Over the course of the past year, a few people I know, good writers, the lot of them, released their novels. Most of them were strong debuts, reminiscent of the best writers in their selective genres.
And yet, surprisingly, the responses to most of them have been lukewarm at best. Perhaps it was the lack of backing from a big publisher that hurt them. Perhaps, the stories weren’t as good as I thought them to be. Yet all the reviews, barring none, were glowing in their praise. So what was the reason for the slow growth? I was quite stumped.
That was when I noticed a certain trend – most of their friends, the people who you would expect to be the fiercest backers of their pals work, they were the ones asking for a free copy. Or for a copy in exchange for a review. The same people who wouldn’t think twice about spending two hundred bucks on a coffee at Starbucks, or five hundred on a movie, were apprehensive and unwilling to support their friend’s venture. A book which would sustain them longer than a coffee or movie ever could was expected for free just because the author is a friend?
The same holds true for all artists – whether they are painters, comics, musicians, etc. In case of the latter, just because the product is intangible, does not mean it has lesser value.
Maybe this is the reason Kickstarters, Patreons and ‘Go Fund Mes’ are a distant thing on our shores, while they are very much a reality among our western parts – and have led to the creation and success of numerous ventures.
Why is it then that we are unwilling to support independent artists? That we are unwilling to back someone who does not have a huge brand behind them? (Since the ones with huge brands behind them aren’t exactly the ones in need of individual support). It is a curious thing indeed, that we all expect to be remembered by our friends once they have ‘made it’, and yet, are so unwilling to walk the talk and have their backs when the cheaps are down and they are in the most need of support?
Is it the crab mentality for which we are sadly infamous for? Willing to pull each other down, but unwilling to raise them up? Willing to tear their dreams and hopes to shreds with the cynical colours of reality, and unwilling to let them soar? Willing to see them float along the tide of everyday ordinariness, and yet so unwilling to see them go against the waves, perhaps even snidely hoping to see them drown – After all, why should they succeed in pursuing their dreams when we gave up on ours? Is this what we have come to?
Whatever be the reason, it needs to change. For without out, there is no culture. And without culture, what is a nation but a motley collection of parasites sticking together out of avarice?
India needs its artists, and we Indians need to let our artists – especially the lone rangers, the one bucking the trend – fly high on the winds of time. In a world more cynical than ever, we need art to sustain our hearts and our lives.
As the late Sir Alan Rickman said,
‘If only life could be a little more tender, and art, a little more robust’.