HYDERABAD: It was a power-packed performance and the words of one, a lyricist and the other, a diplomat were far from diplomatic.
The duo came down hard on the powers-that-be for neglecting Indian languages as they made a strong pitch for greater acceptance of regional literature.
Speaking to the media after the inaugural of the Hyderabad Literary Festival at the Taramati Baradari, lyricist Gulzar and writer and Indian Ambassador to Bhutan Pawan Varma were unanimous in their view that “we cannot afford to be a nation of linguistic half-castes.” “This is where the Sahitya Akademi has failed the writers in Indian languages. The translations rot in godowns and the need for better publication and distribution is never paid attention to,” lamented Gulzar, weighing each word carefully.
Writer of 17 non-fiction books and launching his first fiction, ‘When Loss is Gain’, Varma mooted a campaign to change the education system to make it inclusive of Indian languages.
“Till Class VI, a child should be taught in his mother-tongue and taught one Indian language separately,” said Varma who feels that one-way cultural globalisation will create a “rootless educated elite.” Both shared a similar view on preserving and encouraging the love for literature. “More students from schools and colleges should be allowed to literary festivals. It has to be open to the masses to initiate a movement,” felt the duo.
Speaking of languages, a plea to keep Urdu alive was never so poignant.
“Use the language. Keep the Urdu script alive, it will be a pity to lose it,” said Gulzar who opined that a language which is alive is bound to change with time.
“If a language is not growing to accommodate the changing world, it becomes an ancient relic to be preserved carefully on a shelf,” he observed. The distinct flavour of Deccani poetry was also touched upon by the poet.“Deccani has a style which is unique. Initially it was used only for inducing humor in movies, something which drew protests from its speakers. However, the unique dialect is something Hyderabad should be proud of,” said Gulzar.
The translator and translated also assumed alternate identities as Gulzar and Varma debated the nuances of a translation which retains the essence of the original.
“Translation is like a mistress. If she is beautiful, she is not faithful, and vice-versa,” quipped Gulzar, half-joking.
His book, Neglected Poems of Gulzar translated by Pawan Varma is set to be launched next week. Varma's When Loss is Gain was launched at the festival on Monday evening.