Vernaculars Underground: Histories, Politics, Aesthetics–ABSTRACTS AND BIONOTES

On March 1, 2014 by admin


March 7th and 8th, NMML, New Delhi

I           Speakers

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Anil Yadav, Sinews of the Political in the Hindi Underground

The world of blogs is a mystery. It comes in small doses, and the way it connects with life and politics is through generations of rocks, friction, temperature, sound, and the impossible measure of their various facets. We know no one’s email id, telephone number, relationships, or any particular habit – all these are little doses of mystery. If we had unearthed the mystery, perhaps life would have been more satisfactory, but the pull towards the politics of the unknown is the hidden accelerator in life. Modernity seeps into the crevices of our galis and quasbahs in such doses. It creates a palimpsest. We tend to die, little by little, without this pull. This cosmos is our kabaadkhana—the dumpster’s nightmare, spreading to the farthest corners through the twisted varicose veins of our existence.

* 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.

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ashok pandeAshok Pande, Simple Joys of Rag-picking

As a fantastic gift, life offers us a world filled with an amazing diversity. It is a wondrous act of nature that god, in the words of famous poet Viren Dangwal, has given man a brain “that soaks in everything” and which “travels beyond the universe in a moment/ and just sleeps when it retires/ in muck like a frog throughout winters”. To gratify all borders of intellectual hunger, man created most serious forms of art, and parodied these very forms for momentary drolleries. Therefore if there is a place for Meer Taqi Meer, ‘Danish” Taandwi (immortalized in Shrilal Shukla’s novel ‘Raag Darbari’) too is accommodated. If most intricate moves of chess are there, the ‘Shit-coat’ of a typical Pahari card-game Dahal Pakad too finds a place. The Chutney music of West Indies survives alongside Ustad Amir Khan’s Raag Bahar. Even if one endeavors to, it would be impossible to finish a complete list – such an immensely vast cornucopia of joy this world is. I began my blog ‘Kabaadkhaana’ in 2007 with the sole purpose of trying to share these wonderful things with others.

एक शानदार तोहफे की शक्ल में जीवन हमें अजब-अद्भुत विविधताओं से भरी एक दुनिया नवाज़ता है. यह प्रकृति का करतब है कि आदमी को बकौल वीरेन डंगवाल भगवान ने “हर चीज़ को आत्मसात करने वाला” ऐसा दिमाग़ दिया जो “पल-भर में ब्रह्माण्ड के आर-पार/ और सोया तो बस सोया/ सर्दी भर कीचड़ में मेढक सा”. हमारी बौद्धिक भूख की हर सीमा को तृप्त करने के लिए कला के गंभीर से गंभीर रूप आदमी ने बनाए, और पल भर की ठिठोली-मौज के वास्ते इन्हीं रूपों की पैरोडियाँ भी बनाईं. इसी लिए अगर मीर तकी मीर का वुजूद है तो ‘राग दरबारी’ से अमर बन गए दानिश टांडवी का भी. शतरंज की जटिलतम चालें हैं तो दहलपकड़ जैसे ठेठ पहाडी ताश के खेल का गूकोट भी. उस्ताद अमीर खान साहेब का राग बहार है तो वेस्ट इंडीज़ का चटनी संगीत भी. लिखने बैठूं तो इस सूची का अंत नहीं हो सकेगा – ऐसा ज़खीरा मौज का है यह दुनिया. इन्हीं अजब-ग़ज़ब चीज़ों को दूसरों के साथ बांटने का काम मैंने अपने ब्लॉग ‘कबाड़खाना’ के माध्यम से २००७ में शुरू किया था.

* Ashok Pande is a poet, painter and translator. 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. His translations of Shamsher Bahadur Singh’s poems was published in 2002 as Broken and Scattered, and Viren Dangwal’s poems, It’s Been Long Since I Found Anything, in 2004. Other translations include: the novel Lust for Life, Dharati Jaanti Hai (Yehuda Amichai’s poems), Ekaakipan ke Bees Arab Prakashvarsh (Shuntaro Tanikawa’s poems) and selected poems and prose by Fernando Pessoa. He runs the cult Hindi blog kabaadkhaana.

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AMIT Sengupta columnAmit Sengupta, Parallel Cinema of the Media Industry: The difficult and stimulating narrative of small is beautiful

Like independent and dogged documentary filmmakers who remain outside the comfort zones, mappings and trappings of the commercial structures of big finance and market sustainability, or like the ‘other’ meaningful cinema versus the box office formula film industry, this is a repetitive narrative which is deeply self conscious and critically involved with the idea of the political unconscious.

Many of these filmmakers hate to be dubbed within the restricted and cliched paradigms of ‘art’ or ‘alternative’ or parallel cinema.

In that sense, the discourse within the ‘little magazine’ or ‘small media’ too would resist being branded and condemned as small or marginal or alternative. That is, the debate between what is mainstream and what is alternative itself becomes a twilight zone where the lines become blurred and the kaleidoscope of the cracked mirror moves away from one-dimensional explanations into a more layered, evolving and complex realism. In the context of the new corporate media culture dominating the Indian information and mass communication scenario, and the tyranny of mediocrity, it becomes all the more crucial to unravel this twilight zone and rediscover a lucid, critical and enlightening realm of possibilities. Hence, we must walk again through this zigzag bylane of the difficult and stimulating journey of the small is beautiful.

* Amit 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, the South Asian partner of Le Monde diplomatique, Paris;  www.hardnewsmedia.com. Has been Editor, Tehelka, News Editor, Outlook and Senior Assistant Editor, Hindustan Times, among other assignments in leading Indian newspapers and magazines.

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shaon akandShawon Akand, Beyond the Colonial Hangover: Alternative Art and Politics in Bangladesh

This paper will talk about the role of politics and aesthetics in the new kind of initiatives undertaken in alternative literary and artistic practices in Bangladesh particularly over the past decade. The aim is to highlight the major tendencies and distinctiveness of those collective and individual efforts that have been mainly located outside the mainstream culture industry. Certain important points of departure become clear when we look at these alternative journals, like Gandib, Charbak, Ulukhagra, Kalnetro along with art practices led by the likes of CRACK and Porapara. Although there is a continuing presence of what can be described as the ‘colonial hangover’ in terms of style and epistemological position, there is a growing spate of activities and initiatives that are trying to move outside the dominant rules of aesthetic discourse. There are people and artistic engagements that seek to imaginatively connect with and effectively deploy local knowledge, practices and subaltern perspectives in exciting ways. The marginalization of these efforts in the national and international forums disregards the actual significance of these developments, which this paper will try to uncover and illustrate. As we hope to show, there remains a resistant and critical mass despite an increasingly neoliberal capitalist system that is committed to carving an autonomous aesthetic and political sensibility in Bangladesh.

* Shawon 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 key person/ coordinator of CRACK Bangladesh, a non-profit organization, platform for alternative art practice in Bangladesh. He is also the curator of Gallery Jolrong, Dhaka.

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anil acharyaAnil Acharya, The Dynamics of Change in Bengali Periodicals

One needs to first define the  term ‘little magazine’ (Challenging the definition of ‘little magazine’ as introduced by Buddhadeb Bosu. (Reference: Poetry; The Dial; The Savoy). So my point of departure would be a comparative study of the two concepts: the samayik patra or patrika (Rabindranath Tagore) and the little magazine (Buddhadeb Bosu).

Also it is important to track another distinction and trace that history: the shift from periodicals to little magazines. I would like to chart the difference between little magazines and periodicals; with examples of little magazines: with their specific characteristics and role; and about certain periodicals having the characteristics of little magazines too. I would like to conclude by making some points about the role and possibilities of the little magazine in contemporary Bengal, especially in the light of the changed and ever-changing political climate.

* Anil Acharya taught at Serampore College founded by William Carey from 1972 till the end of 2007. He started as the editor of Anustup, the cultural quarterly in 1966 and this journal continues to be published today. He has delivered lectures at Melbourne University and New York University. Anil Acharya is a regular contributor to Ei Samay, the Bengali daily run by The Times Group. He has written a large number of articles in various Bengali journals and newspapers. He contributed articles to the EPW, Bombay. 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.

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debavrata sDevabrata Sharma, Vernaculars vs Vernaculars: Assamese, Bengali and the Tribal Languages        

The Assamese language has been here for at least one millennium. At least that is the claim of Assamese nationalists. Though not  a standard modern,it was the lingua franca of a rudimentary form,which existed historically for around 1000 years .The Ahoms,who had entered Assam and had set up their kingdom by 1228 AD were Tai-speakers.But expediency and pragmatism,combined  with a tribal-like liberalism led the Ahoms to give up their mother-tongue and embrace Assamese for all practical purposes.However the Tai language continued to exist in an underground way,specially in history-writing.It shows that Assamese was spoken by a considerable number of local people to be able to conquer the conquerors .

That Assamese was not only spoken, but also written as literature is proved by the Prahlad Charitra of Hem Saraswati, which is known to be written around 11-th/12-th century AD. Whatever that might be, Assamese continued to be the major spoken and written vernacular of the Brahmaputra Valley even after the British took over in 1826 AD, by the Yandaboo Treaty. After that it continued to be the official language till 1836 AD. But in the latter year the British replaced it with Bengali. The Assamese nationalists explain it in terms of conspiracy hatched by Bengali clerks and mohurrers who misguided the British. However, it has been conclusively established of late that the Britsh had replaced Assamese with Bengali not because of love for the latter language but by inspired by the politics of divide and rule. The Assamese, ably assisted by the American Baptist Missionaries, fought back to regain the status of official language for Assamese in 1873 AD.

But the Assamese middle class never felt secure. In 1960 it launched a movement to make Assamese the compulsory official language of the then undivided Assam (which included the present Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya.The tribals were so furious that they soon parted ways from Assam, leading to the dismemberment of the state several times. Assamese chauvinism backed by the middle class hegemonic design thus led to the genesis of a series of tribal movements for their own vernaculars. It started in 1974 with the movement of the Bodos, which eventually developed into the separate state movement. Other tribes and ethnicities followed suit, thus relegating Assam into a veritable ethnic cauldron. More vernacular movements from Kamtapuri, Sadri, Santhali, Mundari etc are now emerging, all of which are presently underground languages.

In my presentation the question of relations among the various vernaculars of Assam is sought to be looked into historically and from the view point of power politics and hegemony over state machinery of the Assamese middle class, and the response of the subalterns against it.

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* Devabrata 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, and author and editor of numerous books, journals and articles in the field. 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.

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avik bAvik Banerjee, Like a Spider’s Web

The idea of publishing small, and remaining small, is a journey. It is a journey in self exploration, a tendency, an impulse. At its heart it is a journey in creative delight. There is a search for the purest form of expression, which then gets complicated the moment it gets mired in the world of publishing and networks of distribution. The presence of the market is constant, like an irritant buzz, it stays and haunts. And that means the presence of the literary critics, the press, the professional intellectuals—all driving the public sphere towards this auction mart. Given this situation, how does the author reach her reader directly—a central aim of small publications? How does the sensitive and ruthless reader find his author— an unpredictable and elusive being himself, sometimes even stylized? In this other world there are no hubs. It is amorphous, like the sudden lines of an elusive poem. And little magazines vanish as fast as they mushroom. Without: this world is like a spider’s web, gossamer like. Within: it is a tendency, an impulse.

* Avik Banerjee is a poet, 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.

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prabodh parikhPrabodh Parikh, Literature as Politics: Little Magazines in Post-Gandhi Gujarat

In the pre-independence decades, an engagement with literary culture in Gujarat was largely influenced by the close proximity of the Gandhian discourse. It was an ideology that announced itself through the famously inscribed statement of Mohandas Gandhi “Literature should be such that it is understood and enjoyed by the simplest of the peasant.” Some of the most gifted and articulate creative minds were involved in editing literary journals providing a platform that nurtured a way of projecting literature as an act of commitment towards creating images of “good” life, involving issues central to Gandhian ideology. There were some significant exceptions to this, i.e. K. M. Munshi’s project of pronouncing literature as romancing life inspired by Nietzschean ideas along with reaffirming the idea of Asmita of Gujarat.

It is against this backdrop that post-independent Gujarat, in its early phase evolved configurations of a literary culture where traces of ideologies of Sarvoday collided with formalism and pure aestheticism. In its second phase, sometime around the sixties a sudden upsurge of little magazines occurred in different city centers, often with the mind-set and agendas of radically modernist and avante-gardist sensibilities.

In many of these journals, literature was played around as politics. Most little magazines, often with a history of a long life, were involved in discoursing questions centered on issues and practices that were primarily aesthetics-centered, without seriously challenging the inherited ideas of caste, class, race and gender. Almost nothing of Marxist, feminist or Dalit poetics had entered into these movements.

80’s and 90’s once again saw a newly charged upsurge of literary journals. But, once again, most of them were concerned with redefining the finer aspects of literary practices, except a few which did voice the concerns of Dalits and Tribals.

I hope to explore some of the complex issues arising out of this seemingly straightforward narratives of literary culture (as it got shaped by the variety of literary journals) that I have described. My primary concern is to look into the specific nature, if any, of the Gujarati forms of life, thought traditions and dialectics that these journals present and to critically analyse  the distinct aesthetics  and politics of that literary culture.

* Prabodh 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 currently enjoys his position as 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.

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satish kalsekarSatish Harishchandra Kalsekar, Marathi Little Magazines and the Dalit Question

The Little Magazine movement in Marathi began around 1960. Till this time, the established Marathi literature was generally focused towards purely aesthetic discussion. The year 1960 marks a stage when the post-Independence generation appeared on the literary scene, especially the Dalits and the working class people whose voice was rarely heard till then. This new generation of writers was naturally isolated from the mainstream and though the writers connected with it were keen to project their viewpoints, they lacked the infrastructure of a big publishing house, an effective distribution network that the mainstream writers have recourse to.

This new generation of writers was young. They had no recognition and prestige in the established fora, and were angry because they could not relate with the life portrayed by the middle-brow writers of the period. They came from poor backgrounds; for most of them, theirs was the first generation exposed to some sort of education. They were spread throughout Maharashtra and started these small ‘Little’ Magazines from wherever they were. They took help from small local presses, used whatever paper they could get hold of, some even printed on postcards or inland letters. Those who lacked even these facilities published on cyclostyled sheets. Most of the writers expressed themselves through poems and for their inspiration and commitment they looked backwards: towards saint poets like Tukaram, Namdeo and towards social reformers like Mahatma Phule and Dr Ambedkar.

Thus began this movement which shook the foundation of the establishment and left its indelible mark on Marathi literature of post 1960.

* SH 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), Bahinabai ‘Senior Poet’ Puraskar major contribution to Marathi poetry (1988), Kaifi Azmi Puraskar (2006), Maharashtra Foundation Puraskar (2011) and the State Award for Excellence in Writing (2010-11).

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JayaprakashJayaprakash, Calls from Posterity: Voices of Little Magazines Addressing the Future

As everyone is aware, most little magazines share the prime objective of raising vital questions against the prevailing value systems in literature, politics, arts, sociology and everything related with life and society. In Malayalam also it was the voices of those dared to rebel against the establishment that found expression in little magazines.

Swadeshabhimani, the newspaper published in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore edited by Swadeshabhimani K. Ramakrishna Pillai was the forerunner of little magazines in Malayalam. Ramakrishna Pillai who dared to declare that he would report the misdeeds of all; even if it was done by God is still the model before every journalist committed to be with truth. He was arrested and banished from Travancore in 1910 for writing against the corruption of state and injustice prevailed in the society.

Magazines and publications questioning the accepted norms of the state and other powers that be sprung up in Travancore and Malabar in Kerala in later years also. They brought new ideas, sensibilities and outlook to the society and opened the doors of new worlds before Malayalees. These publications, brought out by those associated with progressive movements or ideas ,walked in front to newer horizons of freedom, democracy and socialism. Not only in politics, but in literature, art, social sciences and even in human relations also new ideas and initiates have begun to take root. ‘Samadarshi’, ‘Prabodhakan’ and ‘Kesari’ brought out by Kesari  A. Balakrishna Pillai, ‘Swathanthra Bharatham’ published from northern Kerala by  N.V. Krishna Warrier and many others include this list. Kesari was the source of inspiration to many writers in Malayalam. It was his publications which introduced the European writers and their works to Malayalam. As Swadeshabhimani K. Ramakrishna Pillai, Kesari also faced repressive action from the part of state and his journals ‘Prabodhakan’ and ‘Kesari‘ were banned for criticising the misdeeds of it. All these magazines have played important roles in developing the language Malayalam and its literature and in democratising the sensibility of Malayalam readers. They carried the values of the renaissance movement forward, associated inseparably with the movement for national independence and upheld their heads high to the emerging consciousness of socialist thought. It is proper to remember that Kesari was one of the founders of ‘Jeevat sahithya prasthanam’ which grew to be the progressive writers movement in Malayalam in later years.

In the post independence period also little magazines functioned as the ideological fountainheads and addressed the new generation of readers, activists, intellectuals and the like. The writings and other works of lesser known contributors in these magazines talked about a new world of thoughts and deeds. ‘Sameeksha’ and ‘Navasahithi’ of M. Govindan, ‘Kaumudhi’ of K. Balakrishnan and many other magazines like ‘Anweshanam’, ‘Gopuram’, ‘Democrat’ etc. are some among these. ‘Street’ of Subhash Chandra Bose, ‘Comrade’ started by K.N. Ramachandran represented the revolutionary trend that got strengthened in the country during 1970s.

In the post emergency period of 1970s and 1980s the little magazines have grown in number and got diversified in content. Most of them defined themselves as representing the democratic conscience of the society subjected to oppression during emergency, while most of the oppressed were made ignorant of it through effective control and manipulation of media and other governmental measures. A new sense of revolt was visible in the cultural and political fields and it reflected in these little magazines. ‘Prasakthi’ and ‘Yenan’ published during the emergency period, ‘Prerana’ of the Peoples Cultural Forum, ‘Samasya’, ‘Rasana’, ‘Pramukthi’ and many other magazines brought out in the post emergency period upheld a new sensibility, aesthetics and a radical sense of social transformation and of uninterrupted sense of quest. Other magazines like ‘Sankramanam’ and ‘Niyogam’ also stood for a new sensibility in literature.

These magazines and the new world of ideas uncovered by them had their influence upon the readers of Malayalam literature and journals outside Kerala also. Magazines of that genre have come up from Bombay and other Indian cities also. Magazines like ‘Yugarasmi’ and ‘Samghaganam’ and cultural organisations like DECORA in Bombay were some among them.

The monumental political and cultural developments in the later 1980s and 1990s in the world like the disintegration of erstwhile Soviet Union, debacle of East European socialist countries, advent of globalisation policies, intensification of neo-colonial plunder and the like have led to drastic changes in the political and cultural spheres of the world over and influenced the little magazines also. Development of information technology and the widespread influence of visual media and internet in the later decades have led to more changes and transformations to them. Global warming and the climate change, environmental issues, dalit and women’s questions, growing imperialist aggression in the name of fighting terrorism and many other issues have redefined the role of magazines as that of social activists.

However, most of the little magazines and blogs, net magazines and portals which I think are little magazines in another format and the like continue to function as opposition to the ruling power, a non conformist source of ideas and attitudes questioning the way in which the present world is run and a powerhouse to those struggling to transform the system. They try to address the future society and to define what our society should be in posterity. That is why the genuine concerns expressed by them and the ideas precarious and dangerous to the oppressive system upheld by these magazines are the real calls of action from posterity. I hope the present magazine ‘Chenda’ can also be able to continue with its effort to do something in this direction.

* Chenda is a magazine published in Malayalam from Mumbai. It attempts to reflect the socio-economic, political and cultural developments that evolve in our land to its truest. 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.

We have taken a pluralistic approach to the content of the magazine. Vivacious subjects are covered in each of the issues. Renowned and mellowed authors along with young and promising sprouts form the content; of course proportioned in a judicious mix. It takes a progressive stance; with democratic, secular and open-to-the-advanced-sciences positions.

Chenda is the inherited percussion instrument of Kerala, symbolic of its loud, (unambiguous) 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. Starting from the first issue itself, with varied stories of societal importance with novel dimensions.

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moushumi 1Moushumi Bhowmik, Lessons in Listening: The Story of The Travelling Archive

I will talk about the many voices that I have encountered on my journey, with sound recordist Sukanta Majumdar, across Bengal on a trail of songs.

Music, language, utterance and modes of expression are specific to the sites they come from. There is much talk about the universality of music, however music and poetry are also essentially local, communal, also personal. Given our social and cultural locations, we can only experience certain sounds, while so much stays outside our fields of perception, unless we make conscious efforts to seek out the unheard, in the ‘underground’.

Taking specific examples from our collection, I will share some of our experiences of listening and the lessons in listening that we have drawn from those experiences. Both the voice and the act of listening are problematized in the work of The Travelling Archive. The voice suggests actual tone and timbre, also voicing/articulation. In both these aspects the voices held in The Travelling Archive often stand apart from mainstream voices and accepted/expected modes of voicing, giving in turn to The Travelling Archive many voices; also demanding from the listener multiple ways of listening.

* Moushumi 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.

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giriraj kiradooGiriraj Kiradoo, The Art of Self-deception in the Real Estate of Colonizing Angels

[My presentation will talk about the art of self-deception required for living in languages which train you in what it is like to be on the edge, forever.]

I

When we started Pratilipi in April 2008, we were convinced that we couldn’t make sense of this world in one language. Each of us had lived life in at least three languages. And that’s why Pratilipi became a bi/multi lingual magazine. We have been extremely lucky to have 450 contributors from 40 languages across the world, so far.

2

What do you do when you lose a language? I have lost Rajasthani, my mother tongue so to speak. It is still my mother’s only language – she has never been at home in Hindi. And now, it’s only at home that I speak Rajasthani with any kind of confidence.

When you lose your language, almost completely like this – you seek simplicity, simple ways. I started translating from Rajasthani, to Hindi, to English and back. I started doing research in translation.

First lessons in self-deception.

3

Hindi has not been home, it’s been away. It frees me, there are no incestuous complications.  No sense of possession. I don’t possess her, she doesn’t possess me. We let each other free; it’s beyond love, its ‘yaari’.

4

English has always been a sign of something that is not. An absence, and an adventure. Home and exile. Exile as adventure, in the language of promised land.

5

Life in many languages is full of suffering and surprises. A Real Estate of colonizing angels, a safe site to be when you wish to speak about histories, politics and other familiar demons.

* Poet and fiction writer Giriraj Kiradoo is Founder-Editor of the multilingual journal Pratilipi, and Founder-Managing Director of the publishing initiative Pratilipi Books. He has edited five books of poetry; has published poetry, fiction and translation in many journals and popular magazine including Bahuvachan, Tehelka Hindi and English, Outlook Hindi, India Today, Poetry International Web, Hindi: Language, Discourse and Writing, Poorvagrah and Tadbhava. 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. A university teacher by profession, he has also been associated with the Rajasthan Sahitya Akademi as Associate Editor, with Siyahi as a Consultant and with Sangam House International Writer’s Residency Program as an Advisor. He is a regular collaborator with the French poetry journal Recours au Poème. He is one of the two Creative Directors of Samanvay: IHC Indian Languages’ Festival, New Delhi. With fellow poets Bodhisattva and Ashok Kumar Pandey he co-founded and organized the biggest independent poetry event in Hindi, Kavita Samay for two years (2011 & 2012).

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varun groverVarun Grover, Undo Your Buckles (‘Andubaksai’ in Kanpur)

Language is an animal. Darwin’s theory applies to it as well. In the race of the ‘survival of the fittest’, language too has been running, forever. Some words, lower in the politics pyramid, got gobbled up by bigger ones. But some survived – like wolves turning into dogs to get protection – because they found hiding places, places of love in smaller town dialects and gibberish. Kanpur, Lucknow, Banaras, Agra is full of these phrases that travelled this long path to identity. They do not just provide meaning now, they act as the cultural attitude of these places. A visit through these lanes, interacting with this lingo, is ‘Undo Your Buckles’ (Andubaksai in Kanpur.)

अन्डूबक्सई

भाषा एक जंतु है. डार्विन की थ्योरी भाषा पर भी लागू होती है.  Survival of the fittest के चक्कर में भाषा भी दौड़ाई गयी है. कुछ शब्द चबा डाले गए, पर  कुछ हैं जो बच गए, क्यूंकि वो किताबों में थे ही नहीं. क्योंकि वो गलियों में जा छुपे. कानपुर, लखनऊ, बनारस, आगरा, पटना के cultural attitude का हिस्सा बन गए. उनका काम अब अर्थ देने से ज्यादा ‘नक्शा’ देना है. और यह अर्थ देने से ज्यादा मजेदार मकसद है! इन्हीं पर एक बेतुकी सी बात करने करने की कोशिश है ‘अन्डूबक्सई’.

* A stand-up comic, lyricist, and writer Varun Grover is 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 (India Habitat Centre) Delhi, and (Alliance Francaise) 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 ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ (2012).

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II             Chairpersons/Discussants/Panelists

 

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.

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.

 

 

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Rajarshi 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.

mihir 2Mihir 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).

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, Delhi.

 

 

 

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