We sometimes comment that our future is in the hands of the younger generations. The theme of the library week this year is "Reading unlocks the future".
Today, the students are standing on the crossroads. They do not know which way to go. Should they listen to the advice of people belonging to the older generation who tell them to read more books or leaders of new generations who are more interested in the magic of modern technology?
In one of her editorials, The Sunday Times editor, Ruby Taylor-Newton, recently made very interesting remarks, and I quote: (The Sunday Times, Sept 9, Page 6): "Let's face it. Facebook, Twitter and the internet are probably more exciting ways of gathering information than reading a book, magazine or newspaper. There's a world of vast knowledge and information in a computer, communicated to you in a flash, compared to turning page after page of a book. . ."
Discussing all the aspects of modern technology and reading books, she ends her article with advice to the children, "There are great benefits of reading. So, don't let reading become left behind with the age of technology. It is important that you take time to read . . ."
In recent years the technological advancement has brought about a kind of revolution in the field of information but it cannot take the place of books and libraries because reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Reading good books makes us cultured persons. And a cultured person is a disciplined person who has brought negative emotions under his control.
Good books liberate our minds from the limitations imposed on us by prejudices and narrow-mindedness.
Widely-read persons are not fanatical about race and religion, caste, creed and colour.
They are able to rise above jealousies, intolerance and arrogant behaviour through reading. Reading not only widens our mental horizon but develops our brain power also.
Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish historian and philosopher, once wrote, "All that mankind has done and thought is lying in the magic preservation in the pages of books." And Joseph Addison said, "Books are the egacies that a great genius leaves to mankind.' Charles Eliot (1834 - 1926) made very interesting comment: "Books are the quietest and most constant friends; they are the most accessible and wisest counsellors, and the most patient of teachers." And John Milton made a more thought- provoking statement: "A good book," he says, " is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life."
Some other well-read persons say that libraries are called store-houses of knowledge and many others regard them as lighthouses of a community.
Reading makes individuals balanced and enlightened. Through reading good books they are able to develop in themselves very fine qualities of character and become kind of jewels that shine by their own light. If individuals, through reading valuable and healthy material, become more tolerant, self-confident and self- reliant , honest and hard-working, they are likely to become assets to any community. Individuals make a community and communities make a nation.
I want to finish this part of the article with a quotation of Francis Bacon, " Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, writing an exact man."
Now let us have a look at the literary landscape of our own country - writing and publishing.
When we take into account the number of books written and published in English, Fijian and Hindi, the picture is not very bright.
Even our governments in the past did not pay much attention to this very important aspect of our nation's life. Literary conferences, seminars and workshops are seldom organised.
In other countries, there are awards, literary prizes, scholarships, fellowships and grants for the authors.
To the new writers, guidance on writing novels, short stories, poetry and plays, radio and television scripts is given.
Advice on publishing and marketing is provided and in Fiji such facilities are non-existent. In other countries there are literary magazines, and almost every weekend, some of the dailies produce literary supplements but the print media in Fiji has not yet become very conscious of the need and importance of such publications.In the early seventies, efforts were made here in Fiji to establish BOOK DEVLOPMENT COUNCIL, actually it was established, but after a few months it died its own natural death. Frankly speaking, we are not able to develop in our country but we call BOOK CULTURE. Some of us are more interested in yagona and drinking sessions in the evenings than taking interest in some hobbies such as reading.
Tremendous efforts are being made to make Fiji's economy strong so that more material wealth could be produced. That is good but I think our country shall remain like a flower that has no fragrance if we do not pay attention to develop our own literature which we may proudly call FIJI LITERATURE.
Literature and life are intimately related. Good literature books reflect values of life. Great authors like Charles Dickens and George Bernard Shaw ( English) ,Tolstoy ( Russian), Tagore and Prem Chand (India) and many others of different countries and languages, wrote about the social problems, human concerns, and about the disadvantaged, poor, down-trodden and weaker sections of the community. Their literature books, as they touched the hearts of the readers, brought the social reforms in those section of the community where the laws of the governments failed. Their writings transformed the lives of thousands of people. We may call it the magic of reading.
nJogindar Singh Kanwal is a former Principal of Khalsa College, Ba and author of many Hindi and English books. He lives in Varadoli, Ba.
Email address: email@example.com )
The views are his and not of this newspaper.