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In Search Of New Narrative For Brahmaputra Literary Festival – OpEd


A series of resourceful programs, along with cultural activities in front of an enthusiastic audience, turned the venue of 1st Brahmaputra Literary Festival into a confluence of creative writers, energetic journalists, committed filmmakers, active theatre personalities, dynamic publishing professionals, etc. to attract a sparkling gathering for three days at Srimanta Shankardev Kalakshetra in northeast India.

The prehistoric city of Guwahati welcomed over 15 eminent authors from 10 foreign nations along with over 150 writers from different parts of the country for the three-day literary festival starting on January 28, 2017. Organized by the National Book Trust India (an autonomous organization under the Union Human Resources Development Ministry) in association with Assam government, the festival witnessed over 50 panel discussions, many book release and readings, a number of cultural events including film screenings based on literary creations in presence of thousands.

The first of its kind in the alienated region of India, the festival witnessed overwhelming response from the participants to various sessions hosted in six venues inside the cultural complex namely Tagore Hall, Pandita Ramabai Hall, Premchand Hall, Subramania Bharathi Hall, Nalinibala Devi Hall and Bezbarua Hall. With this unique
festival, the expanding city has emerged as an important venue of literary festivals, lately coming up in Jaipur, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi, Lucknow, Patna, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Ajmer, and Jammu.

Inaugurating the festival under a sunny winter sky, the Union Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar appealed to the literature and authors to contribute for the mission to build a culturally sound society through their literary pieces reflecting the truth. Once a journalist, Javadekar also assured the government’s
support in ensuring the freedom of thought and expression in the country.

Talking about the country’s strength in diversity, Javadekar cited the rich cultural heritage of India since time immemorial and asserted that it would further grow stronger with the true spirit of pluralism.

The Union minister urged the young people to inculcate a habit of reading and emphasized on revitalizing the library movement across the populous country. Javadekar also mentioned about the rich tradition of libraries in Nalanda, Takshila and Vikramshila era.

Addressing the august gathering, Assam’s Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal expressed hope that the festival would provide a rare platform for interaction and the exchange of ideas between readers authors from all over the country and abroad.

Commenting that the literature is the mirror of the society, the young chief minister asserted that it has also the power to transform the society.

Sonowal did not forget to mention about the mighty river Brahmaputra, which remains the essence of life for millions of dwellers in the fertile valley. Legendary Assamese singer Dr Bhupen Hazarika created many of his masterpieces adoring the misty river with his creative zeal and immortal voice, added the enthusiast chief minister.

The State Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, while welcoming the visiting participants to the ‘land of blue hills and red river’, stated that the festival was a dream event coming true for everyone in the region. The energetic minister pointed out that the literature is “the art of discovering something extra ordinary about ordinary people
and saying with ordinary words something extraordinary.”
“Since time immemorial, the human civilization has thrived mostly on
the bank of a river whether it is Indus, Nile, Mesopotamia, Huwang He
or the Thames….Brahmaputra has also been at the core of Assam’s
folklore, inspiring literature, art and music even though often left
behind a wave of destruction during the monsoon. Thus Brahmaputra
Literary Festival seeks out to recreate the magic of convergence of
literature from all over the world to create stronger ties,” commented
Mentioning about the 15th century saint, philosopher, cultural icon
Mohapurush Srimanta Shankardev, 19th century authors like Ananda Ram
Dhekial Phukan, Hem Chandra Barua , Lakshminath Bezbarua, Chandra
Kumar Agarwal , Jyoti Prasad Agarwala etc, Jnanpith awardees Birendra
Kumar Bhattacharya & Mamoni Raisom Goswami with others, the minister
claimed that the Assamese creative writing is among the most vibrant
regional literatures in India.
Celebrated Japanese author Randy Taguchi, Konkani author Damodar
Mauzo, Arunachali writer Mamang Dai, NBT chairman Baldeo Bhai Sharma &
its director Rita Choudhury, the State chief secretary VK Pipersenia
also addressed the gathering under the pleasing winter sky. It was
preceded by a spectacular literary carnival welcoming the participants
to the festival venue in the southern part of the ancient city.
Eminent authors including Neal Hall from USA, Alessandra Bertini &
Carlo Pizaati from Italy, Nicolos Idier & Francois Gautier from
France, Subramani from Fiji, Dhunpal Raj Heeraman & Ramdeo Dhorundhur
from Mauritius, Selina Hossain, Shaheen Akhter & Urmi Rahman from
Bangladesh, Rajiva Wijesinha from Sri Lanka, Raj Heeramun, Ramdev
Dhoorandhar & Niranjan Kunwar from Nepal, Yugyen Tshering from Bhutan
along with many others joined in various discourses and bared their
hearts on different relevant issues.
Many prominent writers from the mainland India including Narendra
Kohli, Rami Chhabra, Vimala Morthala, Khalid Mohammed, Subhash
Kashyap, Makarand Paranjape, Bhagirath Mishra, Amar Mitra, Binod
Ghosal, Angana Choudhury, Mirza Ali Baig etc also participated in
different sessions of the festival.
Similarly resourceful personalities like Manju Borah, Leena Sarma,
Khalid Mohammed, Jahnavi Barua, Ravi Singh, Preeti Gill, Nabin
Baruah, Bhaskar Dutta-Baruah, Dipa Choudhuri, Bela Chandrani, Utpal
Borpujari, Rabijita Gogoi, Arup Jyoti Choudhury, Nanigopal Mahanta,
Arup Borbora, Shiela Bora, Basab Rai etc contributed in various
A number of famed north-eastern creative personalities and journalists
including Arup Kumar Dutta, Yeshe Dorjee Thongchi, Sanjoy Hazarika,
Dhruba Hazarika, Kula Saikia, Jnan Pujari, Prabuddha Sundar Kar,
Wasbir Hussain, Phanindra Kumar Debachoudhury, Pradip Phanjoubam,
Monalisa Chankija, Dileep Chandan, Anuradha Sarma Pujari, Maini
Mahanta, Mrinal Talukdar, Prasanta Rajguru, Aniz Uz Zaman, Sananta
Tanty, Srutimala Duwara, Monikuntala Bhattacharjya, Nilim Kumar,
Suparna Lahiri Baruah, Geetali Borah, Monalisa Saikia, Juri
Borgohain etc were also present on the occasion.
As a part of the festival, few acclaimed movies including Adajya
(Assamese feature film, directed by Santwana Bardoloi) and Mirzya
(Hindi film, directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra) were screened at
the venue. Moreover, distinguished film maker Mehra, Bollywood film
stars of yesteryear Asha Parekh & Shatrughan Sinha and film writer
Shahid Rafi interacted with the art appreciators.
The glamour queen of Kati Patang, Teesri Kasam, Dil Deke Dekho, Mera
Gaon Mera Desh etc movies, Ms Parekh repented that she did not take
the opportunity to perform in a movie of great Bengali film maestro
Satyajit Ray. The Oscar winning film maker offered a major role to Ms
Parekh for his movie Kanchanjungha, but she had to refuse it because
of her busy schedule in Bombay (now Mumbai). The former chairperson
of national film central board now regrets that she actually lost a
life time opportunity with that refusal.
On the other hand, the actor turned politician Sinha claimed that he
had the experience of Uphas (making fun), Upeksha (neglect), Tiraskar
(criticism) and Daman (exploitation) in his filmy life. He also
commented that his biography titled Anything But Khamosh was an
honest revelation of a struggling performer in the glamour world of
Terming the Brahmaputra Literary Festival ‘a grand occasion for the
people of northeast India to celebrate’, the New Delhi based daily
newspaper Pioneer described that with the celebration the region has
also joined the league of glamorous literary festivals across the
country, which is a reason to rejoice after decades of turmoil and
“The very name of the event, which is kept after a mighty river in the
State, will remain a source of congregation, unity and festivity for
the common people. As Brahmaputra has an age-old tradition of
spreading both its fertility and fury equally throughout the State of
Assam, the literary festival must symbolise and take it forward now in
terms of exposing the rich reservoirs of the literary and cultural
dynamics of the region,” said the editorial.
It also added that there should have been a literary festival in the
region long before and now the festival would rediscover the literary
and cultural extravaganza of all the States of the alienated region.
The editorial expected that the literary festival, proposed to be an
annual affair, would help in channelizing new ideas and their
dissemination simultaneously.
Earlier the NBT director Ms Choudhury also expressed hope that the
festival would focus not only on languages & literatures, but also on
cultures, society, politics, performance traditions, music, identity
and the regional media. Herself a Sahitya Akademi Award winning
author, Ms Choudhury also added that Assam aimed to make the festival
a landmark event in the country’s literary calendar. She opined that
after years of conflicts, the people of the region received a fresh
air of friendliness, accomplishment and joy.
Jaya Bhattacharji Rose, while posting in her blog after participating
in the festival, has termed the endeavour a refreshing experience.
It had a crackling good mix of regional writers from all over India
along with a few international delegates. It was heartening to note
how all the guests were treated at par. The hospitality arrangements
made by the organising committee were impeccable, she added. Talking
about the Lit Mart, which was conceived & inaugurated by Ms Choudhury,
the admirer described it a fascinating experiment at the venue.
Assam Governor Banwari Lal Purohit graced the closing ceremony, where
Gauhati University vice-chancellor Dr Mridul Hazarika, eminent Italian
author Carlo Pizaati, famed Indian author Narendra Kohli along with
few others were also present. Introducing himself not as a writer, but
a vivid reader, Governor Purohit also recited few poems from Hindi
The curtain came down to the festival on 30 January evening with a
long poetry reading session among the delegates on an exotic cruise
over the misty Brahmaputra river. The setting sun and its gloomy
reflection on the wavy river water articulated a final goodbye to the
visitors with the promise to meet again in near future on this small

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Nava Thakuria

Nava Thakuria is a Guwahati (Assam, Northeast India) based journalist

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