Books cannot claim perfection, but can and should claim honesty and evoke trust: Gopalkrishna Gandhi

“We may love books. I do, We may not worship them. We may not make cults of them…We may not place over any book, a halo,” says Gopalkrishna Gandhi

Updated - January 26, 2024 07:29 pm IST

Published - January 26, 2024 12:42 pm IST - Chennai

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Distinguished Professor of History and Politics, Ashoka University, and former Governor of West Bengal; Nirmala Lakshman, Chairperson, The Hindu Group Publishing Private Limited; Suresh Nambath, Editor, The Hindu; and L.V. Navneeth, CEO, THG Publishing Private Limited, and Latha Aranganathan, Chief Marketing Officer, G Square, at the inauguration of the 12th edition of The Hindu’s Flagship event, The Hindu Lit Fest 2024.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Distinguished Professor of History and Politics, Ashoka University, and former Governor of West Bengal; Nirmala Lakshman, Chairperson, The Hindu Group Publishing Private Limited; Suresh Nambath, Editor, The Hindu; and L.V. Navneeth, CEO, THG Publishing Private Limited, and Latha Aranganathan, Chief Marketing Officer, G Square, at the inauguration of the 12th edition of The Hindu’s Flagship event, The Hindu Lit Fest 2024. | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Distinguished Professor of History and Politics, Ashoka University and former Governor of West Bengal, on January 26 said that while no human constructs, including books, can claim perfection, books can, and should, claim one thing – “simple honesty”. 

Inaugurating the 12th edition of The Hindu Lit Fest 2024, The Hindu’s flagship event in Chennai, he said that “simple honesty,” like the word sorry, was as close to being perfect as anything could be. He added that honesty was, however, difficult. “Part of being honest is being frank, especially, about being in doubt,” he said. 

He said The Hindu Lit Fest celebrated the nambikkai (trust in Tamil) of the honest book, “not the dazzle of its words, not the praise in advance printed in its opening pages, but just that one thing: the trust of the honest word”. 

He said that while books made great companions and friends for life, some of them, like some friends, could become domineering tyrants, demanding adherence and obedience. “We may love books. I do. We may not worship them. We may not make cults of them… We may not place over any book, a halo,” he said. 

Nirmala Lakshman, Chairperson, The Hindu Group Publishing Private Limited, said the The Hindu Lit Fest was an inclusive space for artists, writers, thinkers, and performers to share their creative vision. “We carry with us the honest and fearless traditions of The Hindu, the adherence to democratic values, to justice, to social inclusiveness, to diversity and pluralism which I believe makes us what we are, and of course the commitment to the freedom of expression which is one of the cornerstones of The Hindu and of the festival,” she said. 

She said the biggest measure of the festival’s success was the increasing number of people attending it each year and expressing that they have been enriched. “The festivals are about discovering new insights, about fostering better understanding between communities and groups and about broadening our horizons by engaging with words and ideas; this in turn stimulates critical thought and moulds more enlightened cultural values and hopefully sparks positive change,” she added. 

Suresh Nambath, Editor, The Hindu, said the Lit Fest was perhaps unique as it was not named after a place. “It is much more than a Chennai literary festival. Of course, as it is for The Hindu, its home is Chennai, but Chennai showcases it as much as it showcases Chennai,” he said. He said it did not aim to fill any perceived gaps in Chennai’s intellectual scene as much as it sought to raise the level of seriousness in the national discourse.

Pointing out that it was a reader-driven festival and not just a gathering of authors and publishers, he said, “It is very much an intervention, a goad to drive ideas to their fruition”. 

L.V. Navneeth, CEO, THG Publishing Private Limited, said the festival shined light on stories and ideas, on people who gave expression to ideas and those who interact and engage with those ideas.

Latha Aranganathan, chief marketing officer, G Square, was also present at the inauguration.

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