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JAIPUR: Dovetailing the preciosities of the high-brow with the

pugnacities of popular culture, the seventh edition of the Jaipur Literary

Festival is in full flow in this famous touristy city that reflects India’s
exuberant contradictions in a microcosm and dares us to think afresh new
narratives of India, the world’s most populous democracy navigating its
tryst with modernity and resurgence.

Fittingly, the self-styled world’s most egalitarian literary festival began

January 17 with a wish-list by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen that
envisages India having a right wing party that is secular and a born-again
left party that can dedicate itself to fighting imperialism and eliminating
the curse of poverty. Only Sen, the archetypal argumentative Indian
intellectual, could have come out with such audacious formulations that
seek to liberate India from the traditional dogmas of the left and right and
kindle a new politics of hope and renascence that the country sorely

In his keynote address entitled “A Wish a Day for a Week,” Harvard

economist Sen also made an impassioned pitch for restoring the study of
humanities at the centre of cumulative efforts towards national
renascence. “Firstly, I wish for a greater role for humanities in education
and daily life,” he said. “We seriously need to cultivate classical
education like the arts, language and culture in our country. There are
many students who go for science and technology, but how many are
actually looking at humanities as a subject,” he asked. “A novel can point
to a truth without pretending to capture it in some exact way,” the
economist-philosopher underlined. In the midst of anarchic proliferation
of social media, Sen asserted the primacy of old-fashioned
books. “Social media can help, but you must read more books!”

Unveiling contours of a reawakened liberal humanism, Sen pitched for a

more constructive and creative role for the media that liberates this
enterprise from the tyranny of commercial imperatives. “I want the media
to be more responsive to the needs of the poor people, rather than to
commercial interests.”

Evoking the zeitgeist that tends to exalt the middling and the banal, Sen,
who has authored An Uncertain Glory with Jean Dreze, conjured up an
imagined conversation with what he called “the goddess of medium
things,” and unveiled his seven wishes for India.

Shunning comforts of dry theorizing, Sen chose to engage with the cuts
and thrusts of politics, as they are choreographed and enacted in reality.
In a separate session on “Choices and Freedoms,” Sen underscored the
sterility of India’s self-obsessed political parties. To make his point, he
cited Karl Marx, who decried the “society of free competition” in which
isolated individuals appear detached from “natural bonds.”

Above all, Amartya Sen struck a cautionary note about the inflationary
and potentially delusive politics of the so-called “aam admi.” Seeking to
demystifying the common man, Sen said while he was “inclined to cheer”
the Aam Admi Party’s (or Common Man Party) success in recent
elections in Delhi, he provoked the audience to think afresh their nations
of the common man. “Who are the ‘aam aadmi’?” Sen asked. “Are they
people who want cheaper cooking gas and diesel and electricity? Or are
they people who have no electricity connections, no water connections?”

With barely months to go before the world’s greatest carnival of

democracy kicks in with around 700 million adult Indians readying to
cast their vote, it’s time to emancipate Indian politics from the stale
dogmas of the left and right and craft anew a new narrative of national
redemption that not only speaks in the name of aam admi, but acts for
their genuine uplift.

- See more at: http://www.indiawrites.org/india-and-the-world/moving-