Write India Campaign S2: Live your Writing Dreams

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”  ― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Do you love characters like Draupadi from the Palace of Illusions or Anupama from Mahashweta, who fight against all odds and earn their status in the society?  Does your descriptive narration flow like river waters and take you on mesmerising travels to the hills, valleys and forests? Or do you have a pen of wits that would make your readers compliment your writing with laughable accolades? If you do, gear up your thoughts, open your laptops, start typing and submit your stories for the next Write India Campaign.

There are stories inside each one of us. Some find apt ways to express it. Others can express it naturally, but do not get suitable guidance to put it forward to the whole world. The online platform of The Times of India , which is, www.timesofindia.com has undertaken a unique campaign in order to give thousands of budding writers a voice , a guide, a platform and most importantly suitable mentorship under ten leading authors of contemporary times.

India, as a country , has always been full of stories and legends. However, in modern times , the art of storytelling keeps evolving with fresh ideas waiting to be explored and expressed to the world in the form of stories. There are thousands out there, who have a knack for churning out great fictional pieces. But due to lack of opportunities, their voices are often restricted to the boundaries of their homes, schools or colleges.

The Times of India has always served the Nation as a Social sentinel, delivering news depending on its appropriate urgency. But with the Write India Campaign, it has also taken up the role of a facilitator, which provides a well-known stage to the budding and amateur writers to come forward and express their passion for writing in front of a wider audience.

Write India Campaign Poster Photo Courtesy: Times of India

The Write India Campaign would continue for a good ten months until 2018. Each month would put forward, an Author of the Month who would provide a passage to the writers around which they would have to weave their original short fictions. The ten authors for this season are: Anand Neelakantan, Sir Jeffrey Archer, Ruskin Bond, Sudha Murty, Twinkle Khanna, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Shobhaa De, Manu Joseph, Namita Gokhale and Nikita Singh.

The team from Write India would shortlist some of the best entries for each of the authors and present it to them. They would further select the winners amongst them. Each of the winners would get an opportunity to fulfil their dreams by getting their work published in the form of a book. What more, they would also be invited for a workshop conducted by these eminent authors where they can nurture their skills further.

The Campaign has already garnered momentum among the budding writers. Many have submitted their pieces for Anand Neelakantan, Ruskin Bond and Sir Jeffrey Archer. While the winners for Neelakantan can be viewed here ; there is much anticipation for the winners of the other two writers to release soon. Moreover, do not miss keeping an eye out for the Author of the Month of October and his/her passage to the writers.  I would further add that this is the Second Campaign run by the Write India Team. Their first campaign held earlier had seen thirty-six successful authors being published in November 2016. If you are a budding writer, then this is an opportunity that must not be missed. For more details and to register yourself as a contributor do visit www.toi.in/writeindia .

Image Courtesy: The Times of India

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 !

 

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.

Bohipeer: A Theatre Review

Synopsis: Bohipeer, brought to you by DRAMMAR depicts the story of five individuals who crosses path after a cyclone in a Zamindar’s Bajra. The Zamindar (land lord) who was travelling with his wife and son comes across the boat of a Bohipeer ( a religious Godman) and rescues him and his servant by giving them room on his Bajra. Unknown to them, in the same bajra travels a young maiden who was forcibly given to the Peer in marriage but showing remarkable strength and determination she ran away from an unhappy and unwanted life right before her wedding. She too was rescued and given shelter by the landlord’s family.

Having read the synopsis it can strike you that the main character would either by the Bohipeer who with his faithful servant was out searching for his to-be wife or the young maiden herself; but looking closely you would find that every character had soul, strength and a different personality of their own. A recurring line during the start of the play by the Bohipeer ‘Karor Monai Shanti Nei. ‘(There is peace in no one’s heart) is indeed true.

Bohipeer reveling his sly plan to Hokikullah.
© 2016 Dramar

Be it the strong- willed and determined Peer who plans and plots to convince his to-be wife to return to him; or the generous landlord who has lost his nights sleep because his lands would be auctioned in no time, a fact that he has hidden from his family for days. Be it the land- lady who has started developing concern for the young maiden but knowing that she was to be the wife of the peer, is scared for inviting the curse of the peer to her or her family; or the young maiden who is a symbol of revolt to the society and wants to live in peace without having to go back or being chased by the Peer anymore. The young son of the land lord too is at unrest. His heart bleeds for the young lady they have given shelter to. But knowing the limits of the society and his mother’s views hesitates in accepting his blossoming attraction for her. In true sense of the term, each one is experiencing unrest in their heart, similar to the cyclone that just went by. As the story unfolds scene after scene, one witnesses the complex reactions of each of the characters and how they write their own fates.

Tahera, the young misunderstood protagonist, played by Biyas Saha.
© 2016 Dramar

What is commendable about the script is the boldness of each of the characters who retains their morality and yet goes against the norms of the society. It talks about women empowerment at a time when women were considered to live only within the precincts of the four walls of her house. At such a time, it talks of a young seventeen- year- old who runs away from her marriage because she has a voice and an opinion of her own. If you carefully look at the story line it also depicts how men come forward and genuinely help women in their times of crisis. A striking contrast is also seen in the character of the land lady who holds on to her old-fashioned beliefs of superstitions instead of trying to think in a futuristic manner.

Bohipeer, is thus a play which reflects tremendous social consciousness and is relevant in contemporary times. All the characters are  quite realistic in nature. The situations highlighted through the play are modern day situations too. It would be wrong to think that such cases are only prevalent in rural areas but also in contemporary urban society. Hence, such plays should be staged more often as performing arts have always been a platform to showcase , protest and suggest regarding the matters of the society and its unrealistic dogmas imposed on the people.

Cast: Sukumar Chakraborty, Krishn Sanyal, Raju Sardar, Biswajit Chakraborty, Biyas Saha, Niharendru Bannerjee

Playwright: Syed Waliullah

Director: Sukumar Chakraborty

Production: DRAMMAR

Make-up: Biswajit Saha , Set: Madan Halder, Set Design: Sunil Mitra

Music: Upamanyu Das, Lights: Tapan Bhattacharya

Avenir 2017 Pulls Crowd with a Harry Potter Themed Tech-Fest

Avenir, the Netaji Subhash Engineering College techno management fest, started about ten years ago, with the agenda to help students over two-hundred colleges in West Bengal, to realize their talents and  reach greater heights.  Since then it has witnessed average participation of over five-thousand candidates from different colleges all over the state.

This year Avenir 2017’s theme was one of the all time favorite-  Harry Potter! Avenir was conducted by Phoenix, the official tech- club of Netaji Subhash Engineering College. Kolkata Bloggers were  proud online partners of the fest. Avenir 2017 took place on 13th  to 15th April, at the college campus. There were about thirty- six events under the broad categories of  General and Fun , Lensified, Robonix, Nirmaan, Cybernix and Gaming.

The events under General and Fun Category were Quizaard, Enactology, Picto-Press, Face Painting, Paper Trend, Beg Borrow Steal, Treasure Hunt, Carrom, Soduko, Dispute, Tech Fair, Knighted and Contrive. Let me tell you more about this Harry potter Themed fest which got everybody’s attention. Quizaard was not about testing your general knowledge but about knowing your interests in books and trending television series and of course, Harry Potter! Enactology was about acting and stage performances. Students who were secretly passionate about writing took part in Picto-Press which focused on creative writing. Paper trend meant fashion related designs with newspapers. Knighted was a chess competition and Contrive involved  circuit designing.

Paper Trend

Lensified as the name suggests included,  photography competitions like  Sprectrum based on street, travel and portrait photography;  Instaclick involved a competition over Instagram;  Lenz’s eye and Click-O-Mania were  exclusive in-house student competitions with the theme of light and shadow and Avenir , respectively. Bioscope was a short film making competition to bring out the storytellers in the students. Cine Articulate was a film reviewing competition.

Lensified in progress

Artificial Intelligence is an slowly gaining grounds in the fields of academia or even Social Media. Hence, the theme Robonix  features events which dealt exclusively with robots (popularly known as bots) and artificial intelligence. Line Tracer, demanded the creation of  a robot which would  follow black lines on a white surface. In Brick Mania, the participants had to make the robot count and differentiate between small and big blocks while in Terra Ranger, they had to create an all terrain robot.  Robosoccer and Royal Rumble saw robots playing soccer and engaged in mini-robot wars.

Line Tracer under ‘Robonix’

Nirmaan which stands for Creation in Hindi, introduced City planning to the fest. It included events like Surv-o-lare,  Bridge-o-mania, Brick-o-arc and Construzoine. the candidates were required to plan and execute their land surveying skills, design bridges with ice cream sticks and build roads in Autocad.

Bridge-o-mania

Cybernix, as the name suggests is an amalgamation of digital engineering. Coding competitions held were Encoding, Web Designing and Stack Race, where the competitor had to eliminate the bugs. In Bon Appetite candidates were given the freedom of designing applications (apps) .  The events under Gaming were NFS, FIFA 14, DOTA 2, COUNSTER STRIKE GO and MINI MILITIA.

Events under Cybernix

No fest is complete without its sponsors. They not only help in the event organisation but also encourage such youth based events in college. Avenir 2017 had many sponsors such as CONSUMER AFFAIRS, Simplify Zindagi, Gate Forum, Endeavour, Niit, Ims, Prepmaestro, Jamboree, Net Wizard, Ogma Tech Lab and ARDENT. Its media partner was Siti Cable and radio partner was 91.9 Friends FM.

 

Text: Sampurna Chandra

Photographs : Netaji Subhas Engineering College.

Story Slam Marks the eve of city's first Storytelling Day

Poster for Story Slam made by Squares and Circles

Are we not fond of stories? Story telling has come a long way out of our grandmother’s kitties in our childhood to becoming a  prominent part of mainstream art , with storytelling groups, professional storytellers, workshops, lectures, theatres , start-ups and the lot coming into existence. Interestingly, each year India celebrates various ‘Days’ but never until 2017 has it celebrated World Storytelling Day on the 20th of March. Thus, Priyanka Chatterjee of Wild Strawberry came up with the concept of having a week-long celebration of this grand event which was to be celebrated in the City of Joy for the first time.

Arpita Nag, giving a performance at the Story Slam Photo Courtesy: SamitBiswas
SanjuktaSarkar Photo Courtesy: SamitBiswas
ShubhashisGhosh Photo Courtesy: SamitBiswas

As a prelude to the World Storytelling Day on the 20th, Wild Strawberry organised the Story Slam on the 19th of March from 5pm to 7pm in Au Bon Pain, Park Street. The concept of the program was very simple with 14 registered participants telling stories in front of an audience. The narration of these stories were of different types from puppetry to dance drama to simple narration. Each participant enthralled the audience with their storytelling skills.  Shubhashis Ghosh , a story teller for the evening says,  “When a storyteller by heart, gets an opportunity to tell a story and listen to a wide range of stories too on the occasion of World Storytelling Day, then you can understand how glad that person will be. Thank you Wild Strawberry for providing such a platform. I’m ready with lot more interesting stories for upcoming events like this” Another performer, Sanjukta Sarkar went on to say, “The process of telling stories adhered to the theme of ‘Transformation’, because it was a transforming experience in itself. With so many story tellers reading out their souls, we were part of an inspiring session, where we traded magical words.” Paroma Sengupta also commented, “I loved the concept of the Story Slam and think it is a wonderful way of celebrating World Storytelling Day. I enjoyed participating in the event and hope there will be many more such events in the city!” 

The participants for the evening were: Biyas Dutta, Priyanka Chatterjee, Arpita Nag, Somolekha Sur, Pragya Goel Gupta, Sanjukta Sarkar, Shubhashish Ghosh, Paroma Sengupta, Sriradha Paul, Kamala Kanta Mistri, Shesadri Shekhar Das, Indrajit Lahiri, Swapna Sen and  Sougoto Sarkar.

A Sanskrit Story in progress Photo Courtesy: SamitBiswas
A dance recital by Sriradha Paul Photo Courtesy: SamitBiswas
Somolekha Sur Photo Courtesy: SamitBiswas

Apart from the story telling sessions by fourteen participants, there was also the newly introduced concept of book tasting. Here, people could browse through some of the best-sellers and read their reviews written by readers. The audience had appreciated the performances and the concept very much.  Raymond Rozario , who attended such an event for the first time said, “Being my first time at a storytelling event, it was a wonderful experience. Enjoyed the unique forms of storytelling through dance, recital and puppetry. Perhaps simple, low-key events such as this will spread the love for & interest for art forms for many years to come.Shilpa Bhaskaran, another spectator also commented that, “The Storytelling Slam was an event to celebrate the storyteller in each one of us. Every story shared was unique, beautifully narrated, and had a touch of innocence that added to the hues of the canvas called Life. I look forward to similar events, which would bring out the creative genius in each one of us.

A Glimpse of Book Tasting Photo Courtesy: SamitBiswas
Puppeteers in actions Photo Courtesy: SamitBiswas
A performance by Biyas Photo Courtesy: SamitBiswas

What interested the audience in general were the different forms of art- oratory, voice modulation, acting, puppetry , dance  and even the use of Sanskrit language to narrate stories – that were used while performing. This created an interesting atmosphere in the event and captured the attention of the audience with a wide array of performances. The event was open to everyone, from all walks of life to come, share, listen, participate or just watch. In fact our tiniest storyteller Biyas was only seven years old.

This event gave a platform and an impetus to all to display their skills of story-telling in front of an audience. Certificates and gifts were given to not only the participants but also to the audience to encourage them into the field of story-telling and also be supportive and attend such events in the future .

Pragya Goel Gupta Photo Courtesy: SamitBiswas
Priyanka Chatterjee in action Photo Courtesy: Samit Biswas

To conclude, it would have been impossible to host such a successful event without the partners –Squares and Circles , the Design partner; Au Bon Pain , the Venue Partner and Mesh, the Gift Partner. Assitej India and Assitej International have always been a boosting factor for events such as these. They have always supported and helped in the implementation of artistic events for the city and the country as a whole. In fact, with their support, it has become possible to continue the celebrations for almost over a week throughout the City of Joy.