Merging the oral and written word

LINGUISTIC ISSUES: The four-day language festival had an array of interesting literary sessions and cultural performances

Seventy-year-old, Om Prakash Pandey is a live-wire when it comes to performing Alha-Udal - a traditional form of storytelling in Awadhi language. His performance as part of the recently concluded Samanvay - Indian Languages Festival, along with others reflected the rich tradition of oral literature in the sub-continent.

The third edition of the four-day language festival at India Habitat Centre was a melange of written and oral words where the interactions between writers kept the book lovers engaged in the day time and performances such as Alha-Udal and Dastangoi nourished their thoughts in the evening. A wonderful blend of varied forms of storytelling, the performances in the evening were a golden chance for those who want to witness the fading trend of storytelling culture.

After all, these too emanate from the concept of ‘language’ which forms the essence of Samanvay. But apart from being a confluence of only languages, this edition of festival was also a convergence of different forms of art. From the opening day onwards, there was an interesting array of sessions lined up. While popular names such as Gulzar and Mahesh Bhatt garnered more numbers, the regional littérateaurs were a hit among audiences who travelled from different parts of the country to be a part of this historic confluence.   

The poetry session - Reclaiming the Earth was the highlight on day one “where Tenzin Tsundue, Prakash Uday, Sushma Asur and Prabhat were brought together on one platform and showcased their poetic skills in their native languages,” shares Satyanand Nirupam, creative director of Samanvay, declaring it as his favourite session.

While the second day had separate sessions dedicated to Rajasthani, Telugu and Khasi languages, the Bhojpuri and English languages were the highlight on the third day. These had the presence of renowned personalities who brainstormed at length, on various issues pertaining to languages.

The final day kicked off with writer-activist Shuddhabrata Sengupta opining on civil society and its activism. The session dealt with the challenges faced in speaking on behalf of people and the problem of representation in a democratic system that runs on representation. The following session saw a lively discussion on the oral literary languages of Karnataka which was joined by folklorist Chinappa Gowda, eminent Kodava writer and scholar Rekha Vasanth, Konkani writer Jayavantha Nayak and BM Haneef.

The session on ‘Small Cities, Big Dreams’ that followed was joined by actor Piyush Mishra, actress Shilpa Shukla, author Omair Ahmad and journalist Ravish Kumar. It turned out to be highly amusing for the audience with the panelists recalling their memories and their opinions about the small cities they hailed from.

But the festival was not just about intellectualism, also about celebrating our rich culture of languages and their coming together in various forms. It won’t be long when these sessions will be documented and archived to acquaint the future generations with our fading cultural heritage!

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