It was Day 2 of the recently concluded 4-day ‘Samanvay’ festival of Indian Languages at India Habitat Centre in Delhi, and the most awaited session was to commence shortly.

Habitat’s Amphitheatre is undoubtedly the ideal venue for literary gatherings, poetic sessions, debates, seminars and of course cultural performances one can think of, especially in this season when there’s a nip in the air and the open-air ambience can only add to the overall festive fervour. Coming back to the evening’s itinerary, two poetic geniuses of Indian literature were in a few moments’ time about to open their diaries locked within were verses, rhymes, couplets and memories.

Today’s language is changing: Gulzar
A conversation between noted lyricist, poet and filmmaker Gulzar and a much revered poet and Sahitya Akademi Awardee Kedarnath Singh was a coming together of Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi; languages that have evolved and undergone many changes over the years since partition. “The very fact that today’s language is changing means it is progressing. Other influences, whether it’s Urdu, Pashto or Balochi, are being integrated too. My only concern is when we try to transform the language into ‘Hinglish’ and in the process end up insulting two languages,” says Gulzar, post the launch of his new book for children titled ‘Bosky ka Panchatantra’. “When she (Bosky aka Meghna Gulzar) was small, I would tell her these stories and there would be one new story on her birthday every year. These stories have stayed with me since then,” said Gulzar.

Kedarnath Singh and Gulzar: Who’s the master?
While Gulzar confessed how nervous he was to recite poems in front of Kedarnath Singh, the latter said, “I’ve been part of many poetry readings in the past but the dilemma that I face today upon reading with a star like Gulzar is something I’ve never experienced before”. Like a student, Gulzar requested Kedarnath Singh (retired as professor in the School of Indian Languages, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi) to begin and what followed was a kind of ‘jugalbandi’ between poets where both engaged in relentless praises for each other, often ending with an encore of favourite lines from one another’s poems. The most distinguishing feature of Kedarnath Singh’s poetry is its simplicity and the way it breathes life into inanimate objects like a postcard, broken tooth, busy road, an abandoned capsized truck or pieces of furniture. What’s interesting is how both these poets bring such ‘lifeless’ articles to life to convey the deepest of human emotions. For instance, Gulzar in one of his poems talks about retrieving an ‘elaichi’ (cardamom) from the right pocket of an old coat. The poet is reminded of the fragrance of an old friendship that makes an unexpected return to hug him one winter:

Ek purane coat ki daayin jeb mein ek elaichi mili…
…purani dosti thi, bahut dinon ke baad iss tarah gale mili”

Presently, Gulzar is working on translations and the stories that he feels have been written with a sense of directness and conviction are the ones from North East India. “The emerging literature from North East India is vibrant, powerful and a true reflection of what’s happening today,” said Gulzar. In one of the earlier sessions, Sylvanus Lamare, Khasi scholar and educationist elaborated on the richness of ‘Khasi’ that was once enlisted as one of the endangered languages by UNESCO but later removed from the list.

Samanvay 2013 highlights: Connecting languages, reviving traditions
The theme of the festival was ‘Jodti Zubanein, Judti Zubanein: Language Connections’. The session on vanishing cultures was the most thought provoking where linguist Udaya Narayana Singh along with JNU linguistics professor Anvita Abbi and DU professor Alok Rai expressed concern over a survey conducted by UNESCO India that stated 196 languages as ‘endangered’. Alok Rai said that when a language dies, a million cultures die with it. Attempts to suppress or obliterate a language which result in the unnatural death of a language must be relentlessly fought and reclaimed.

While writer-activist Shuddhabrata Sengupta, writer and environmentalist Anupam Mishra and Bangla writer and social activist Jaya Mitra analysed the meaning of civil society and activism; folklorist Chinappa Gowda, Kodava writer and scholar Rekha Vasanth, Konkani writer Jayavantha Nayak and B.M. Haneef discussed the significance of oral literary languages of Karnataka in another session.

‘Small Cities, Big Dreams’ was about bittersweet memories of living in small cities that refuse to leave even when you come to big cities chasing your dreams. The panel comprised actor, music director and scriptwriter Piyush Mishra, actor Shilpa Shukla, author Omair Ahmad and journalist Ravish Kumar.

(Source:  )


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