Odisha Literary Festival off to a blazing start

A special tribute was paid to legendary poet Jayanta Mahapatra, who passed away recently.

Published: 24th September 2023 08:06 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th September 2023 11:11 AM   |  A+A-

TNIE Editor Santwana Bhattacharya and Editorial Director Prabhu Chawla (below) at the Odisha Literary Festival | Express

Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: The 11th edition of the Odisha Literary Festival got off to a blazing start as acclaimed authors from across genres and different parts of the country came together to celebrate the written word here on Saturday.

The two-day annual literary festival — the only-of-its-kind in Eastern India hosted by The New Indian Express — was inaugurated by Union Minister for Education and Skill Development Dharmendra Pradhan. Speaking at the inaugural evening, Pradhan in his session ‘Words, Ideas and Lessons: Creating a New Sense of Identity’ said the opposition to the three-language policy especially in Tamil Nadu is purely political.

“While the opposition to NEP in Tamil Nadu is for political reasons, in my view, there is unanimity at the ground level that there should be scientific temper for the students and language should not be a barrier,” he said in a free-wheeling chat with TNIE Editorial Director Prabhu Chawla.

Refuting allegations that people with RSS ideology are being drafted in to head top institutions in the country, the Union minister said all appointments are made on merit. He, however, maintained that there is no bar in the Constitution on appointing persons with RSS affiliation.

Introducing the festival, TNIE Editor Santwana Bhattacharya said it stands for everything TNIE stands for — a decentering of power, and the idea of getting close to the real life of India on the ground. “Here, we celebrate books — the power of word, of ideas and expression. More potent than any weapon of destruction, more enduring than anything built as a form of physical construction,” she said.

Speaking about the theme of festival, ‘The Ideas of Identity’, TNIE’s Odisha Resident Editor Siba Mohanty said identity — be it national, cultural, caste, class, gender or ethnicity — has assumed centrestage.

“The literary trends are not untouched too with an increasing readers’ interest in history, memoirs, biographies and true account non-fiction. Thus, discussions around the ‘ideas of identity’ will be aptly in tune with the prevailing times,” Mohanty said.

A special tribute was paid to legendary poet Jayanta Mahapatra, who passed away recently. Speakers Prof Sachidananda Mohanty and poet Sampurna Chattarji said Mahapatra was a true genius, a citizen of the world. “Someone who came from a small town to become someone who rubbed shoulders with great poets like A K Ramanujan speaks about the efforts he made to become someone so outstanding in his craft,” they said. A documentary on Mahapatra was also screened.

The tribute was followed by a session on ‘A Life in Full: Diplomat, Politician, Author, Peacemaker’, which was helmed by former Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar. Maintaining that there is nothing new in the stance of the DMK about Sanatana Dharma, Aiyar told festival director and senior journalist Kaveree Bamzai, if the Centre continues to give importance to such ideas, it will lead to a very dangerous situation.

“If Dravidians are continued to be provoked, the east, west and south of the country will be in danger. There is nothing new in the stance of the Dravidian party as they are stating this for years,” he stated. In his session, filmmaker Nila Madhab Panda said he started his journey as a director with an aim to change the image of Odisha that was earlier termed as the poorest state in the country. While authors Nivedita Mohanty, Gourahari Das and Abhiram Biswal spoke to journalist Sampad Patnaik about nationalism in Odia literature in his session titled ‘Crime Friction: The Irresistible Lure of the Dark’, crime writer Surendra Mohan Pathak spoke about the challenges of writing crime fiction in a country like India, where it does not derive as much popularity as it does in the West.

He admitted that recognition takes time. To a query if crime fiction gets sidelined in today’s OTT era, Pathak said both OTT shows and fiction draw inspiration from the same source – crime in real life. “Originality is the art of concealing the source,” he said. Scientist and writer Anand Ranganathan and economistauthor Parakala Prabhakar in their session ‘The New India Project: Crooked Timber or Iron Rich,’ engaged in a riveting debate on the current situation of the country.

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