A MargHumanities-NMML Conference – Vernaculars Underground: Histories, Politics, Aesthetics

On February 9, 2014 by admin


March 7th and 8th, 2014, at Teen Murti House, New Delhi

Is it possible to create something of a larger platform for humanities studies by stepping outside of academia to think about it more rigorously, clearly, reflexively? Can we think about arts and literature through ways and means that are calm and raw, capricious and angry, and yet deeply analytical and sensual?  Can we ponder and underline afresh the visceral and expansive political core that the humanities bequeath us along with an edgy sense of aesthetics, in these times of grandstanding, networking and spinning fashions? Is it at all possible to talk about literary movements in times of globalization, or are people who are passionate about the humanities destined to remain independent, sectarian and fractious?

There are remainders and reminders.  Around us. We just choose not to see them. Or we may be unaware of them, but certain people do exist in our part of the world—those who have been able to keep out of circuits of power and influence and be invested in local causes and commitments, and given their lives to full blooded love of literature.  Not naively, but sometimes with a detached zeal. And sometimes with a sense of immediacy and urgency.  On the one hand, they have kept their eyes and minds open so that they do not turn into provincial nativists.  On the other, such people – and the movements or platforms that they represent – have also been able to keep their subtle, robust sense of internationalism outside of the cosmopolitan lure.  These are expansive souls, who prefer working in little ways.

They have paid a price for their convictions. Our academia and our festivals have been successfully able to keep them out of important venues and podiums. Political parties have been wary of their ways and methods. They have been persecuted and ostracised. Often they have lived strange lives—suspended. But indomitable souls that they are, they have been able to channel their endless energy into creative pursuits, in ventures hitherto un-thought of. Their silent commitment to the humanities is easily revealed when they wield pens to create poems touched by magic, when they talk and walk, when they come together to write a collective manifesto. They still believe in humour and tragedy. They meet personal and social conflict and antagonism headlong. They detest civility. They affirm life, above all.

Small publications and committed people have their own politics and issues. It is a world of conflict. People who inhabit this world are canny and common, as everywhere. Coteries and groups, strategies and stratagems also mark this world. So, any such meeting about the humanities cannot be under the romantic assumption of a search for the alternative or end up being a misguided venture to seek authenticity of some sort. And that is the strength of the humanities. Literature, unlike the social sciences, takes into account our ‘wrong’ impulses and does not look for mukti or prematurely idealise any one form of representation. That route seems boring and self righteous to those who love literature. For them, it is important to mark out and seek passion, risk, conflict – and it is important to ask the difficult, sometimes incorrect questions. We have a lot to learn from people and groups who have tenaciously and tendentiously been hanging in there! Wryly, with wit, grit and zeal.

Therefore we shall shun all forms of goodness. And eschew the podium and arc-light culture on March 7th & 8th at the NMML. We shall expend our energies instead on thrashing out some difficult questions about the world of little magazines, blogs and other minimal literary practices in contemporary South Asia. And drawing upon those debates, try and find entry points into larger questions of and about the humanities. We will have two days of literary and political adda —on the very nature and idea of underground literature in India and its prospects. As hinted above, one way to talk about the issue is to address the relevance and importance of little magazines and blogs that deal in literature and politics. The whole little magazine movement in various parts of the nation had a certain kind of approach: that of literary and political engagement.  There were formal experiments in styling too; there is a serious aesthetic component in these ventures. Some print magazines from the 1960s and the ’70s continue to have a powerful impact on our lives. New forums and blogs have developed too with changing times. What has changed since the second half of the last century in small publications? What are the significant political-literary questions of our time for serious non-academic magazines?

Often the editors and writers and practitioners of such ventures do not have a forum to reflect upon their craft and approach, at least not at the national level. Often their regional motivations are not discussed with their co-practitioners from other parts of South Asia.  We hope to provide a little platform where we can exchange notes and tactics for future directions in the humanities, where we can have a serious give and take about our craft and job, but by looking outside of institutionalized academia for our concerns. We shall de-academize academia as we know it and as most of us practice it. We shall have editors, writers and bloggers from Uttaranchal, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Assam, Kerala, Delhi and Bangladesh at Vernaculars Underground: Histories, Politics, Aesthetics organized by MargHumanities in collaboration with the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi on March 7 and 8, 2014.

Although we believe ideas and issues and fresh contours of literature and politics will emerge and develop over the two days through discussions and talks, MargHumanities hopes that some of the following issues will be addressed in the course of those conversations:

  1. How to bring back a sense of stout antagonism and desolation into literature and enthuse a generation. Without sloganeering. Consequently, what are the ways to embark upon and take on the reactionary ethical ideas of agonism and negotiation, bond and bonhomie?
  2. How to address the issue of painstaking local work and the formation of literary-political platforms. How can new platforms be built? And what are the ways to reject the culture of cosmopolitan networking and/or quietist ventures that routinely depoliticize and diffuse sharp literary interventions?
  3. How to address the questions of love and humour, negativity and idealism in literature for our times. Without looking for mukti. Consequently, what are the ways to skirt and reject a culture of social responsibility and institution building and still make literature and politics deeply significant in our lives?
  4. How to take humanities outside of academia and seriously engage in the everyday-local and yet remain deeply international in outlook.  Consequently, what are the ways to eliminate and discard protocols of the academic world that are tied to the global?
  5. How the idea of the ‘small’ or ‘minimal’ writing – in little magazines, blogs, short literary-political interventions in other media spaces – can provide an entry point into thinking about the above questions. Can we see such activities as either philosophical or methodological pointers toward finding ways out of institutionalized academia for the humanities? That is, can the idea of ‘little’/’fringe’/’marginal’ (without invoking the romantic alternative) activities, that promote and feed into humanities discourses at large, function for us as a theoretical tool with which to evaluate and confront an increasingly-bureaucratized academia, and drive a wedge that will even slightly, eventually, alter the shape of humanities practices everywhere, including in the institutions which we seek to leave behind us in this search? In other words, can this tool feed back into academia as well a small thread of not just new resources but also a few new methods?


VU poster 4F


Friday, March 7, 2014


9.OO am

WELCOME Mahesh Rangarajan, Director, NMML

HANDOVER OF THE ‘PAHAL’ ARCHIVE TO NMML Sent by Gyanranjan, Editor of PAHAL, to NMML, facilitated by MargHumanities**

OPENING REMARKS Prasanta Chakravarty and Brinda Bose,



I     9.30 am – 11.45 am


ANIL YADAV (Journalist/Writer, Lucknow): Sinews of the Political in the Hindi Underground


ASHOK PANDE (Editor/Writer, Kabadkhana blog, Hindi, Haldwani, Uttaranchal): The Simple Joys of Rag-Picking


CHAIR/DISCUSSANT: HIMANSHU PANDYA (Academic/Writer, Hindi, Dungarpur, Rajasthan)




II    12.00 noon – 1.45 pm


AMIT SENGUPTA (Journalist/Academic, English, IIMC, New Delhi): Parallel Cinema of the Media Industry: The difficult and stimulating narrative of small is beautiful


 SHAWON AKAND (Artist/Activist, Bangla and English, Dhaka, Bangladesh): Beyond the Colonial Hangover: Alternative Art and Politics in Bangladesh


CHAIR/DISCUSSANT: JITENDRA KUMAR (Freelance Journalist, Hindi, Delhi)



III   3.00 pm – 5.15 pm


ANIL ACHARYA (Editor/Writer, Anustup, Bangla, Kolkata): The Dynamics of Change in Bengali Periodicals


DEVABRATA SHARMA (Editor/Academic, Assamese, Jorhat): Vernaculars vs Vernaculars: Assamese, Bengali and Tribal Languages


AVIK BANERJEE (Editor/Proprietor, Dhyanbindu, Bangla, Kolkata): Like a Spider’s Web


CHAIR/DISCUSSANT: RAJARSHI DASGUPTA (Academic/Writer, Centre for Political Studies, JNU, New Delhi)


Saturday, March 8, 2014


IV         9.15 am – 11. 30 am


PROBODH PARIKH (Writer/Faculty, Gujarati and English, Whistling Woods, Mumbai): Literature as Politics: Little Magazines in Post-Gandhi Gujarat


SATISH KALSEKAR (Poet and Editor, Marathi, Raigad, Maharashtra): Marathi Little Magazines and the Dalit Question






V          11.45 am – 1.30 pm


JAYAPRAKASH (Editor/Writer, Malayalam, Mumbai): Calls from Posterity: Voices of Little Magazines addressing the Future


MOUSHUMI BHOWMIK (Singer/Songwriter/Music Researcher, Kolkata): Lessons in Listening: The Story of The Travelling Archive


CHAIR/DISCUSSANT:   MIHIR PANDYA (Writer/Editor/blogger, Hindi, Delhi)




VI         2.30 pm – 4.15 pm


GIRIRAJ KIRADOO (Writer/Editor/Academic, Hindi/English/Rajasthani, Lakshmangarh, Rajasthan): The Art of Self-deception in the Real Estate of Colonizing Angels


VARUN GROVER (Lyricist/Lead Writer, Jay Hind, Hindi, Mumbai): अन्डूबक्सई/ Undo Your Buckles (‘Andubaksai’ in Kanpur)


CHAIR/DISCUSSANT: REYAZUL-HAQUE (Editor, Hashiya blog, Hindi, Delhi)


            4.30 pm – 5.30 pm





**PAHAL (meaning ‘a beginning’ in Hindi) is one of the most influential literary magazines in Hindi that has seen uninterrupted publication since the early 1970s. Published from Jabalpur by Gyanranjan, noted Hindi novelist and short-story writer, the magazine publishes poetry, fiction, non-fiction, critique and essays concentrating on issues of contemporary interest. Although the publication does not have a declared periodicity, three to four issues are normally brought out every year. Over nearly 35 years of publication, 85 issues have been published.

PAHAL has never been archived as a complete collection in its 35 years of existence. MargHumanities is delighted to facilitate the handover of the PAHAL collection sent by Gyanranjan, its editor, to the NMML for a home in its library.




VU poster 4F





Currently based in Lucknow, ANIL YADAV is a journalist with The Pioneer. He is the author of the remarkable travelogue ‘Yeh Bhi Koi Des Hai Maharaj’ and has  just published a scathing collection of short stories titled ‘Nagarbadhuye Akhbarein Nahin Padhti’. His fiction and travel writings are featured on several websites including iharmonium, pratilipi, and kabaadkhanna.





ashok pandeASHOK PANDE is a poet, painter and translator who runs the cult Hindi blog Kabadkhana.  His collection of poetry Dekhta Hoon Sapne was published in 1992 and he has translated Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate into Hindi. Pande has written books on Yehuda Amichai and Fernando Pessoa, and many of his travel-pieces and translations from world-poetry have appeared in Pahal.


550333_427591080588762_2058162071_nHIMANSHU PANDYA teaches Hindi in Dungarpur, Rajasthan. He is associated with the Jan Sanskriti Manch. He is currently conducting research on the ‘Navjagaran Kaal.’ His primary areas of interest are cultural studies, children’s literature and pedagogy. He has been a member of the text book committee of  NCERT and has consistently been publishing on important Hindi novelists and fiction writers.


AMIT Sengupta columnAMIT SENGUPTA is currently Associate Professor of English Journalism at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication. New Delhi. Till recently, was Executive Editor, Hardnews magazine, Delhi. He has been Editor, Tehelka, News Editor, Outlook and Senior Assistant Editor, Hindustan Times, among other assignments in leading Indian newspapers and magazines.


shaon akandSHAWON AKAND is an artist, researcher and curator based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He has been involved with alternative literary initiatives and art practices for more than two decades. He has graduated from Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka in 1997. He is the coordinator of CRACK Bangladesh, a non-profit platform for alternative art practice in Bangladesh. He is also the curator of Gallery Jolrong, Dhaka.


jeetuJITENDRA KUMAR is a Delhi based freelance journalist. He is currently working on a biography of Karpoori Thakur. His work has focused on politics, social questions and the development sector.  He has contributed opinion pieces in national dailies and journals like Jansatta, Outlook and Tehelka, and collaborated with writers like Arundhati Roy in translating their work. He has been part of a study on Caste Equations in Delhi-based Media Houses and been a recipient of a NFI (National Foundation of India) Fellowship.




anil acharyaANIL ACHARYA started as the editor of Anustup, the Bengali cultural quarterly in 1966 and this journal continues to be published today. He has delivered lectures at Melbourne University and New York University and is a regular contributor to the Bengali newspaper Ei Samay. He has written a large number of articles in various Bengali journals and newspapers and contributed articles to the EPW. At present he is doing research on Bengali periodicals as a Tagore National Scholar at the National Library, Kolkata, under the Department of Culture, Government of India.



debavrata sDEVABRATA SHARMA is Associate Professor and Head of the Department of English, Jorhat College, Assam, and has worked extensively on and with Assamese language and literature. He is the Chief Editor of the Assamese National Dictionary in 4 volumes. He is the General Secretary of the Asom Jatiya Siksa Samanway Parishad, an apex body of nearly 100 vernacular medium schools, and of the Asom Jatiya Prakash. He is the Chief Editor of the proposed 10-volume Complete History of the Freedom Movement of Assam and North-East India.


avik bAVIK BANERJEE is a poet from Bengal. He has recently published a powerful collection of poems —Lilakamal. He is also the editor of the Bengali little magazine Dhyanbindu, and the proprietor of the eponymous bookstore in College Street, Kolkata. Avik is a moving force behind galvanizing many of the significant literary collectives and little magazines in contemporary Bengal. His bookstore is iconic in its investment in circulating avant garde literature of West Bengal and Bangladesh.



2013-05-08 23.40.10RAJARSHI DASGUPTA currently teaches at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His work revolves around the intellectual, political and cultural trajectories of Marxism in twentieth century India and pushes against the current consensus on nation-making and development through counter narratives of displacement, refugee migration, and underbellies of the new urban order. He has earlier been a Fellow in Political Science at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta.


prabodh parikhPRABODH PARIKH is a poet/fiction writer who mostly ends up writing letters to friends in Gujarati/English. He retired as a teacher of Philosophy in 2005 and is currently Faculty In-charge of International Art Literature and Culture, Whistling Woods International, a film school in Mumbai. His lifelong love for Jazz (Village Vanguard, New York), Beer (pubs everywhere) and Sada Dosa (Tiffin services in the streets of Thiruvananthapuram), takes him to different cities of the world, where he also lectures on contemporary Indian Literature, Arts and Cinema.  Gandhi and Tagore continue to engage him, as much as Buddhist monasteries.


satish kalsekarSATISH KALSEKAR has published 7 volumes of poetry and essays in Marathi as well as many volumes of translations and edited collections of writings. Several of his poems have been translated into other languages. He has participated in the Little Magazines movement in Marathi: he has edited and published Fakta, Tapasi, Chakravarti, Vacha, and now Vangmay-Vrutta. He writes in and is associated with the publication of many other little magazines in Marathi. He has won many awards including the Soviet Land Nehru Puraskar (1977), Kaifi Azmi Puraskar (2006), Maharashtra Foundation Puraskar (2011) and the State Award for Excellence in Writing (2010-11).


JayaprakashJAYAPRAKASH is the editor of Chenda, a magazine published in Malayalam from Mumbai. Jayaprakash says: ‘Chenda is a traditional percussion instrument of Kerala, characterized by its loud, unambiguously clear and emphatic beats of marvelous rhythms. The magazine Chenda is no different.  We give striking comments on the cultural, socio-economic and political scenario, loud and clear. It takes a progressive stance; with democratic, secular and open-to-the-advanced-sciences positions. So far, the targeted group of readers has received it with the eagerness and enthusiasm that we expected. This we feel to be positive recognition of our effort that reckons its third anniversary now.’


moushumi 1MOUSHUMI BHOWMIK is a singer and music researcher based in Kolkata. With sound recordist Sukanta Majumdar she has been engaged in an ethnomusicological field recording project called The Travelling Archive (www.thetravellingarchive.org) for over ten years. Recently they have launched a record label, Travelling Archive Records (Facebook: The Travelling Archive) to bring out albums and booklets of field recording, restored old recordings, new music and soundart works. Moushumi has lived and worked in many places in eastern India, Bangladesh and the UK. She writes on her research in English and Bangla. As a singer-songwriter Moushumi has recorded albums with HMV and Times Music, and worked with composers, filmmakers and theatre directors at home and abroad.


mihir 2

MIHIR PANDYA is sub-editor at the Hindi journal Banaas, and part of the editorial team at Chakmak, Eklavya’s childrens’ magazine. He is doctoral research fellow at University of Delhi, working on the contemporary city in Indian popular cinema. He has written for Nav Bharat Times, Tehelka (hindi), Kathadesh, Pratilipi, Jansatta, Vaak, Medianagar, Bahuvachan.. He is the author of “शहर अौर सिनेमा:वाया दिल्ली”, published in 2012 from Vani Prakashan, New Delhi. Mihir blogs at Aawara hoon (http://mihirpandya.com).


giriraj kiradooGIRIRAJ KIRADOO is a poet, fiction writer and university teacher based in Rajasthan; he is founder-editor of the multilingual journal Pratilipi, and founder-managing director of the publishing initiative Pratilipi Books. He has edited and published poetry, fiction and translation in many journals and popular magazines. Some of his poems have been translated into Urdu, Marathi, Catalan and English. A recipient of the Bharat Bhushan Agrawal Smruti Poetry Award and the Krishna Baldev Vaid Fellowship for fiction, he is also a translator in Hindi, English and Rajasthani. He is a regular collaborator with the French poetry journal Recours au Poème. He is co-creative director of Samanvay: IHC Indian Languages’ Festival, New Delhi and co-founded and organized the biggest independent poetry event in Hindi, Kavita Samay for two years (2011 & 2012).


varun groverVARUN GROVER is a stand-up comic, lyricist, and writer, an engineer from IIT (Varanasi) who couldn’t develop any feelings for a 9 to 5 job. His comedy and writing is derived from nostalgia of the 1990s and milking the holy cows of the society like politics, Bollywood and middle-class morality. He performs regularly at The Comedy Store, Mumbai, and has done shows at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi, and at the Alliance Francaise in Bangalore. He writes stand-up comedy for the online show Jay Hind. He has also written the lyrics for Anurag Kashyap’s two-part epic film ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ (2012).


reyazulREYAZUL HAQUE is the editor of Hashiya, one of the finest political-literary blogs in the nation. He has worked as a features editor in Prabhat Khabar, published from Patna, and was a correspondent in Tehelka. Currently, he is pursuing his doctoral studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

PRASANTA CHAKRAVARTY and BRINDA BOSE teach in the Department of English at Delhi University, and are co-founders of MargHumanities, an initiative for conversations about the contemporary state of the arts and humanities.


VU poster 1

Comments are closed.