After my tenth board exams, I had secured a percentage that was good enough to enable me to opt for a stream of my choice. To the dismay of my distant relatives and some of my friends, I had not taken up the prestigious, highly frequented path of the Science stream.
When they asked for explanations, I replied by informing them that apart from the fact that I had a passion for Literature and that it was my forte (extremely minor, unimportant details, of course), I had no interest in either engineering or becoming a doctor. Ironically enough, I told them that, first, I was not too fond of the limitations of science.
Literature enables Creative Thinking!
This argument fell on deaf ears, and I went on to attempt a different tactic. People come into the world with different roles and destinies, and becoming a doctor was not what I was cut out for. I reasoned with them that no matter how compassionate or kind-hearted I was, going to work at a place that would only consist of sick people or require me even to see blood now and then was not my calling.
Then I was interrogated about why I had not taken up Commerce instead, to which my simple reply was that it might appeal to a lot of people. Still, it was an arid subject to me, and though lucrative, I knew that I would not enjoy the career it would lead me to.
Thus, having presented my case through a process of elimination to them, like the fact that Humanities could be my choice was not acceptable, I dared to breathe a sigh of relief. Little did I know that the barrage of questions had only just begun.
Through the following few lines, the reader will know that I had given my career due to thought and that my choice wasn’t a mere flight of fancy that I wished to indulge in. It was only the nature of the questions that differed this time. They took a new turn inquiring about the career options that I would have later on in my life.
Now, I do understand that I could have chosen not to give them a reply, for I did not owe them an answer. However, I possess an inherent inability to shut up once presented with a question I have an answer to.
I listed a few of the many options like Editing/Publishing, Human Resources, Librarianship, Advertising, Archivist, Columnist, manuscript reader, Market Research Analyst, Public Relations, etc., the first of which I had chosen for myself.
Thus, after having provided these free sessions of career counseling and simultaneously passing my twelfth with flying colors, I got into Delhi University according to English honors. In this way, a new volley of questions began. Every person I met who was not in the same stream as mine failed to understand the “importance” of Literature in the “practical” world or how it contributed to society.
I merely laughed as the answer was an obvious one that everyone refused to open their eyes to with such intensity as the lawyer who defends his client refuses to accept the allegations his client is accused of. Literature has made an enormous contribution to ideas, and as mentioned in V for Vendetta, “You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea. Ideas are bulletproof.”
All the revolutions, changes, and everything that is fundamental to the world and our society has been structured through Literature. Since this is not an easy fact to understand, I will address this question with the help of the tools of imagination.
Imagine a world devoid of Literature and hence devoid of everything that Literature propounds. A world where there are no morals and no good and evil as these are not facts that have been scientifically proved but have been passed down over generations as worldly wisdom.
Imagine a world bereft of emotions like love, compassion, kindness, regret, etc. These emotions are socially constructed through numerous epics and pieces of writing.
Imagine a world full of cold faces, no friends or family, for if there is no fellow feeling in us, why would one help the other or stand by someone in their time of need? Living in a monotonous world where people didn’t think of their own accord and merely followed orders resulted in the stagnancy of the state.
A world, ironically, with no power to imagine, a world with no movies, books, music, or beauty. Only skyscrapers and concrete structures where there is no possibility of nourishing the mind and no contentment for the heart.
And in a world like this, what did justice matter? Being loving, kind, and caring was a human’s prerogative, that which set us apart from the rest of the species, and if those qualities did not exist in us, wouldn’t we naturally fall under the law of the jungle, that is Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest”? Which also led to social Darwinism.
Thus, the reader envisions a great world advanced in science, technology, and Commerce and thriving with inequality, domination, corruption, manipulation, and a complete absence of warmth. A world that is out to get you with no friends or family to hold your hand while you are trampled into oblivion.
Having taken the reader on this ride to a possible future, I hope it will force them to ponder the alternative I have provided. Please do not mistake me for proposing that Literature is more significant than anything else. I merely depict that it is equally important.
Finally, in case the reader fails to understand the rosy picture I have painted, I will end with a thought that constitutes the alternative in a few lines-
“He was a killer, a thing that preyed, living on the things that lived, unaided, alone, by virtue of his own strength and prowess, surviving triumphantly in a hostile environment where only the strong survive.”
-Jack London, The Call of the Wild.