How could one write about a panel discussion called to discuss “Generation Next” where the discussion veered toward everything but generation next? Actually though it said “Generation Next” it was subtitled rather ambitiously as, “How regional language publishing is being affected by the growth of the English language publishers in India?” Since the panelists were all from the English writing and publishing industry (with impeccable accents, I may add), there wasn’t much interaction about regional publishing in India. But with my familiarity with Malayalam publishing for instance, I know that regional publishing is a thriving industry that cannot be ignored for long.
But the sad fact is that no writer is taken seriously in India unless he/she is published abroad. So it is a no-win situation, you see. If you don’t get published abroad, you aren’t good enough, and nobody is interested in your work, and you can’t make a living by writing (which often is the case with most Indian writers). But to get published abroad you need local recommendations and how do you get local attention if it isn’t a very paying proposition, as many writers have realized. So hold on to your day job, don’t quit it just yet.
So the audience, I note, includes several long-haired, bearded men who look sufficiently frustrated in their attempts to get published by Indian publishers and foreign ones. The hair in addition to being long is also white as snow. Rejection slip after rejection slip has that magical property, fellow wordsmith, of turning hair grey prematurely, such as this writer’s. One even said, “I am a poet in search of a publisher.”
Can an Indian writer live by writing alone? To this pat came the answer that even in the UK writers do not make a living by writing alone. Meaning there too writers have a day job, a recent instance being a dentist.
One panellist said that she saw that at the Frankfurt Book Fair there was a lot of interest in a Malayalam writer who had written on the life of a prostitute. So regional literature must be good. A lot of interest was also generated by Baby Haldar’s “A Life Less Ordinary,” which was originally written in Bengali.
Another panellist points out that small presses are really encouraging towards new writers. Here again there is a quip from another panellist. “Most publishing houses entrust the job of researching the market to small publishers.”
During the question time there are a lot of questions that seem like answers themselves – as is usual in India. We like to talk don’t we? It seemed that the questioners were providing the answers to their own questions and all the panellists had to say was, “Yes, um, ah, I think so,” or, “I agree with you.”
Amen! Another discussion on regional literature draws to a close. Yawn! It’s been a hard day. I am sleepy.