Think fest panellists dwell on issues like Moosewala’s music, literary translations

Apr 05, 2023 09:45 PM IST

Think Fest, Speaking Allowed, organized by Elsewhere Foundation, saw evocative ideas, debates, and discussions at two locations in Chandigarh. The event covered topics like Writing Kashmir, Who is Afraid of Indian Literature, Gazing at Punjab through Art, and Reading Young. The second day ended with a tribute to Begum Akhtar by musician and writer Vidya Shah.

Two-day Think Fest, Speaking Allowed, organised by Elsewhere Foundation, saw a free flow of evocative ideas, debates, and discussions.

Singer Rabbi Shergill (R) interacting with filmmaker Daljit Ami during a session of the two-day Think Fest, Speaking Allowed, in Chandigarh (HT Photo)
Singer Rabbi Shergill (R) interacting with filmmaker Daljit Ami during a session of the two-day Think Fest, Speaking Allowed, in Chandigarh (HT Photo)

The event was organised at two locations in Chandigarh – CII Northern Region Headquarters, Sector 31, and Chandigarh Club on March 30 and 31, respectively.

Day 1 kicked off with the session, Writing Kashmir, by author Ashish Kaul and writer-artiste Inder Salim. It was moderated by city-based senior journalist Manraj Grewal.

The session focused on the need to bring alive different narratives from the Valley. Kaul, who has authored bestsellers like Didda: The Warrior Queen of Kashmir, Refugee Camp, and Rakht Ghulab, said, “The need of the hour is to look at Kashmir from a fresh perspective and focus on the problems of the common man – be it food, power, equal rights, or peace.”

Inder Salim staged a short performance, Lost Phiren, and talked about the role of art as activism.

The next session, Who is Afraid of Indian Literature, was held by JCB Prize-winning author Khalid Jawed, Crossword-prize winning translator Arunava Sinha, Speaking Tiger publisher Ravi Singh, and award-winning poet Nirupama Dutt. It reflected on vernacular literature making headlines and winning awards after being translated into English.

The panellists spoke about translations bringing to centre stage narratives from across the country.

On the type of writing coming forward from young and new writers, Ravi said, “New age writing is diversified content.”

Khalid said, “Urdu is considered the language of Muslims. But that’s not true as it has the ability to connect people;” while Arunava said, “More translators will result in more readers of vernacular literature, which is much needed.”

The third session, Gazing at Punjab through Art, had celebrated singer Rabbi Shergill and acclaimed artistes Thukral and Tagra talking about contemporary Punjab, and reflecting their thoughts, ideas, and vision through art. The session was moderated by filmmaker Daljit Ami.

“I understand the glamour and glory that comes with Punjabi music as we hear it today. I know it and I resist it. Yes, we should know what people are thinking but one has to understand what art is and what it stands for. Where are the voices of Asa Singh Mastana, Surinder Kaur, Bulleh Shah, Sultan Babu, and Dheeraj Kumar, which made Punjab cosmopolitan? Where are the female voices?” said Rabbi Shergill.

“I consider Waris Shah the Shakespeare of Punjab. His invocation of the character of Heer is the cornerstone of Punjabi literature and we have collectively failed that literary heritage. Our responsibility is to take charge and bring change,” he said, adding that he is working on music inspired by poet Sultan Babu.

The last session of the day, Reading Young, busted the myth that young generations are not reading enough. Children’s author and filmmaker Samina Mishra and graphic novelist Ita Mehrotra talked about what young adults are reading.

Day 2 ends with melodious tribute to Begum Akhtar

The second day had vocalist, musician, social activist, and writer Vidya Shah stealing the show with her melodious tribute to Begum Akhtar.

Vocalist, musician, social activist, and writer Vidya Shah performing on Day 2 (HT Photo)
Vocalist, musician, social activist, and writer Vidya Shah performing on Day 2 (HT Photo)

Shah’s performances brought together stories, visuals, music, poetry, and text, along with issues of gender and sexuality.

Shah said, “My tribute voices the feisty, feminist side of Begum Akhtar through her music. She was a rockstar in a time when there was no social media. Akhtari is my tribute to her.”

Shah, who is of the opinion that the making of music is the making of a person, said, “I want to display the narrow yet topsy-turvy road of Bai to Begum through music. I want to show how she navigated through life and faced challenges head-on. That era was dominated by strong women and Akhtari is my ode to them.”

(With inputs from Lavanya Sharma)


    Subhashree Nanda is a Senior Content Producer. She edits for HT City, Punjab, J&K-Himachal and Haryana news desk of Hindustan Times. She occasionally writes on lifestyle, culture, etc.

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