Hay Festival 2011,Thiruvananthapuram: Tarun Tejpal and Nayantara Sahgal

Tarun Tejpal and Nayantara Sahgal, two leading Indian novelists and commentators, have criticised large sections of the Indian media for failing to properly engage with the problems of the country.

They were addressing a large audience on the second day of the Hay Festival in Thiruvananthapuram, sponsored by the Telegraph.

Acknowledging the problems of both of poverty and of human rights abuses in the country, Tejpal, whose latest book has been longlisted for the Man Booker Asia Prize but who works principally as a journalist, said the media was not “set on the best course to redeem the situation”.

He said that despite the huge increase in television channels and newspapers, the Indian media is no longer in touch with what is going on. There is not often enough getting down and reporting on the real stories on the ground. “I believe the calling of the journalist in India is a challenging one,” he said. “There is a great sense of distress about the Indian media – wherever I go in India.”

Sahgal agreed. “A wall of silence exists about the real state of the country,” she said, bemoaning the “fast news, fast buck” culture of sections of the Indian media which focus on “Bollywood and cricket”. “They are catering to someone with a very short attention span,” she said. “They assume young people all want fast news.”

They agreed that the effects of cultural “dumbing down” could be traced to Indian fiction as well. “Novels in India are not singing right now,” Tejpal said – this despite the apparent boom in Asian fiction in British bookshops.

Sahgal blamed the digital age of soundbites and information overload for the inadequacy of much of the fiction coming out of India. “I wonder whether information will kill the imagination,” she said.

The article sourced from “The Telegraph

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