The All India
Writers’ Meet organised by Sahitya Akademi and National Book Trust, India was
held at Auditorium No. 2, Hall No. 18 on Saturday, 9 February 2013, at the
World Book Fair. The inauguration session was chaired by Shri Vishwanath Prasad
Tiwari, Acting President of the Akademi. Dr. Pratibha Ray, eminent writer and
Jnanpith awardee was the Chief Guest and Prof. K. Satchidanandan was the Guest
of Honour on the occasion.
Welcoming the special
guests, poets, writers and the audience, Shri Sreenivasarao, Secretary, Sahitya
Akademi, informed the audience about the Festival of Letters that is to take
place from 18-22 February 2013. The Meet witnessed excellent poetry and short
story readings from different Indian languages, and explored the tribal and
oral literature in connection with myth, memory and imagination—integral and
essential elements in any literature.
literature—stories, fables, poems, proverbs and idioms—that have been passed on
through generations contain concrete philosophies of human life, material and
spiritual life,” Shri Sreenivasarao said. “Hence,” he added, “we must be keen
on getting published every creative work from oral literature of every Indian
languages so that it can be treasured to survive in published form for ages.”
presidential address, Shri V.P. Tiwari said that “Literature and books are
expressions of human life and hence they will survive through for all ages, may
they be in the form of oral or written. Because, books show the path to the
readers. When one is gropping in dark, and when he reaches a book, he do finds
that path. But, nowadays, books are facing challenges—some that have been there
for centuries and some new. When we look at the past, we find writers hanged,
killed, shot or jailed in various parts of the world. Writer thinks that he is
writing the great truth and this faith of his makes him write. But the
undemocratic dictatorial forces try to suppress the views which needs to be
challenged, because without literature and books nothing improves.”
challenge, he observed, was the electronic invasion of the electronic gadgets.
“Books are searching for their spaces in homes but in many homes they find
place of garbage.” He read out from one of his Hindi poetry collection, of
which, a gist is given in English translation:
A book might
have been kept in the dark
for years and
but one day
in search of
and he will find
and the book
find its reader.
Devi spoke about Indian literature, the relationship between literature and
scripts, diversity in literature and the ultimate result. “Any debate over the
homogeneity of Indian literature is resolved in terms of a multifocal unity by
scholars and literary historians alike, not to steer clear of a controversy but
to assert a valid truth that Indian literature is a semantic-thematic whole. As
Srinivas Iyengar and others have said, Indian literature is one although
written in different scripts.”
Speaking on the
language and literature she said, “Language is created when word reaches the core
of the other’s self with a meaning, provoking thought and feeling. When the
finest bit of man’s realisation, his suffering and celebration inscribe the unique
into the universal, literature is born. Literature with word power creates
character, promotes personality, ignites wisdom, even awaken conscience.” At
the end of her speech she observed, “Ultimately all writers sing the same song,
write the same theme, i.e. love and peace. Le us Love and Let Live.”
Satchidanandan spoke about the idea of Indian literature, its diversity and
commonalities, and what needs to be done. “The idea of Indian literature, as we
see today, has been mostly influced idea of the western view. Literature is a
central theme of South Asia, particularly India, but it finds very small and
marginal place in the literary history of the world. Because, Europeans’ view
of India is based on their understanding on Sanskrit text. This can be seen in
histories of Indian literature since 18th century. These speak only about
Sanskrit literature and the same continued even upto 20th century, when India
had developed into modern literature. For instance, Tamil, which is so ancient
and rich as Sanskrit, is not mentioned anywhere by the so-called historians.
They kept out the languages and their texts, and the most important of our
tradition, i.e. folk and oral literature, where lies our real roots. They
considered them as those not to be spoken or untouchable and the northeast was
the mostly ignored. I wonder if our idea of India really had the northeast in
it. When we talk about epics we do not talk oral epics. And the problem
continues and this outlook reduces Indian literature to one language and one
religion, which is to an extremely dangerous view.
understanding of Indian literature has been a western one, and it looked at it
in an orientalistic view—their view of East, where some hierarchies are
superior and some are inferior. This is a very wrong, simplified understanding.
It does not take into consideration the differences and specifities of
Anandamoorthy once said, ‘when we look for diversity of Indian literature we
see the unity; and if we look for unity in Indian literature, we see the
diversity’. Some languages share some forms of literature while some have only
few of them. There are also equally shared forms and by sharing they grow
along. There are commonalities in the movements in languages and literature—tribal,
epics, dramas and poetry. From 3rd to 14th centuries there were classic
literatures, for instance classics of Sanskrit and Sangam literatures of Tamil
which were Ramanujam called ‘poems of war and love’. From 5th to 19th centuries
there were bhakti and Sufi literature which can be seen in almost all
languages—vaks, kirtans, bhajans and sufi songs etc—for greater understanding
of humanity and religion. Bhakti rejected caste system, it was radical in
contents and created a major change towards equality, for instance, Kabir,
Meera, Basava, Sufi who directly addressed the God rejecting the
intermediaries. When we come to the independence struggle period, we have
Tagore, Bharathi and others. Then came the progressive literature, and various
forms of the present day—tribal, dalit, feminist, atheist and regional.
we need to do is have a federal concept of Indian literature. We have federal
constitution. This concept should respect the plurality and we cannot imagine
India of one religion, one religion or one language. We need to accommodate
diverse cultures, take minorities, dalits and other literatures which is free
from orientalism. To be precise, we must create a new map with all Indian
languages and literature have equal place.”
Satchidanandan’s address was well received by the audience.
next session was the Poetry reading where poets Jiban Narah (Assamese), Ganga
Prasad Vimal (Hindi), Ibomcha Singh (Manipuri), Barjinder Chowhan (Punjabi),
Sakthi Jothi (Tamil), P. Mohan (Telugu), and Chandra Bhan Khayal (Urdu) recited
their creations in their respective languages and English renderings.
followed in the afternoon where Kuladhar Saikia (Assamese), Balram (Hindi),
Bebasis Panigrahi (Odia), Sindhu Mishra (Sindhi) presented their stories to the
audience. Mridula Garg chaired the session.
Later in the
afternoon, a seminar on ‘Myth Memory and Imaginations: Tribal and Oral
Literature’ was held where Ms. Mamang Dai, eminent poet and writer from
Arunachal Pradesh, and Dr. Bhagwandas Patel, an eminent scholar of tribal
studies presented their papers. The seminar was chaired by Nirmalkanti
Bhattacharjee, an eminent editor and writer. The Seminar was organised on the
Theme of the New Delhi World Book Fair on Folk and Tribal Literature.
presented their poetry in English transaltion. But Punjabi and Urdu poets read
out in their own languages, and I hope, Sahitya Akademi will consider asking
the poets to present in English for a multilingual audience in their future
programmes. To quote a sample of poetries, one from the extreme south and one
from the North.
their heads against
the Western Wall
of the Temple Mount
erected by King
demolished and rebuilt
are fosilled as
The Wall contained loud cries, of the past
invoked David, the Prophet
to descend and
answer their prayers.
The sun sets
leaving its rays
on the Wall
the rays of
I now leave the
dripped on the Wall
Has left on me a
Jothi, Tamil poet.
many-layered ends and stigmas.
Shiva are witness to this.
silences, many women
Seek Krishna and
Here now and
gone the next moment.
The one who has
a lot of happiness
has a pile of
stigmas as well.
That is why
Krishna and Shiva
just as poison
and nectar are.
Narah, Assamese poet
(This article is likely to be posted in Tamil, if time permits — R. Shahjahan aka Pudhiavan)