“Self-censorship is the death of art” said Salman Rushdie when Barkha Dutt asked him in an interview whether the criticism of his views was making him re-consider what he writes. He says a writer has to be true to his story and should not subject his writing to external influences. Hearing him say that inspite of all that he’s been through on account of his writing, I was impressed. He’s faced sever criticism, had death-threats, and was prohibited from entering his own country, and still believes in speaking his mind. I’ve never been a fan of his writing, but I do admire his courage.
The same idea, of being true to your work was put forth by another writer, Stephen King. I learnt a great deal from the ideas he talks about in his book ‘On Writing’, but I’m not a fan of his either. But I do like one of his books – ‘The Shining’, which is fantastically scary. Remenber that episode of the show ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S’ where Joey gets so scared of that book that he puts it in the fridge?
What both these writers said about self-censorship, has struck a chord with me because it’s something I indulge in whenever I write. My writing material is largely based on my everyday life and the people around me, (who also form a major chunk of my readers) and hence, on some unconscious level my ideas are customized according to their perceived reactions. Of course, what I write can’t possibly have any far-reaching consequences.
At least not on such a grand level, so as to spark off a national level debate. This is when the question of tolerance arises. Even I feel that what happened was unfair. But then again, when M.F.Hussain was exiled for apparently dishonoring Hindu deities, my first reaction was to be angry at the painter, for not being considerate to the sentiments and emotions of Hindus. However, I wouldn’t want him thrown out of the country, or for this to be made bigger than it is. It is when something is made unpopular, that it becomes more popular than ever, for it sparks curiosity, which can never be crushed. I wouldn’t have read so much about ‘Satanic Verses’ if it wasn’t for all this controversy.
The other day I was reading a joke posted on Facebook, which was very funny, though it definitely scandalized some people as it was a little offensive to Jesus. They posted comments saying what they felt, and there was some outcry from people who found it funny, that the other people were too serious and intolerant. This isn’t fair either, because if someone has the “freedom” to post a racist joke, then others have a right to say that they find the joke disgusting. As long as they don’t start a motion to ban this person from Facebook. That would be unfair. And what happened to Salman Rushdie or Taslima Nasrin was outrageous. They can’t be murdered for the ideas they put forth. Even more ironic is that Rushdie was saved by police protection, and somebody who merely translated the book, was stabbed to death. So what message are writers getting? Either write politically and religiously correct stuff, or don’t write at all? Well, they don’t care. They say : “write what You want”.
I am going to take their advice and start scribbling afresh. Guess I needn’t worry – no one hates random unrelated ramblings of this capricious mind… yet!