Getting Candid with Vaijayantee Bhattacharya

Last Sunday (23rd July), I was lucky enough to have been invited to the press meet and book launch of Mosaic Vision , a beautiful anthology of poems written by Vaijayantee Bhattacharya, at the Oxford Bookstore Kolkata. Vaijayantee is a Poet, Editor and Journalist by profession.  A true Calcuttan by heart, she has been living away from the City of Joy for the last fourteen years- in Delhi and in Bahrain. Thus, it was a magical moment for her to be able to launch her maiden book in the city she grew up in and is so attached to, amidst well known dignitaries and friends and family.

The Press Meet was organised by PR Sufia Khatoon wherein almost twenty media houses came in to interact with Vaijayantee. Her book was launched , following the press meet by chief Guest Shri Jawhar Sircar. This was proceeded by a panel discussion by Dr Sanjukta Dasgupta (Professor, Department of English, University of Calcutta), Mr Shahenshah Mirza (descendant of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah), Ms Saira Shah Halim (Educator, Activist and poet) , Ms Saheli Mitra (Journalist, Author, Poet, columnist) and Vaijayantee herself. The topic for the evening was ‘ Is poetry a reflection of emotions recollected in tranquillity or disturbance? What is its relevance in today’s morbid world of prosaic reality? ‘

I am humbled that Vaijayantee gave me some time from her busy schedule to answer my questions. She answered an array of questions posed by me . Here are the excerpts.

Tell us something about the first ever poem that you had written.

The first ever poem that I had written was in a train to Chennai when I was probably 8 or 9 years old. I was quite taken by the scenic beauty of world outside. That’s when I composed a poem out of the sheer delight of visualising something so beautiful.

How does a poem begin for you- an idea, a form or an image?

 It is either of these and sometimes it can even be a sound, a sight, a news byte or a piece of music. For me, poetry or writing is triggered by anything that emotionally moves me.

 Do you have a particular time when you sit down to write your poems or do they come to you spontaneously?

They mostly come to me spontaneously unless of course there is a subject that I have been invited to write on like a few other anthologies in Bahrain with a specific theme.

 Do you think at times people find it difficult to connect with poems as it has several layers of meaning to it ?

Poetry unlike prose usually is succinct and precise and to attain this precision it often rides on cryptic phrases or imagery like metaphors, alliteration and so on. While poetry is not written in any coded language that a reader needs to decode or crack, sometimes people do find it difficult to appreciate a poem in its entirety not knowing it’s significance.

Vaijayantee reading a few lines from Mosaic visions
Photo: Abhizit Dutta

What does’ being creative ‘ mean to you?

‘Being creative’ to me means being able to create something new and aesthetically pleasing. The new thing created could be a poem, a write up, a painting, a handicraft, a song, or anything that aesthetically pleases the soul.

Has the publication of your first book and its reception affected your writing style?

No, not really. I remain quintessentially the soul that I have always been, changing, growing and evolving only in response to time. My first publication is a matter of great joy to me but I can’t say it has or can change my writing in any way.

Which, out of the two , do you think is a better medium of reaching out to your audience- through the screen or through paper?

I am essentially a scribe or a writer and poet. If by screen you mean the electronic media, then certainly that’s not going to be my platform aptly. But by screen if you mean the Kindle or the online media then I would say my writings/poems could be savoured well on both media, depending on the comfort level of the reader with his preferred medium of reading.

How do you measure your success as a poet?

Success of a poet to me is not in the number of poem he writes or the number of books he publishes. If at the end of the day, even a single poem of his can emotionally touch a reader’s soul and can resonate similar feelings and sentiments that is where the poet’s success lies. In this context may I mention the great Nobel Laureate and poet Rabindranath Tagore. His poems and songs are the source of succour or sustenance of innumerable people who remember his immortal words of creation in some song or poem at every possible state of emotional upsurge.

If you could communicate with one dead poet, who would it be ; why and what would you tell him/her?

If I could communicate with just one poet, it would perhaps be William Wordsworth and I would tell him that like him I derive absolute joy, love and peace from Nature.

A message you would like to give to your readers . . . .

If you want to savour the taste of different facets of life, through small and big incidents, experiences and observations of a perceptive soul through poetry, then Mosaic Vision is perhaps the book you should pick up. I can’t promise you great moral or material upliftment through my poetry but I can assure you of a more inclusive perspective where you savour the delight of living, loving, longing and appreciating the different nuances of through our daily existence.

Mosiac Vision is not only a book of poems but also a collection of thoughts spanning over eight years . With varied subjects, experiences and emotions intertwined in a few pages, it is bound to bring the reader closer to the poet and also reflect on her take of the world. A review of the book would be published shortly. You can purchase it from your nearest bookstores soon or order a paperback or kindle version through Amazon. Keep Reading !

 

The Red Sofa: Michele Lesbre

“ Even today, I sometimes think of the brief apparition of that stranger I caught in a private moment and of others who have mysteriously settled into my memory, like silent witnesses of my wanderings. “ – The Red Sofa

I believe, that you tend to learn a little more about yourself every time, you embark on a journey. This has been well reflected in the  novel, The Red Sofa by Michele Lesbre.  I read the English version of the novel translated by Nicole and David Ball. This book is available at any Seagull bookstore near you.

This is the journey of Anne, which has been described with sheer elegance and interspersed with episodic flashbacks; which reveals to the reader her personality, glimpses of her past lover and the bond which she shared with her friend Clemence.

Often in our overtly hectic schedules, we tend to neglect the little memories of our life which make it all the more precious. The story line follows the finer observations made by Anne and the deeper contemplation about life which she realizes throughout her quest to find her long-lost lover. From making a journey by train to an unknown land, to becoming habituated by the presence of her grim compartment partner; all these finer details reflect the beauty of the journey that she undertook.

A recurring theme which is common between Anne and her friend Clemence was the acceptance of lost love. Love is not only an emotion but also a moment to cherish for as long as one has it. It is difficult to find love and sustain it through the various ups and down; similarly it is equally difficult for people to cope- up with lost love at times. However, both the ladies have been portrayed as strong women, willing to live their lives with dignity and confidence. Though saddened momentarily on the mention of their unaccomplished relationships, the two women bonded over books and stories; over history, heroes and coffee. It is a symbol of strength possessed by women which is often overshadowed by the feeling of pity for their lost love by the onlookers.

Within the 110 pages of the book, The Red Sofa subtly teaches us some of the harshest truths of our lives and yet gives us hope to continue with it ; for life is short and must be lived with contentment rather than spending time grieving over the loss.

5 Reasons to Read The Serpent’s Revenge

The Last time I ventured to  the Starmarks in Quest Mall, I came across The Serpent’s Revenge by Sudha Murthy. I have recently started reading her books, and am in awe of her writing . Thus, this was a book that I had to pick up. It took me only two days to complete it . And Yes! I loved it. I loved it for more than one reason. Hence, here are 5 reasons why I liked the book and I am sure you would too, upon reading it.

  1. Its MAHABHARAT Time! 

If you are a Mahabharata freak like me, then this is the book to add to your collections. with over two dozens of stories, especially curated from the Great Epic, The Serpent’s Revenge brings to you an unseen and hidden version of this tale.

        2. The Tales are short and crisp.

Each story is hardly five pages long. The stories cover a wide range of themes like love, betrayal, sacrifice, courage, gratitude, intelligence and others. Beautifully put down, each story summarizes an important part of the biggest epic of India. Not only do the stories catch your attention , but it also leaves you with a food for thought.

      3. It Deals with the AFTERMATH of the War too. 

For most novels written on the Mahabharata, you do not find references on the aftermath, barring a few. But , The Serpent’s Revenge pays equal attention to both before and after the war. In fact, it is on a closer look at the names of the chapter, that you would find the book named after a chapter which takes place generations after the war.

      4. Beautiful Illustrations to Watch out for. 

No matter how much you say that a book helps in creating an image of the situation in your mind’s eye; a little illustrations can actually do a lot of good. Hence, Murthy’s illustrator Priyankar Gupta takes care of this aspect. Some incredibly detailed illustrations follow every tale in this book. Not only does it depict the situation but also hints on symbolism. At times, the illustration alone tells you about the scene and the tale. Indeed the saying- ‘A Picture is worth a thousand words ‘ is true!

#serpentsrevenge #bookreview #illustrations #blogpost coming up soon.

A post shared by Subhadrika Sen (@subhadrika007) on

      5. Your perfect On-The-Go Book Buddy

Comprising of short stories nestled between a hundred and eighty-two pages, The Serpent’s Revenge has surely been designed for those lazy days when you grab a book and a cup of coffee; or for those long unending journeys where it serves as your best companion.

The Serpent’s Revenge is available in all the leading bookstores near you. It can also be purchased online through Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon. If you have read this book , do let me know if you have liked it and why? If you have not , well then you know where to find it , if you want to read it sometime later on.

 

The Last Song of Dusk: A Review

The Last Song of Dusk by Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi is an exuberant tale of life and love. What might seem as a personification of the word melancholy through the novel; actually teaches us the harshest truth of life- that it is not always like the cherry on the cake.  The novel is an amalgamation of the various shades of human personalities- from the grey shades of mankind to those of love, lust, bold, innocence, loss and grief- everything finds a space in this novel.

Each character in The Last Song of Dusk is as important as the other. From Anuradha who is the ideal wife, daughter-in-law and mother ; to Vardhamaan who is the best example of a devoted husband. Nandini on the other hand is the mirror that reflects the horrific side of the society- a reality which many consciously choose to ignore, many include in their daily gossips and some find it to be outright loathsome. Even strange as it may sound, Dariya Mahal, the beautiful House by the Sea too has a character and feelings of its own. This made me wonder if my house too has feelings, understands everything but can do nothing apart from silently gazing at my plight.

As you go deeper in the pages of the novel, you would realize how the superficial faces of the people start peeling away. It reveals their lonely, melancholic, broken -yet-living souls. In fact, for me it draws parallel to a time I spent on foreign lands. True to the world, I was smiling but by the evening twilight I had discovered the silence reigning deep down in the hearts of every person.

The Last Song of Dusk is also a beautiful painting, painted on a lonely canvas. It depicts the loss of a dear one; the estranged relationship between a once loving couple; the beautiful friendship between the living and the withering souls. It defines beyond boundaries, a mother’s love for her child. It brings to us the struggles of a vagabond, rejected by the society and yet claiming to fight back until she is remembered by all. It strongly portrays the societal pressures faced by those who go against the norms of the society. But, above all the novel redefines the word ‘love’ for its readers through the eyes of its characters. Love is not only an emotion which draws people closer. At times, it escalates distances between couples; it touches one’s heart for a brief moment only to part again. Love is eternal, glorious, painful, persistent but it does touch everyone in this lifetime; no matter for how brief a period. The language used by the author creates a  vivid artistic imagery in the minds of the readers, one that would be etched on for a long time.

The Last Song of Dusk is available in all major bookstores or you can purchase it from Flipkart, Amazon or Snapdeal. I would highly recommend this book to all my readers. To end this post, I will leave you all with a quote.

Although I know little about art, my instincts suggest that perhaps all art is love in some avatar. It longing and rejection. Its first flower and its finale. – The Last Song of Dusk, Chapter 37,  Page 236.

 

 

Books, Monsoon and Chai: The Booklovers Gathering

Books, Monsoon and Chai was a unique concept devised by Pradipta Mandal and Aniesha Brahma to get together all book lovers under the same roof. Held at The Chaiwala on the 2nd of July, this event was truly special for me. A small gathering of a few bookworms and a healthy discussion regarding their favourite books was an enchanting way to start the event.

After a brief introduction Aniesha Di, reiterated her love for the young adult genre. In fact, she even pointed out the reference many of them have to fairy tales. For me, fairy tales have been a part of my childhood like any other,  however, I had never given much thought to them after reading them once or twice. The idea of stirring a plot with reference to the fairy tales for the youth has already gained my attention.

Having worked in the field of art education , books on child psychology interests Pradipta Di to a great extent. I believe that child psychology books are of immense help to not only children but also to their parents. Books are a reflection of life and they show us how to deal with certain situations better. She spoke about John Holt, an author she enjoys reading.

Moments from Books, Monsoon and Chai

Subhro Da, gave me many new insights to the world of children’s books and their relevance in contemporary times. He spoke about his interest in the words of Roald Dahl and Sukumar Ray– both evergreen authors of their own time. He quoted from The BFG. – a quote so childishly written and yet so powerful in its versus that it connects with the fate of human beings in contemporary times. With Sukumar Ray, the world of gibberish has been fascinating to the young and the old. It has drawn readers to itself with nonsense-syllables only to emerge them completely into the pages of great classics like Abol Tabol.

Madhubanti Di , escalated the conversation from the different genres and our favourite books; to the emotional and imaginary level. She pointed out how they (the books) have always remained our constant companion in each of our moods. There is always a book to read when we are happy, sad, anxious, angry, disturbed and the like. These books have the strength to calm us down, a strength missing in the real world at that moment. She continued how books are a doorway to understand, relate and form different perspectives and interpretations of the common and uncommon situations. In fact, Madhubanti Di focussed on the fact that while reading a book, we often tend to consciously or unconsciously become a character in it. This is something that I personally believe in. After reading a lot of books throughout the years, I still contemplate at times, how I became the rejected Karna in the Mahabharat ; Mukesh from The Mother I Never Knew (Sudha Murthy) who journeyed to far lands in search of his mother; or Seema from The Teak Almirah (Jael Siliman) who saw the world change around her , a community disintegrate around her and yet held the fort refusing to part with the city she was born and brought up in , waiting only for a lost love.

Pradipta Di and Aniesha Di

The conversation then took an interesting turn with two varied but much debated topic. Everyone was more or less agreeing to the fact that the new authors in the horizon must be given a chance for their creative talent. In fact, it is always good to be updated with the current authors, for their writings are fast- paced, thrilling, action- oriented, bordering more on fantasy than real life; but definitely worth a read. Another interesting topic of discussion was how books were made into movies; and whether one prefers to read the book first and watch the movie later or vice –versa.

Paroma Di , discussed how Pride and Prejudice formed an inevitable part of her life . This timeless classic has always been her constant companion when it came to packing her travel bags. Having read and re-read the novel so many times, it has definitely left a profound impact on her. The second novel which had touched her and many other readers was The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Personally, it is one of those books which I can never forget myself.

During my turn, I spoke about the fact that I preferred to enter into the field of world literature and hence have recently taken a liking towards translations. Having read the entire treasure trove of Bengali literature in translations, I had shifted the territory to Indonesia and Kabul for the moment. Though there are many who do not prefer to read translations but in the original language the book was written; it is not realistically achievable as one cannot know all the languages of the world. Hence, reading the translations would at least provide a gist of the story and I firmly believe that reading the gist would also help to understand the crux of a beautiful novel; rather than missing it out completely.

My biggest takeaway from the event was meeting like- minded people. Often there are many who love to read books but cannot write about their impressions of the book or articulate the impact the book left on them. But this discussion was definitely a high for me where everyone came together to share their love for literature. In fact, Subhro Da also informed me about the short stories by Edgar Karat and Peter Bexel from Germany, books that I have already added to my wish list.

I would like to thank Aniesha Di and Pradipta Di for arranging such an event and inviting me as well. It was a fruitful discussion and gave a platform for book lovers to gather around and interact with each other. I am certain that such events would continue and people would take part in it, in large numbers.

Another event for the bookworms is being planned on the 13th of August. If you love books, and want to be associated with this event or just join in for some fun , do come for the event (details will follow soon) and you know whom to contact as well!

P.S Cover Image Courtesy: Books, Monsoon and Chai

 

#NotInMyName Enlightens City of Joy

Not in My Name’ is a phrase which has a powerful meaning to it. It is defined solely by the different interpretations that people give it through their perspectives. 28th June, 2017 saw the gathering of about thousands of people from all walks of life at Madhusudhan Mancha, Dakshinapan, Kolkata for the solitary purpose of supporting #NotInMyName. One of the primary Human Rights that we usually boast of, is the Right to Live. Theoretically, at no cost can that be taken away from anyone in the world. But the reality is far from the written principles where day after day, we read in newspapers and watch in television channels that another life has been put to an end.

I would define #NotInMyName as  an artistic gathering of people and standing in solidarity for a social cause. The evening progressed with an amalgamation of performances including- poetry, songs and speeches. It witnessed the presence of social activists, well- known celebrities like Aparna Sen and Dhritiman Banerjee; and the local people.

The crowd was a very enthusiastic one consisting of the young and the old; known media professionals from channels like NDTV, Times Now, ABP Ananda and others; many entrepreneurs and school and college going students. Such was their enthusiasm that even the monsoon showers could not dampen their spirits. What caught my eyes the most was when the Namaaz was read beside the slogans of #NotInMyName.

‘Not In My Name’ as said earlier can be perceived in various ways. It can be seen as a person being aloof to the current situations; someone who does not want anything good or bad to happen in his or her name. On the other hand, it can also mean that what is happening in the name of society, which consists us, is actually happening in our name and it is time to stop that- by standing shoulder to shoulder against the heinous atrocities.

India is an ancient country with its principles and community life aging back to years best spelt out by historians. However, it has from the very beginning shown co-existence among people of all race, culture, caste, creed, sex and religion. Thus, now is definitely not the time to undo the rich heritage of the country. In fact, if people do witness it being undone, it is time to come together and rebuild it on stronger lines so that no one can ever breach it in future. Thus #NotInMyName is not only a slogan but also immense power given to each one of us to support what is right and raise our voice against the wrong. In the words of  Andrei Sakharo, “Our country, like every modern state, needs profound democratic reforms. It needs political and ideological pluralism. . . and protection of human rights and the opening up of society.”

I would love to know what it means to you and what it stands for you. Do leave a comment so that through dialogue and debate we can take it further and not restrict it to just another evening gathering.

Lastly, I would leave you with some photographs from the gathering.

 

Amba: The Question of Red – Laksmi Pamuntjak

Amba : The Question of Red written by Laksmi Pamuntjak revolves around the modern-day retelling of the stories of the early Mahabharata. This Indonesian novel set against the backdrop of the political turbulence of the 1960’s explores the love and romance shared between the protagonists. Even though a modern-day retelling, Pamuntjak has tried to keep the story line as realistic and close to the original story line, as possible.

Salwa, who was chosen by Amba’s parents for her as the best suitor depicted an epitome of gentleness, calmness, satisfaction and care; and yet lacked to touch the chords of Amba’s heart. Amba , on the other hand , often considered herself to be lesser than her ever beautiful sisters- Ambika and Ambalika. She often thought to herself that she was not fit for being loved and should follow her parent’s instructions and be the good girl that they wanted her to be. Bhishma, a highly educated doctor who gives up his family inheritance and lavishness to serve the people enters the life of Amba , only to turn it upside down forever.

If you are to draw parallel with the original Mahabharata, then true to his character Salwa plays a restricted part in the story. Amba, whose life’s major intention was revenge is shown as a more toned down woman with the sole aim of finding his lost lover throughout the novel. Bhishma on the other hand resembles his character to quite an extent. Despite being handsome and talented, he was forced to live the life of a celibate almost all his life. Though he did love Amba, he was also destined to not have her forever. It is said that the original Princess Amba had cursed Bhisma that each of the sins that he would commit in his lifetime would turn to sharp arrows that would pierce his body when he would die. It is interesting to note how Bhisma would meet his end in Amba: the Question of Red.

Further, for those of you who are well versed with the Mahabharata would wonder about the existence of Shikhandi/Shikhandini the re-incarnation of Amba as Drupad’s daughter/son ; who was destined to exact revenge from Bhisma. The presence of Shikhandi is a question that arouses curiosity in the minds of the readers till the very last page and I would leave it at that for you to find out.

What is interesting in the novel is the theme of lost love. Every character – Salwa, Amba and Bhisma had loved in their lifetime and lost the person whom they loved dearly. Whether it be a conscious decision to leave a person due to incompatibility ; or a game of fate which makes two lovers separate; the recurring theme of lost love is a highlight in the entire novel. Another interesting theme is in the name of the novel itself- The Question of Red. Red is a symbol of love, danger, fate and happiness. When you progress deep into the novel, you would realise how Red is the colour of Fate- the fate which decided the destiny of two young lovers- Amba and Bhishma.

Amba : The Question of Red is a must read for those who love to read romance or would like to explore another take on this ancient epic; where amidst many other themes love is also a crucial one. Pamuntjak has beautifully sealed the fate of the two lovers across decades in this novel. I would certainly recommend my friends to read it. It is available in all leading bookstores near you or can be purchased through Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal.






The Mother I Never Knew: Sudha Murthy

What started off with an unlikely event of finding Venkatesh’s lookalike; lead to the revelation of a life time for two brothers distanced from each other by birth and fate under a harsh society. “My mother says that everyone in this world has six lookalikes. I believe that mine are in other countries, because I haven’t met anybody here who looks like me. Maybe your lookalike is right here in this district.- Page 37” .Similarly, after losing his father, Mukesh stumbles upon a photograph which opened a whole new world for him; and he embarks on a quest to find his true identity. The Mother I Never Knew by Sudha Murthy encompasses two novellas spread across different states, class, caste, situations and yet bound together by an invisible thread of social taboos, social evils and social consciousness inflicted upon the characters.

Murthy beautifully captures the essence of motherhood – the love of a mother for her son amidst the limitations of the social conflicts. Motherhood is an experience that needs to be felt and understood. The chord between a mother and a son is a very special one which cannot be seen and understood by anyone save them. Often, a mother might be misunderstood for her actions, but the steps taken are always for the betterment of the child. The Mother I Never Knew  portrays an important lesson- to never judge the actions of the mother. Onlookers never really know the situation that the mother had to go through and hence take harsh steps.

A frequently asked question under the circumstances outlined in the book is that of loyalty. Does it lie with the mother who gives birth; or the mother who raises the child; often drawing parallels towards the eternal relationship savoured between Devki, Krishna and Yashoda in the Mahabharat. There is no fixed answer to this question as both mothers are part of the same scale to balance the life of the child. Neither is greater than the other. Nevertheless, the scale maybe slightly bent towards the mother who raises the child. Murthy too hints towards this in the following lines, “Giving birth is simply a biological event but parents must move mountains to raise a child to be a good human being. I salute the mother who made you what you are. – Page 202”

Thus, The Mother I Never Knew is an extremely emotional novella which portrays how the search of two men for their identity uncovers the truth from the clutches of the stereotypical patriarchal society. I would highly recommend this book to everyone. It is available in your nearest bookstores or can be ordered online through Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal.

Varanasi Diaries: #Entry 4- Arati at Dashashwamedh Ghat

The two times I had seen Dashashwamedh Ghat , it was the epitome of peacefulness and serenity with few souls , probably tourists wandering here and there clicking photographs and selfies. Some Godman had permanently settled themselves in the steps of the ghat and were quite oblivious to the daily happenings in the trance of their Gutka’s and bidis. Oh and you cannot forget the cows! But this time it was different, every inch of the ghat steps was filled with people waiting patiently for the Ganga Arati to begin. The young and the old, the tourists and the locals, the rich and the poor, the newly weds and those who have seen many ups and down in their lives; were all gathered together to witness the homage paid to the river Ganga.

Visitors awaiting the start of the Ganga Arati

Vendors sold garlands and lamps which can be offered by the people during the ceremony and floated in the Ganges afterward. My friend told me that each ghat had it own separate community which conducted the arati every evening. In the Dashashwamedh Ghat, it was the Ganga Seva Nidhi . I could sense the heat of the full beamed lights even though it was the cold month of January. The speakers were on full volume playing ‘Radhe Radhe which continued for a good sixty minutes.

A pandit engaged in prayer before the start of the event.

Suddenly out of the sea of people, I saw five pandits emerge. They were the ones who would conduct the ceremony. They took some time off and meditated before beginning the actual ceremony. Dressed in beige dhoti and magenta kurta, surrounded by yellow lights, they looked majestic in this royal ambiance. What more they even have live singing of the bhajans! With the people ready and awaiting this grandeur experience, the stage set; all that was left was for the arati to begin.

The Ganga Arati in action

With Bhajans in the name of Lord Ganesh, Ganges, Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna the arati went on for almost an hour after which just as people had emerged in flocks from all around to witness the event, they left in a jiffy and went about carrying their own businesses. The completely occupied ghat became unoccupied and desolate in a matter of hardly ten minutes.

We decided to head back to our hostel after a long day’s sightseeing. But before that Lassi was on our list. It is a shame to come to Varanasi and not try out some of the delicacies the city is so famous for. After trying out some amazing lassi, we even stopped at the paan shop; after all, Benarasi Paan is world famous, right? The temple of Khichdi Baba fell on our way to the hostel. Interestingly, my friend told that the eyes of the Khichdi Baba are always wide open and close only once a day when Khichdi is offered to him.

Benaras is full of stories and legends. One trip is not enough to uncover them all. This was my last visit to the Dashashwamedha Ghat during this trip, but I hope I would return someday again to witness the grandeur of this place again. We had a long day ahead of us and decided to call it a day. Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Sarnath and Ramnagar Fort were also in store for us as part of our sightseeing- and we did have to get up early to cover all these places. More about them in my next post.

Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust Presents Cultural Cocktail

Cultural Cocktail, the latest venture supported by the Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust is to be held on the 17th of June in Showshaa Hall, New Delhi. As the name suggests it is a very youth oriented programme involving a mix or cocktail of literature and performing arts. The concept of Cultural Cocktail entails the adaptations of traditional literature into various forms of performing arts and showcasing them to an audience. From, theatre, classical dance, contemporary western dance to a short film on the life and works of Kunwar Viyogi are what has been encapsulated by the organizers in the programme. The show has been curated by Ayushman Jamwal, author of Chameleon Lights; and is conceptualized with the help of young International artists whose roots go back to the city of Jammu.

The artists who would be mesmerizing the audiences with their performance include Sanchita Abhrol, Anmol Jamwal and Aarushi Thakur Rana. She is the disciple of Kathak Maestro, Padma Shri, Guru Shovana Narayan and has recently founded Rasadance in Australia which is known for its unique storytelling-through-classical dance performances. Sanchita along with Ayushman Jamwal as the narrator and renowned musicians and singers like Madhav Prasad, Vinay Prasanna , Salim Kumar and others would be performing ‘Ghar: Prem Ki Gaagar’. Anmol is in the field of performing arts as a jazz dancer for over six years. He started his training at the age of eleven with the Danceworx Performing Arts and has now joined them full- time. He has also become a sensation in Youtube through his contemporary and funky dance performances. He, along with his co-dancers would be performing ‘Taboo’.  Aarushi Thakur Rana, as a young theatre director has adapted William Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ in Hindi and would be presenting thus in the Cultural Cocktail.

Poster of Cultural Cocktail
Photo Courtesy: Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust

Cultural Cocktail would also introduce the Prem Jamwal Youth Art Innovation Award in the memory of Kunwar Viyogi’s wife, Prem Jamwal. This award is bestowed on a youth who has shown remarkable innovation in the field of performing arts. The first recipient of this award is Aarushi Thakur Rana for having adapted, directed and staged William Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ at the Kunwar Viyogi Utsav in 2016.

One of the main attractions of the events facilitated by the Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust is that they are youth oriented in nature. The members strongly believe that empowering the youth of today is the best way to secure the future . As the youth are the future of the country, they can be the sole saviors of dying languages such as the Dogri language. If they start thinking, performing, adapting, translating and reviving the language then Dogri as well as many such regional languages can be saved from the verge of extinction in the future.

The Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust established on the 4th of September 2016, commemorates the works of Dogri writer, Late Group Captain Randhir Singh, also known as Kunwar Viyogi. Kunwar Viyogi’s deep interest in the field of literature, despite being an Air Force Officer; made him the only known Officer to have been conferred with the Sahitya Akademi Award for his most coveted works of all times called Ghar. He is known to have brought out almost six hundred sonnets in this regional language earning him the epithet of ‘The Father of Dogri Sonnets.’ Moreover his involvement in the 1965 and 1971 wars have left a profound impact on his writings, especially Ghar . Having remained the General Secretary of Dogri Sanstha in Jammu, he felt deeply for the revival of this regional language and thus, the Trust carries on his legacy forward by promoting artists in the field of Dogri language.

The Trust provides a platform to all those from the fields of performing arts and literature to come forward and showcase their talents. In fact, it has initiated scholarships for candidates studying Masters in Dogri and those who pursue research on Dogri writers and poets, especially Kunwar Viyogi ji. Further, the Trust is known to help in generating employment for people working in the field of this regional language. The Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust upholds the two prominent ideals of education and innovation; and thus promotes literature and performing arts which have major innovating elements in it.

A few lines from Kunwar Viyogi’s Ghar
Photo Courtesy: Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust

Cultural Cocktail is the stepping stone event that would take place under the aegis of the Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust as part of their five-city Save the Language Campaign Tour. Save the language is a campaign that promotes the revival of regional languages like Dogri and facilitates the incorporation of these languages in daily use or through performing arts so that the language and the identities of people associated with this language do not fade forever. A major reason for all the local languages to die is because people particularly the youth have stopped identifying themselves with it. Local languages or our mother-tongue are an ideal part of a person’s identity. Losing a language is equivalent to losing an identity forever. Thus, to save the identities of the people and to encourage the youth to relate to their local languages and dialects, Save the Language campaign holds a lot of relevance in contemporary times especially among the youth. Languages can be saved with the conscious effort of the family and society; educational institutions and clubs, groups, literary groups and fests and the like. When all these forces come together, only then can an individual realize the importance of their local languages and try to save it from joining the almost 7000 languages which are on the verge being wiped out.

Thus, the Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust has embarked upon a challenging yet much-needed task of making the youth conscious of the need to Save their Languages and guide them, inspire them and provide them a platform to do so. Cultural Cocktail which is about to take place on the 17th June, 2017 is the base of this campaign which will go on with further innovations and inclusions throughout its five city tour campaign. Kolkata Bloggers is proud to be associated with this event as its Social Media Partners. The tickets to this programme can be booked here.