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Indian writers call for reclaiming space from English writings at LIC Gateway Litfest

Published On : 26 Feb 2017   |  Reported By : Ronida Mumbai

Mumbai, Feb 26: The third LIC Gateway Litfest, the largest gathering for Indian regional language literature aficionados, started its two-day literary event with a number of eminent regional writers expressing concern over the marginalization of Indian language writings and called for joint efforts to reclaim the space being increasingly taken away by Indian writers writing in English.

The third edition of Gateway Litfest for Indian regional languages is being held at the NCPA complex at Tata Experimental Theatre on February 25 and 26. Around 50 writers from 15 Indian languages are participating in the two-day literary fest. The fest is organised by Kaakka, a Mumbai-based quarterly Malayalam magazine, and Communication Company P4C.This edition has lined up more writers and literary figures who will take part in various literary discussions and sessions. Prominent attendees include Bengali novelist Tilottama Majumdar, Subodh Sarkar, Sachin Ketkar, Marathi poet Malika Amar Sheikh,Malayali writer KR Meera, and renowned film-maker Adoor Gopalakrishnan. The first LIC Gateway Lifetime Achievement award, instituted this year, was presented to noted Odia writer and poet Haldhar Nag, who writes in the script-free Sambalpuri (Kosali) language.

Noted Bengali writer Subodh Sarkar who chaired a session on “How much Indian is Indian literature” pointed out that we are living in two distinct Indias. “There is a clear divide between India and Bharat. The former is flamboyant and rich. The latter is poor marginalized. In this milieu English in its globalised and Americanized form is compromising the space of regional languages,”reiterated Sarkar.

Taking part in the session, filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan emphasized the need for cross-translation of major Indian literary works. “Major theatre works from Marathi like Sakharam Binder have been staged in Malayalam. But major Malayalam works have not been translated into Marathi. I grew up reading the Malayalam translations of major Bengali works. But Malayalam literature didn’t get translated into Bengali language. This has sadly reduced the mass appeal of literary works from other native languages for literature lovers.”

Emphasizing on the need to conjure ideas in one’s mother tongue, noted Malayalam writer M.Mukundan said, “The very fact that I dream in Malayalam reflects in my writing. America has multiple ethnicities but all the works are published in English. French also has a large base of multi-ethnic population but major works in the country are published in French. India writes in 24 recognized languages and several dialects. Translating Indian works into English de-Indianises the process.”

Jnanpith winner Gujarati literateur Raghuveer Chaudhury lamented on the fact that “ when we gained independence from the British, we were an undivided Bharat, united with one language and one culture. However, over the years we have been segregated along linguistic lines and the Indian language is being overshadowed by English. The Indian identity of our regional languages is slowly getting eroded.

“The western world feels that Indian sensibilities are best expressed by Booker winner authors like Jhumpa Lahiri while the efforts of regional language writers who are more connected to the culture and ethos of India remains ignored” stated Subodh Sarkar
Concluding the session, all the panelists agreed the western world does not have an elaborate knowledge of regional writings and merely indulge in eulogizing mediocre Indian English writings. Indian languages are culture-specific and English translations largely do not reflect the cultural nuances of regional writings. They also whole-heartedly agreed to the fact that ways should be found increasingly to raise the awareness of regional writings to national level.

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