“Literature is not only the mirror of the society, but it also has to do the ‘hand-holding,' and lead and show the way to society,” Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar told a gathering here on Saturday.
Ms. Kumar was presenting the prestigious Jnanpith Award to octogenarian Konkani litterateur Ravindra Kelekar in the presence of Chief Minister Digambar Kamat at a glittering function held in the city on Saturday.
Goa Legislative Assembly Speaker Pratapsingh Rane, Jnanpith selection board chairman Sitakant Mahapatra and Hindi writer Namwar Singh were among those present.
The 42nd Jnanpith Award for 2006 carried a citation, shawl, srifal, a bronze idol of Vagdevi Saraswati and a cash prize of Rs. 7 lakh.
Ms. Kumar congratulated Mr. Kelekar and said that his literature reflected culture, principles of non-violence and Buddha's teachings.
Referring to caste and social discrimination prevalent in the country, the Speaker recalled and echoed the views of her late father Babu Jagjivan Ram as to why a renaissance could not take place in India.
Stating that intellectuals and litterateurs have the capability for such a renaissance and true transformation in society, she appealed to them to initiate a debate in this direction.
Mr. Kamat said Mr. Kelekar brought honour to Goa by receiving the Jnanpith Award. The speech of the ailing 85-year-old Mr. Kelekar, who was brought by ambulance to accept the honour, was read out by Mr. Namwar Singh.
Expressing satisfaction that he represented Konkani, a language which some, including those who spoke the language, till recently did not consider as a language, Mr. Kelekar expressed concern over excessive obsession among the people over English language in virtually every sphere of life. He warned that this was weaning away the people from regional languages. He remarked that this mindset was instrumental in producing ‘Bonsai' intellectuals, writers and professors, and even readers.
English is not essential for development. Many countries in the world have progressed without the use of English language to such extent, the veteran writer said, lamenting that the number of readers of books in regional languages in the country was dwindling by the day.
Earlier, Mr. Mahapatra said that a robust literature can grow only on the foundation of a firm, stable and creative language.
He described Mr. Kelekar as one of the finest examples of the multilingual tradition, giving concrete reality to the assertion that Indian literature is one in nature, even when spoken in different languages.