Second regional language book festival to be held in Delhi

Come November and Delhi will turn into an intellectual delight for readers who like to immerse their souls into the writings of India and its multiple languages.

A festival that celebrates Indian writings and its very own Shakespeares and Spencers is returning to the capital for a second time, a year after it debuted and charmed its way into the hearts of many people.

A Samanvay of Indian diversity, the festival will bring together a host of literary figures who will not only discuss the trends in the world of Indian languages, but interestingly also focus deeply on the significance of our dialects.

Those in attendance include luminaries like Hindi doyen Ashok Vajpeyi, Malayalam great K Satchidanandan, Rajasthani writer-poet Arjun Deo Charan, Sitanshu Yashaschandra, Arun Kamal and Alok Rai, among others.

While a lot is written and discussed in elite circles and the media about the trends and currents in English writing, Indian languages generally struggle for space and visibility.

So do the writers of regional languages. By giving them a central space, this festival aims to bridge this gap.

‘Our focus is to connect literature to the masses but concentrate on Indian languages which are producing writers of great calibre, who are unfortunately not getting the right kind of visibility and attention,’ festival curator Satyanand Nirupam said in the middle of hectic arrangements for the three-day event that will begin on 2 November.

‘It is not that we have any bitterness towards writers in English or their work. Our effort is to make sure that as we recognise works of art and literature, the justifiable pride we take in our own languages which have a very rich heritage, should not be forgone,’ he said.

The marginalisation of Indian language writers is not the only undercurrent that runs through the festival and its raison de’tre. The value of dialects that are losing hold in a fast urbanising society is another theme that finds resonance.

The festival, that is hosted by the India Habitat Centre, revolves this year around the theme of
Boli-Bani Bhasha
or the inter connectedness between languages and its dialects, which are aplenty in India.

‘Last year, our focus was on Indian literature. This time we are taking it ahead to its roots, its components and the forms of its expression, its dialects,’ Nirupam said.

In a country as large as India, for every given language, at any given time, there are different trends and currents that can be identified in its writings.

While social churnings can become a major driving force behind writings in one region, violence and tumult can become the theme of another language, and the festival has been planned to acknowledge the themes the different Indian languages are revolving around.

So while a session on Manipuri language will discuss the ‘Idea of a Nation’ from the perspective of Manipuri writers, the session featuring Kashmiri writers will have writers talking about Kashmir’s representation in the mainstream through writings in English.

Another session featuring Marathi language will revolve around Mumbai and its identity as ‘The City of No Outsiders’ as seen in the writings emerging from the metropolis.

‘In the next 10 years, we want to take this festival to every state so that people start recognising it as their own. We will in the coming years also try to touch and bring to the discussion table the dialects that are under the threat of being wiped out,’ he said.
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