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The Nascent Writers Impasse – OpEd

The world of writing may appear lucrative, but all is not rosy. One has to travel a lot to gain space in today’s world. Now writer editor relationship too is a power relation. Writers are of all types. They are celebrated, they are unsung, they are damned. Smaller ones may write gems but hardly get any recognition. Today we are more after sensational media than rational and useful researches or academic discourses. It is a sort of irony that we have a few writers, a few former bureaucrats, who claim to have expertise on almost every topic and go on writing for years and years without showing any regard for the young writers whose space they have occupied. They rightly say this world is of Orators not writers.

One of my esteemed teachers Dr Rafiabadi (an eminent Islamic Studies expert from Kashmir University) believes that we, in Kashmir definitely have a plethora of orators today, whereas we actually require more potential writers for nurturing intellectual taste and fathoming scholarly aptitude in this part of the world. It is the writers, he believes, who have the power to penetrate into a society and disseminate the message that can change the collective mindset for the common good.

On the space problems confronting budding student writers, my mentor Dr Tariq(A Sociologist from CCAS of Kashmir University) contemptuously laments:

“I wonder why they (Kashmir valley’s famous English daily) offer him (a former bureaucrat) the space every day to write stuff. I also wonder how does he manage to write on everything, sometimes on agricultural produce of Kashmir and immediately on American elections and then on Sufism. Is there really no one left to replace him.”

‘Consumer is the king’ is the buzzword in contemporary era and the principles of such an assumption applies to the Mass Media as well. The mechanics of Media are such that both readers as well as writers end up becoming the consumers in one capacity or the other. Both utilize this service, one for information while the other for satiating the urge for dissemination of information.

We may, however, argue that the buzzword is right, to some extent, in most of the fields of activity around us but it is absolutely untrue when it comes to newspapers and magazines, journals and tabloids etc. Media establishments are, in reality, driven by personal interests, both concealed as well as apparent, while the range of writers and the topics are set by the moguls themselves. They filter out what may be the finest of the writing talent and stick to the good old style of accommodating the viewpoints that fall in line with their set agenda’s.

Young writers brewing with arguments and analysis of issues and situations hardly find themselves communicated as ‘Space’ to them is constantly denied for one or the other reason resulting in complete or partial damage to the intellect as well as to the exuberance of such youth. That is why we have so many such writers craving to see themselves on some platform.

Usually all the scholars, enrolled in the universities or otherwise, tend to write about different aspects of life while trying to communicate their point of view. A varied range of issues and topics are dealt with and different perspectives are shared with the readers who, at the end of the process, might be benefited by such coverage. Besides, it is a dream-come-true situation for any writer, especially young ones, to see themselves on the pages of a newspaper or a magazine or journal.

A major chunk of writers is fond of exaggerating the happenings around; add what is called Masala (spice) and magnificence to the written stuff. Some write for they are to write out of heritage while there are others who write as others expect of them so, some are prompted by turbulent and dismal context while others write for career. There are writers who write because they claim that they have achieved tranquility and spirituality while there are others who write just because others write. All such and many more reasons for writing only add to the ambit of this particular genre of art and one should, in no way, consider any of the above mentioned motives as not-so-good or so.

Writers are the products of either literary ethos or of different upsurges, turmoil and conflicts. Such a situation results in an alarming increase in the emergence of new writers and that is probably why we have volumes written on conflicts and wars. In such a situation writers see writing as a form of opportunity to come to the forefront, most of them see it as their resilience, resentment and a form of non-violent protest; they see it as their contributing bit for mass awareness and awakening. Some write out of achieved identity (eminent columnists and academics), some out of status, be it social, cultural, capital, etc.
But the ugliest part of this whole exercise is the marginalities for the young budding writers who are always pitched against the policy of platforms available. Imaginary lines are drawn around the budding writers, even before they begin writing, who have to either fix their frequencies to that of the organizations available for rot in absence of an all inclusive platform. While alive and enthusiastic in their approach, they find this turn quite contrary to their zeal of communicating their understanding of things. They, thus, succumb to the pressures or mould themselves to suit the available agendas!

Apart from the challenges of platform, the young writers are unwelcomed by a whole lot of senior writers who have already carved a niche for themselves and have deep roots to feed through. They hardly allow the budding writers to settle down the dilemmas of language, grammar, issues of volatility etc and instead highlight their lack of expertise. This result in brutal rejection of their creative pieces without even letting them know what was wrong with it and if something was wrong, how to correct it.

Students don’t have influential contacts, some don’t have even access to Internet, a majority of them don’t know editors (a class of judges who decide the fate of your intellect, whether to spoil it or to let it come but not either yours or theirs, simply a hybrid of nothing). In this way much real, much natural, much creative things do not make it to appear in the printed form.

It is a sort of irony that we have a few writers, a few former bureaucrats, who claim to have expertise on almost every topic and go on writing for years and years without showing any regard for the young writers whose space they have occupied. Moreover, it does not make any sense to see a person belonging to economics writing about art and heritage. But they somehow manage to get published and paid as well while those who have the real expertise are shunted out.

The editing job is also a tricky thing and many a times, editing does actually turn out to be damaging for a script. Although editors are meant to weed out the unnecessary parts in a script and magnify the strengths, but are instances when things go wrong and the very purpose of a script is defeated. They (editors) also play with words, sometimes, and hence prove to be discouraging to a major chunk of writers who try to break the hierarchy.

French literary critic, literary and social theorist, Roland Barthes, in his famous essay, ‘The Death of the Author states’ that “the birth of the reader must come at the cost of the death of the author.” But they (editors) make it different and drastically unique: it is both the death of the author and the reader but the eventual rebirth of editor who applies his own ideas and assume as if he/she is creating someone’s manuscript in totality.

Also the poor chunk is crushed under the silent literal violence and vocal-subjugation, as I came across a number of small unidentified writers with heaps of articles written but not a word published. My words may seem very awkward to the majority of readers and editors butrealizing the pain of all such writers who remain uncelebrated, who contribute but are never known.

I know, much growing literature on violence in writing may exist in future but now there is a dire need to look into the nature of this violent behavior meted to small writers and pin point the cause of many of its manifestations between war and politics of writing where few rule even the minds of others, words written with high degree of so called intelligence, pages filled with the difficult synonym forms of simple language, words of self understood clarities, self set conciseness and diplomatic sense often rule words of innocence, blooming spirit, words from within and words of brute truth in the name of hallow intellectualism and pseudo-professionalism.

Let media not prove to be a mere economic organization and a tool of dominance and hegemony for the small writers. Let intellectual environment be created by print media whole heartedly. I wish, if some day the poor new writers can assume the control on their own literal destiny and the drudgery of writing may turn to the magnificence and writing of identity.

The day is not too far when youth will overthrow this self created system of unjust selections, self interested policies of including and excluding, imposed boredom to readers due to age old columnists and masala writings and rhetoric mongers. Newspapers, while deconstructing the hegemony of fixed writers or big names, have to offer at least a student corner in their respective papers and render some space to creative pieces by young writers. The worth pondering question is whether the newspaper and editorial policies are shaping up a power relation between the writer and the newspaper (platform)? Are newspapers abridging the writer with his/her audience/readers or hegemonising their editorial power only?


About the Author

Dr. Adfar Shah
Dr. Adfar Shah
Dr. Adfar Shah, (Adfer Rashid Shah, PhD) is a New Delhi-based (Kashmiri) social analyst and columnist at various reputed international and national media groups. Being an academic he has more than sixty publications besides hundreds of conceptual articles to his credit. He has been writing on South Asia's socio-political realities at Eurasia Review since 2012, where he is Special Correspondent for South Asia Affairs and recently elevated to Associate Editor (English) for South Asia. Reach him at [email protected]

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