NEW DELHI: Eminent author and social scientist Shiv Visvanathan believes India's repository of fascinating stories and storytellers come from its people's proclivity to gossip.
In his recent book "Theaters of Democracy: Between the epic and the everyday", a compilation of selected essays written over two decades for several newspapers and magazines and published by HarperCollins, Visvanathan has explored this phenomenon.
"I realised that the power of dissent and social science lies in the Indian ability to gossip. And suddenly I wanted my social science to be gossipy and this is what this book is about," says the author.
The anthology, edited by Chandan Gowda, is an eclectic mix of essays that serves as a guide for understanding modern India and hold out a distinct way of looking at the Indian society.
Its recent launch here was followed by a panel discussion with the author, columnist and writer Santosh Desai, filmmaker Amar Kanwar among others.
The book engages with diverse issues like the new dimensions of violence, the value of dissent, creativity in popular culture and the pathologies of nationalism and religious fundamentalism.
A combination of wit, irony and analytical brilliance, it also offers novel portraits of politicians, sport, film personalities, and intellectuals.
Attempting to explore the nature of language of social sciences in India, which has been largely "boring," Visvanathan says it is imperative to tell stories from the science's history which is "fascinating and playful."
"I think deep down the problem of Indian elite is that it's boring. I wanted to explore the nature of language, the question of science, the problem of storytelling and the fact that India is full of such fascinating storytellers. I think we need storytelling about riots, genocides and about stories of development," he says.
According to him, the best analysis of a critical period as the Emergency was one that could be heard from common people who travelled in buses then.
"If you want to listen to the best analysis of that period, go to those buses at that time," he says.
Desai feels that it is the author's innocence with which he views the world, that offers readers an opportunity to develop an alternate perspective.
"He looks at the world with great innocence that has the ability to view things from a completely new vantage point," he says.
Kanwar says the book is a "compilation of interconnected paradigms that underscore the ethical imagination of the reader."
"With all modernity the book is a traditional form of storytelling which creates shifts in the mind of the reader.
"You can move from need to desire to expectation,parallels and the issues of everyday lives that we are confronting daily. The writings create roots for comprehension which you can choose to use or not," says Kanwar.