During the first session on the first day of the Chandigarh Literature Festival that kicked off at Taj Chandigarh, Sector 17, on Friday, a discussion amongst Tariq Mahmood Shaam, author of amongst others, Manzilain—The Destinations; Nirupama Dutt, writer and critic; and M Asaduddin, author, critic and translator is equivalent to a power-packed breakfast.
Based in Karachi, Tariq Mahmood Shaam is one of the best known and most travelled journalists of Pakistan with over 20 books to his credid, including books of poetry, compilations of political interviews and analytic exposures in English and Urdu. He has the distinction of interviewing global leaders including former US President Gerald Ford, former Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi and the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and is currently the group managing editor of a daily called Jehan Pakistan.
When Dutt asks Shaam if journalism has been a help or hindrance to his love for writing poems, the author says journalism offers such a vast array of experiences that it empowers one with sensitivity. “Indians and even Pakistanis believe in a myth that says journalism eats poetry. But I think that when compared with an ordinary shayar, a journalist has access to places such as the White House and Rastrapati Bhawan, thereby equipping him with poetic experiences. Also, previously, good writers used to be journalists. But, with an increase in institutes of mass communication, there is a change in the journalists we come across. For that matter, in the west, mass communication colleges have classical literature as a part of their syllabi, while the sad part of Pakistan and India is that we are forgetting our old writers,” he adds.
A writer of ghazals and nazams, when Shaam is asked to choose between the two, he chooses the former. “Ghazals are tough, but they are my favourite. Nazam ki 20 lines ki baat hum do lines me kehte hai (whatever has been said in 20 lines in a nazam has to be told in two lines), and in such a way that it should be understood by the one reading it,” says Shaam, adding that he is influenced by writers including Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Mir Taqi Mir, Mirza Ghalib, Nasir Qazim, Sultan Bahu and Ahmad Nadeem Qazi.A break in the discussions brought forth welcome interruption by Sudesh Sharma’s group, Theatre for Theatre, that entertained with its theatre performances.
As the day proceeded and the second session on author Vishwajyoti Ghosh’s This Side That Side: Restorying Partition began, you knew graphic novels, which are beginning to get in vogue in the country, were going to hog the limelight. In conversation with critic Giriraj Kiradoo, Ghosh, a graphic novelist who has curated This Side That Side…an anthology on Partition with graphic narratives from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, shared that the novel is a collection of stories by 47 collaborators from across the continents. “The idea behind putting together this novel was to talk about the Partition, something that we have always heard about and include others things that needed to be explored. One scenario is about a family from Delhi that moves to Lahore and another family from Lahore that moves to Delhi, but it is eventually their third generation that meets in London and ends up talking about the same house,” explains Ghosh.
Ghosh says the novel also talks about double citizenship. “For instance, I met a man in Dhaka who had moved to Pakistan when Bangladesh was created, but used to come as a tourist to Bangladesh to check on his property. When he retired, he again moved to Bangladesh. So, the novel is also about how we are negotiating Partition.”
Ghosh agrees that the translation of his book into Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi will indeed have a bigger penetration into readers. “I would change the order of the stories, but the graphics would not change as a person who can understand pictures can do so in any language,” he says.
The day concluded with more sessions, including those by Siddharth Chowdhury, author of Day Scholar, in conversation with critic Trisha Gupta and Kiran Nagarkar, author of Cuckold, in conversation with critic Jerry Pinto.