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In Sanskrit, there is a verse (Shloka) as “साहित्य संगीत कला विहीन, साक्षात् पशु, पूच्छविश्नहीन” (Sahitya sangeet-kala vihin, sakshat pashu poochchh vishna-hin). Its translation is as “A man, not interested in Literature, Music (Classical – as it is the ancient verse) or any Art, is just like an animal without a tail and horns.” Here, I am going to discuss only literature in context to human life. Literature is an indispensable necessity of human life. It is an eye opener, a driving force to mould our life and a preacher to understand human life, human love, human nature and overall to say humanism. The literature helps a man to come out from animalism and adopt humanism. Gift of intellect from God to a man makes him different and superior to all other creatures. The study of literature, inclusive of religious ones and other sciences, not only sharpens the intellect of a human; but also provides him inspiration and aptitude to know everything, visible or disguise, in the universe. With reading the works of poets, philosophers and intellectuals and also religious literature of spirituality, divinity and mysteries of the universe and its Creator, a man can become capable to uplift himself to be a super human from simply a human. The literature feeds the human mind and soul such a food with which it can enrich own thoughts to make own life successful and think for the good of the whole mankind of the universe.
A matured man or woman who remains indifferent towards literature is just like a kid of a famous poem of Rabindranath Tagore titled as ‘Authorship’. I know that to spare more space for this side reference in my brief essay is not appropriate, but I can’t withhold myself as I am sure that the poor level of the kid of the poem to understand literature will compel my Readers to admit that the people, matured but passive towards literature, are like this kid unable to understand literature with the only difference that they people do not play with toys and swing in cradles. Let us enjoy some pieces of thoughts of the kid of above poem here below.
The child complains to its mother with some charges put upon its father, an author. Firstly, it says that the father writes a lot of books but what he writes is beyond its (kid’s) understanding. It tries to make its mother agree with that she is also in same position unable to understand what he writes. The child considers the mother superior to the father as she can tell nice stories which the father can’t write. A very cute question is asked whether he has not heard the stories of giants, fairies and princesses from his own mother or has forgotten them all. Further, the child says that the father is crazy towards writing books as if he plays at making books. The child complains also that she does not allow it to make the slightest noise in the house that may disturb him. In child’s view, the writing of books is nothing more than its own writing of the alphabets just as a..b..c..d..e in its notebook. We can see the humorous argument of the child in a climax that the father wastes heaps and heaps of papers and she does not allow it (kid) to take a single sheet of paper to make a boat with. Here, my summary of the poem is over but I recommend to my Readers to read original text of the said poem to enjoy it nicely.
Now, I once again come to my main track of the theme of my essay. Today, the Reading of literature has decreased to a considerable rate. Two factors have played their rolls in this regard; one, other forms of entertainment such as TV, Movie, Sports etc. have become popular and, two, human life has become strenuous in gaining money for survival of the family. In such situation, the Reading is going to become a lost art and that is not a good sign for the future of the world.
Modern means of entertainment which have taken place of Reading of literature are merely aimed to give pleasure, luxury and time-pass only. They are far away from teachings of any moral lessons or developing any wisdom in the minds and souls of the people. No doubt, all these are the various forms of an Art, but they are deficient and imperfect for cultural advancement of the people.
For centuries, a debate on art, divided into two schools of thought as ‘Art for art’s sake’ and ‘Art for life’, has been going on without any conclusion. Concept of ‘Art for art’s sake’ may be good for artists themselves as they are the monopoly holders of saving art, but the common men need something more that may uplift them in all aspects of their lives, something that may empower them to strengthen their inner thoughts, something that may realize them the realities of life rather than flying high in the sky of imaginations. Any art whether it may be even literature must have the aim of bringing some change in human behaviors and morals. Modern popular arts such as western noisy music, vulgar performance of dance, nude painting and photography, violent and sexy movies and TV serials are just like slow poisons for the new generation capable enough to throw them deep down into the valley of decline. We can distinguish the basic difference between literature and other arts in a very simple way that literature teaches us what to enjoy and other arts teach us how to enjoy.
Literature opens the windows of our mind through which we can gaze towards the unknown inner and outer world which we have not yet seen. The works of great writers have changed the thinking directions of the people with their writings. They have sown the seeds of social awareness and ethical reformation in the minds of the people and many revolutions such as developing ideas of democracy, abolishing slavery and hatred towards so called untouchables, avoiding discriminations of all kinds, uplifting the status of a woman in society etc. have been possible covering the most part of the world and its numerous communities. It is the role of literature that has changed the most of the false traditions throughout the globe. To maintain the size of my Article, I cannot catalogue all those books both literary and religious which have played a vital role in changing the values of human life.
Literature is capable to change our beliefs if they have been falsely hammered into our minds. It makes us a mentally matured person to grow high towards understanding. An American historian and author – Barbara W. Tuchman quotes on books of literature as “Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled (lame), thought and speculation at a standstill.” For expansion of horizons of knowledge, no any alternative other than books can be so effective and result oriented.
My humble request and counseling to parents worldwide is that they should encourage their children to read some good books or cultural magazines. In modern social system, birthdays of children are celebrated by giving them various gifts. Should we not add at least a single good book to the list of gifts?
– Valibhai Musa
Dtd.: May 5, 2008