Friday, February 10, 2012

Festival of Letters 2012

Festival of Letters 2012

Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi, organized the 3rd Chandigarh Festival of Letters from 10th to 12th February 2012. Some of the sessions were held at the UT Guest House while the rest were on the Campus in the English Auditorium.

The program commenced on 10th Feb 2012 at the UT Guest House with the Secretary, CSA welcoming the delegates and giving a brief overview of the Festival of literature. The Chairperson, Prof Manju Jaidka outlined the programme, stressing that it was a celebration of literature, and an attempt to link people together with the help of the written word.The noted writer and historian, Urvashi Butalia inaugurated the Festival with a scintillating talk that focused on creativity and the human desire for expression. She was formally introduced by Vivek Atray, a civil servant, creative writer and well-known person in Chandigarh. In her inaugural address, Butalia spoke of several issues related to literature, including publishing, translation, marketing, and popular taste. Talking about her publishing house, Kali for Women and Zubaan, she recounted the problems she faced being a woman in a profession dominated by men.

Lakshmi Kannan, who writes in Tamil and in English, was introduced by Anil Raina professor at Panjab University. Kannan’s book, Nandanvan, a collection of short stories published by Black Swan, was released by Prof Jasbir Jain of the University of Rajasthan, who showed her appreciation of the stories collected in the volume. Anil Raina appreciated the wide range and versatility of her stories. The writer read from a story from her collection that was very well received by the gathering.

Rajee Seth, who has written and translated in Hindi and in English, was in conversation with Jasbir Jain who highlighted the outstanding characteristics of the writer’s work over the last half century. There is a lot of intensity in the writings of Rajee who is equally at home in English and in Hindi. Several of her stories have been translated into other languages. She admitted that she has not addressed major themes of her life because she feels they are too personal and the time is not yet ripe for them to come into public view. For this reason, most of her writings have remained unpublished. She spoke at length about the creative process and the pain involved in creativity.

Sanjukta Dasgupta, who teaches at the University of Calcutta, is again bilingual and writes / translates in two languages: Bengali and English. Introduced by Prof Sudhir Kumar of Panjab University, she spoke of women’s biographies, memoirs and diaries, and read some of her poems that were greatly appreciated. As in the earlier sessions, the focus was strongly on women’s writings and how it has not been easy for women to give public expression to their emotions. This being the 150th aniversary of Rabindranath Tagore’s, Dasgupta read her poems on the Nobel laureate and also in Bengali, translating them for the benefit of the audience. Her very feminist poem on a “sari-shackled woman” was highly appreciated.

There was also an interaction with a visiting writer from France, Brigitte Foray, who writes / translates in several languages including French, Spanish, Russian and in English. Brigitte is the director of a theatre company and spoke at length about the issues involved in choosing the right script and getting into the minds of the characters created. She finds theatre a liberating institution that allows one to give expression to one’s innermost feelings. Brigitte was introduced by Yojna Rawat, herself an established writer and professor adept in four languages: Hindi, English, Punjabi and French.

The second day of Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi's Festival of Letters 2012 covered a varied field, comprising interactions with Raji Narasimhan, Mridula Garg, Shafi Shauq, Vanita, and Sagari Chhabra. These sessions were held at the UT Guest House. In the evening there was a special session with poet, journalist and lyricist, Neelesh Misra in the English Auditorium of Panjab University.Raji Narasimhan, who has written and translated extensively, spoke about the intricacies of translation. She has her own take on the subject and believes that "translation should read like a translation; it id not original and cannot be original." In her opinion, a translator must highlight the differences between two lingua cultures, drawing from the experience of both. Translation is a "celebration of this experience." However, a translator must understand the texts, its essence and tone; only then will the activity be a rewarding one. Raji's strong viewpoints led to a lot of animated discussion but she remained firm in her convictions.

Mridula Garg, who was introduced by Vandana Shukla, has been a firebrand writer and still continues to draw attention wherever she goes. her best known work, which also became ver controversial, was "Chitkobra" with which she shot into the limelight. Garg has a subtle sense of humor and a tongue-in-cheek manner of narrating a story. she gave a lucid account of her evolution as a writer and read from her novel "Miljul Man." She was a contrast to the soft-spoken and gentle Vanita, who writes in Punjabi. Vanita recounted how she was trained in music and dance and only turned to poetry later in life. The themes that inspire her are related to women's issues but she does not express her viewpoint directly. she uses myth and legend to tell the truth slant. In conversation with Vanita was Balpreet who works as an anchor for a TV channel.

Shafi Shauq, known for his writing in Kashmiri, Urdu and English, was introduced by Mohamad Aslam as a very versatile person who has written in several languages including Urdu, Kashmiri and English. Shauq, who has written as may as forty-five books and writes for twelve hours everyday, endeared himself to the audience with his gentle humour. He regaled the gathering with a lucid account of his younger days as an activist steeped in Marxist ideology. in the University of Kashmir, Srinagar, Shauq was the one whose efforts had led to the establishment of the Dept of Kashmiri. His poems in Kashmiri, Urdu and English were greatly appreciated by the audience.

Sagari Chhabra is a theatre person who writes poetry in English and also has made award-winning documentaries. Some of the poems she read in English were read in Punjabi translation by Atamjit. Both were highly applauded. A social activist, Sagari has been involved in several human rights issues. Her writing is on political themes like Gujarat, the nuclear warfare, global warming, etc.

The evening session was devoted to Neelesh Misra, poet, lyricist, journalist, author and radio story-teller. Neelesh kept the audience spell-bound with the recitation of his poems and stories from his Yaad-Sheher collection. He was accompanied by Sanju Kapoor, who supported the narration with the strumming of his guitar in sync with the story. Neelesh writes for Bollywood and TV films, too. He has a Band called Nine and sang a few selected lyrics.

On the third day of the CSA Festival of Letters, held at the Panjab University, Chandigarh, an interaction was held with the noted award-winning poet, Jaswant Deed. He was introduced by Dr Yograj Singh who gave a brief account of the work and achievements of the poet. Comparing him with leading names like Paash, Yograj described him as a revolutionary poet who writes realistic poetry, focusing on the oppressed and the marginalized. Jaswant Deed read some of his poems to an appreciative audience. In particular, his "Conference Poem" received an enthusiastic applause.

Although many aspects of creativity were discussed, the main points of focus that emerged from the various sessions were creativity in translation, women’s issues in literature, and the freedom of expression. Each writer/critic presented a different take on these and related items.

The concluding session of the Festival was the Annual Awards Ceremony which was presided over by Sh KK Sharma, IAS, adviser to the Administrator, Chandigarh. The Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi has held a number of Creative Writing Competitions through the year for school children, College and university students. These prizes, and also certificates of appreciation to the volunteers, were given by Mr Sharma. Manju Jaidka, Chairperson of CSA, mentioned that these competitions were held with the help of Vibha Ray, Puneet Bedi, and Meenu Gupta. Supporting them were several younger colleagues and students including Neha Soi and Harpreet Bali. Altogether fifty prizes were given and twenty certificates of appreciation to volunteers.

The Annual Awards of Recognition were given to six senior writers who have devoted their lives to literature. These writers are from different languages: Sh OP Sondhi, Smt Shashi Prabha, Smt Manjit Indira, Sh Dev Bhardwaj, Sh HK Lal, and Ms Nirupama Dutt. The Award carries a citation and a cash gift of Rs. 11,000.

The Adviser, Mr KK Sharma, in his presidential remarks, lauded the role of the Akademi and promised all possible assistance in future programmes. Accompanied by his wife, Mrs Sharma, he interacted freely with the audience. Their warmth and easy informal manner endeared them to all.

Madhav Kaushik, Secretary of CSA, ably compered the program. Manju Jaidka, Chairperson, in the vote of thanks, congratulated all the awards winners and thanked all the guests as well as the supporters, particularly the Panjab University faculty associated with the program: Profs Anil Raina, Sudhir Kumar, Yojna Rawat, Drs. Yograj Singh, Meenu Gupta, and others. She entreated the audience to stay tuned and keep abreast of the activities of the Akademi.

Monday, February 6, 2012


10TH FEB 2012

Venue: U.T. Guest House, Sector 6, Chandigarh

11TH FEB 2012

Venue: U.T. Guest House

12TH FEB 2012

Venue: English Auditorium, Panjab University, Chandigarh

10.30 am to 11.00 am

Welcome by Manju Jaidka

10.30am to 11.15 am

Raji Narasimhan introduced by Lakshmi Kannan

10.30 am to 11.15 am

Manjula Rana in conversation with Madhav Kaushik

11.15 am to 12 noon

Urvashi Butalia introduced by Vivek Atray

11.30 am to 12.15 pm

Mridula Garg in conversation with Vandana Shukla and

Madhav Kaushik

11.15 am to 12.00 noon

Jaswant Deed introduced by Yograj Singh

12.00 noon to 12.45 pm

Lakshmi Kannan introduced by Anil Raina

12.15 pm to 01.00 pm

Vanita introduced by Balpreet

12.15 pm to 01.00 pm

Surjit Patar introduced by

Paul Kaur

02.00 pm to 02.45 pm

Rajee Seth introduced by

Jasbir Jain

02.00 pm to 02.45 pm

Shafi Shauq introduced by Mohammad Aslam

01.00 pm to 01.30 pm



02.45 pm to 03.30 pm

Sanjukta Dasgupta introduced by Sudhir Kumar

03.00 pm to 04.00 pm

Sagari Chhabra introduced by Atamjit




10TH – 12TH FEBRUARY 2012

03.30 pm to 04.00 pm

Brigitte Foray introduced by Yojna Rawat

11TH FEB 2012

Venue: English Auditorium, Panjab University, Chandigarh

06.30 pm


(introduced by Shayda Bano

and Yamini Tripathi)