Free speech takes centre stage at ILF Samanvay Day two
New Delhi: India Habitat Centre’s annual cultural event, Indian Languages Festival (ILF)- Samanvay’s second day started with a frank conversation between Professor Apoorvanand, Programme Curator, ILF Samanvay, and award winning journalist and Executive Editor- NDTV, Ravish Kumar. Welcomed with a thundering applause and a full house audience, Ravish talked about the looming question of free speech in a ‘democratic’ society. He emphasized the right to ask questions and expect answers from the people’s representatives. He stressed on how hatred for others can divide the community, commenting, “If we perpetuate hatred of the other in our households, before long we will forget to love. How will you choose a lover, if there is no one who knows how to love?”
Another enthralling discussion that followed was on the focal language – Gujarati. The speakers – researcher Ghanshyam Shah and academician Saroop Dhruv spoke about regional languages being wounded and segregated to the margins due to weakened support and belief from people on human rights and gender equality. In addition, the discussion revealed that 16% of the tribal population was displaced with no space for their qualms; the drastic reduction in Gujarati Muslim writers choosing to express in Gujarati; and local voice drowned in mainstream media post the turbulent rife in 2002. The panel identified the need of the hour- to build common platforms to share common problems.
Next in line was a conversation between two distinct artists- renowned puppeteer and founder of the Katkatha Puppets Arts Trust Anurupa Roy and theatre director and lighting designer Zuleikha Chaudhari. Both stressed on the possibility of multiple interpretations of images and epic stories, the way one can choose to see and hear what is palatable at a current time.
The food festival at ILF Samanvay was also a much revered point of conversation. From Santhali to Khasi, select delicacies made for a delicious lunch and dinner buffet and an interesting rendez vous for speakers and audiences.
To enliven the post lunch session, critical acclaimed actor Swara Bhaskar and Hindi movie critic Mihir Pandya explored the question of gender, sexuality, and language in mainstream Bollywood. The actor known for her strong portrayal of women characters spoke about the existent gender and pay disparity in the entertainment business. While Mihir discussed how subtitles help in growing acceptance of regional cinema amongst viewers. Both expressed in the same vein that Bollywood is experiencing a change in times with increasing number of independent producers curating good content in the industry.
The next session with eminent names like lawyer Vrinda Grover, journalist Neha Dixit, publisher Ritu Menon and columnist Shubra Gupta threw light on the manipulation of language with a view to control women. Vrinda spoke on the stereotyping of women existing in the highest echelons of the government, and the cited equivocation as the reason for this state, Neha added that this discrimination has seeped in every sphere of work and pressed the need for a societal overhaul to bring a change. The other panelist Ritu Menon spoke at length about the newer forms of patriarchy developing terming it as ‘Resurgent Patriarchy’ and how it was paying hindrance to egalitarianism.
“We are not multilingual by choice but by fate”, these lines marked the dialogue between social commentator Alok Rai and professor Francesca Orsini on ‘Bhasha Ke Sansar aur Sanskar’. The riveting session touched on the multiculturalism of language and debunked the idea of language being narrow in its scope. Alok Rai humored the audience with his take on varied accents one hears in the Indian cultural landscape while Francesca opined that diversity in languages is not an alien concept.
As dusk set in, ILF Samanvay lightened the evening with two beautiful recital sessions. The first one was a performative reading called Hum Khawateen, enacted by Raschakra, the theatre group under the direction of theatre activist Vinod Kumar. The performers included Sanskrit scholar Purwa Bhardwaj, researcher Rizwana Fatima, and Alka Ranjan with activist Shweta Tripathi. The team presented century-old work from Muslim women writers, addressing myriad issues, ranging from forced marriage to working women.
The second one was a tribute to great Indian poets whose love poems were translated by amateur artists in English. From narrating the fierce and bold poem of the 17th century poetess Mudupalani to the more contemporary poet Binoy Majumdar, the readings were from poems in four languages- Telugu, Punjabi, Bengali, Hindi and international language Spanish.
The evening culminated with a melodious performance by celebrated people’s poet Gorati Venkanna. Hi voice represented the aspirations of the people; while his songs and poetry spoke of a future where India will India will find its voice.