Children have so many demands on their time, says Tharoor

The challenge of getting people to read in an increasingly television- dominated culture is a difficult one, Shashi Tharoor, writer and MP, said here on Sunday.

Presenting “The Hindu Literary Prize for Best Fiction 2011” to Rahul Bhattacharya (for The Sly Company of People Who Care), he said the average modern-day children, however intelligent, educated or inclined towards literature, had so many demands on their time and distractions.

‘Weapon of distraction’

The student who was reading fiction today was reading only a quarter of the books that children of his parents' generation would have read. In the adult world, the professional distractions were compounded by easy availability of other forms of entertainment. People who once read books for distraction were no longer doing so as they invariably turned toward that “weapon of mass distraction” in television, Mr. Tharoor said.

He urged the extraordinarily large audiences at the ‘Lit for Life' event to impart their enthusiasm and knowledge to the next generation. For, it was important that reading habit was inculcated early on in people and they were provided a good choice of material.

He called for encouragement to children to read, and urged institutions like The Hindu to continue supporting good fiction, writing and publishing through awards such as the best fiction prize.

In his remarks on behalf of the five-member jury, K. Satchidanandan said the selection committee was unanimous in its choice of the prize-winning book, which stood out for its “consummate artistry,” “nuanced and understated narration” and “its refusal to exoticise India — or Guyana for that matter — such exoticisation being the bane of a lot of Indian writing in English.”

Mr. Bhattacharya's novel was chosen also for its non-judgmental attitude to the characters, humour that springs from a detached sense of the absurd and freshness of idiom that rendered it a definite contribution to contemporary Indian novel in general.

Mr. Satchidanandan said the jury suggested that The Hindu institute separate awards for fiction written in English and translations from the languages of India so that both receive equal attention. The jury — comprising Mridula Garg, Tabish Khair, Brinda Bose and Pavan K. Verma — also recommended that the calendar year be the basis for nominations.

Nirmala Lakshman, Director, Kasturi and Sons Ltd., participated.

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