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Lit fest in Mumbai offers a gateway to regional languages and women writers

Fourth edition of Gateway LitFest reflects new conversations about patriarchy, feminism, gender dynamics; festival runs from Feb 22 to 28

mumbai Updated: Feb 23, 2018 16:50 IST
Jayati Bhola
Jayati Bhola
Hindustan Times
mumbai,lit fest,literature
(From left) Jnanpith award winner and writer Pratibha Ray, poet and literary critic Sitakant Mahapatra and poet and writer Subodh Sarkar at the Gateway Litfest 2016.(HT file photo)

“If you want to understand society, literature says it best,” says Anju Makhija, Mumbai-based poet, playwright and a translator. It’s fitting then, that the fourth edition of the Gateway Litfest reflects the new conversations about patriarchy, feminism and gender dynamics with a focus on women of Indian Literature.

The festival runs from February 22 until February 28 and features 50 women writers from around the country, and books written in 17 regional languages, including Khasi, Ahirani, Maithili and Bhojpuri.

Speakers include actor-director Nandita Das, filmmaker Aparna Sen and author Shobhaa De. There’s also Baby Halder, a domestic-worker whose autobiography was translated into 21 languages, and Nalini Jameela, a former sex worker in Kerala who has released her memoirs. Among other writers are Pratibha Ray, Odiya academic and Jnanpith winner; Patricia Mukhim, the editor of a popular daily in Meghalaya; and Pradnya Daya Pawar, a Dalit-feminist poet and writer.

“The festival is a way for us to understand how these women have been writing, and what their literary values are,” says Pawar. “It’s especially important in such a volatile political atmosphere.”

Director Mohan Kakkanadan says that regional-language translation has been gaining interest in the last five years. “The idea of the festival is to allow the reading public to access it too.”

Mini Krishnan, editorial consultant at the Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University and a speaker at the festival, more publishers now invest in putting out translated books. “The position and visibility of translators has improved,” she says. “But there’s a dilution of quality with an eye on numbers.”

Why focus on regional literature? “To convey that there is no single Indian language,” says Joseph Alexander, executive director of the Litfest. “There is no dearth of good writers in regional languages but they lack a common platform.”

First Published: Feb 22, 2018 00:51 IST