Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Manipal Dubai Blog caught up with Sanjay Verma, the Consul General of India, as he shared his views on the Sharjah International Book Fair 2011, his reading habits and how important it is for today’s youngsters to read.

Sanjay Verma, Consul General of India at the
Sharjah  International Book Fair 2011

What do you have to say about the ‘India Focus’ being the highlight of the 30th Sharjah International Book Fair?

Sanjay Verma: One way of looking at it is the strengthening relationship between the UAE and India as it is multifaceted with the movement of human resources from India as well as elements of trade and investments. But this participation in the Sharjah International Book Fair 2011 is an expression of the cultural relationship between the top countries.

And by focusing on India in this part of the world, we are recognizing the literary depth in India. In fact we have 22 official languages, thousands of dialects and a literary heritage. Some of our languages go back to over three thousand years (maybe more)... South Indian languages, Tamil and Bengali and Sanskrit. Even English is among them as I consider it as an Indian language. Overall, the publishing industry is doing well and writers are well known. This book fair serves as an opportunity for Emiratis to know more about our writers and books.

Enlighten us on your reading habits. What do you like to read?

SV: At any given time I read 10-12 books at the same time. Presently I’m reading a book on films and philosophy on how philosophical concepts are sometimes consciously or sub-consciously adopted or filmed by filmmakers.

Then an English translation of  'IQ84' by Haruki Murakami, who is one of the finest Japanese writers alive today. I don’t have a particular genre; I make it a point to read all top non-fiction books. Non-fiction books could be on psychology, finance, international economics or on international politics. I’m reading 'Quest', a book by Daniel Yergin on energy politics.

Sanjay Verma with his favourite author Ruskin Bond at the Sharjah International Book Fair
on the 23rd November 2011

Who is your favourite author?

SV: Authors, there are many authors that make it to my favourite list. My favorite authors are Ruskin Bond, Amitav Gosh, Ramachandra Guha, who writes about cricket, environment and on Indian history as well as Kakar who is a social psychologist. 

Which book or authors do you recommend to youngsters today?

SV: I wouldn’t know where to begin or how to recommend books to the younger generation as they are more fixated towards moving images. 

But one of my favourites and a book that I highly recommend is ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ by Harper Lee. That’s a great story about growing up in America during the 50’s and racial issues. 
Amitav Ghosh anytime, any of his books. Amartya Sen’s books, because these people are a different league in terms of intellectual ability to comprehend and explain things articulate them.

Would you like to share a message for our students at Manipal University, Dubai?

SV: Students should read lot more than they are presently reading. When you read, you’re making a cautious decision to reach out to a particular topic or a subject. But you rely on television- you're passive, you are getting what is shown. And the world today is far more multicultural, it’s a little more complex, through reading you can understand the complexity. 

The students of today are privileged, you need to make use of that education to be able understand the patterns of social behaviour or economics and even to analyze and look at things a little differently than what your parents or your grandparents did.

Books require a little effort and the serious books require a lot more effort, even for me, sometimes to read a really serious intellectual book, it takes some effort but once you start doing it, there are no issues. It is like eating popcorn and a Chinese meal- you can’t compare the two until you have tasted it.

Interview by Nazia Fatma
Transcribed by Qudsiya Siddiqui