhaa real? Does she know Nobel was the one behind dynamite?” Of course, the issue isn’t one about Nobel or dynamite. But since it was @pupa, nobody was expecting any kind of logic.
At the time of going to press, an MP from Rajasthan, who is in the Standing Committee of the Human Resources Ministry, was caught in a sting operation where he promises a private publisher from Gujarat to include the works of Shobhaa De in CBSE curriculum.
(Disclaimer: But Crank’s News is still in the running for Nobel literature prize)