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My Four Sessions at first Kolkata Literary Meet

Information compiled by: Biswajit Ganguly

Dedicated at : All Book lovers in the world and specially to everybody who have been part of Kolkata Book Fair Declaration : Information compiled in this book is Biswajit Ganguly’s personal experience about Kolkata Literary Meet or Kalam’s four different sessions. This book is informative but it must not be taken as ultimate source of information about Kalam. This book is indicated towards readers who want to get an overview about Kolkata Literary Meet and classic sessions conducted at book fair. Copyright : 1) 2) 3) 4) 5)

All scanned images are copyright protected by authorities of Kolkata Literary Meet All images digitally drawn (e.g. front cover of the book) are copyright protected by Biswajit Ganguly All images given as photographs in the book are copyright protected by Biswajit Ganguly Copyright for narrated text content of the book goes with the author. Copyright of quotes of authors go with respective author and / or Kolkata Literary Meet authorities.

Literature is the food for human minds. Those who can understand the eternal attraction of literature, try to explore it further. Those who don’t understand literature or even don’t like it, somehow become subjects of this wide field. Kolkata International Book Fair is one literary fest where almost all genres of literature is highlighted in the broad perspective of regional, national and international thought processes of contemporary art & culture. The festival remains a common ground for literature loving Bengalis, cultured Indians and international literary icons to exchange views and relish a vibrancy of a cultural festival. Of course, this festival is an open arena for the traditional book lovers and breeding ground for future authors and poets. The book fair in 2012 has been a special one in contrast to the book fairs of earlier years. For the first time, Kolkata International Book Fair obtained a series of events where different authors and personalities from other fields of literature came to participate in panel discussion and expressed their varied writing styles in accordance with the topic of the discussion. Viewing the literary figures from a near distance was a treat for my eyes while listening to their golden words were a treat for the heart & mind. It is not that Kolkata International Book Fair lacked panel discussion of literary celebrities in the past. But for the first time, the literary activity got a ‘branding’. Today’s modern authors type in computer or laptop. May be future authors would create their literary piece using tablets. But decades before, the authors used to create great literary works using type writer or just Pen or features & ink. Pens have been most natural, trustworthy and ancient companion for authors in creating unforgettable literary fiction and non-fiction. Keeping that in mind, the event of panel discussions on this year’s Kolkata Literary Meet was named in Bengali language as Kalam (meaning Pen in Bengali). However, for common understandability, the event was called Kolkata Literary Meet or KLM. The booklet I received on the venue of the event, contained the text, “…Kolkata Literary Meet is not about the writers, it’s about you, the reader. We have brought some of the best writers to you so that you can re-discover the wonderful world of books and writing, all over again.” Tridib Kumar Chatterjee, honorary general secretary of Publishers and Booksellers Guild, states in the booklet that Guild had collaborated with Gameplan Sports Pvt. Ltd. over four months to ensure that they “gave shape to the literary meet dream”. Like the other parts of the book fair, the Kolkata Literary Meet was very much accessible for the common people like me. But there had been some problem in finding the event spot for the first time. This book fair was very special to me personally because I got the chance to represent a book stall on Machu Picchu (100 years of discovery of Machu Picchu ). The stall was at book fair on behalf of Embassy of Peru and eventually represented by the students of Spanish Study Centre. I heard that 2012 was the inaugural year for KLM and wanted to attend some of the hand-picked panel discussions. It was not possible to attend all the sessions of the KLM as I had to devote time at Macchu Picchu stall and did not intend to attend all the sessions at book fair. So, by adjusting duty time at Machu Picchu stall, I and another student Bonodeep Chakraborty first approached towards the stall of Italy at book fair. We were keen to meet with Italian author, Alessandro Baricco, novelist of Open Sea, Without Blood and international bestseller Silk. The

session was supposed to begin from 5.30 pm at KLM auditorium. After asking to lots of people and being misguided towards Guild office, when we finally reached the spot, the event had already started and we just missed an access there. Despite repeated requests, the security guards did not let us enter. Having missed the event, I and my friend Bonodeep returned to the our Peru oriented stall. Now I have had an adamant nature. I took an oath and next time, I am going to view this event with proper access card. And I collected it at right time much before the “Session 19” started. Session 19 : Focus: Science – The Mystery of Black Holes On 30th January, at Session 19, starting at 12.25 pm, the focus was: Science and the mystery of black holes. The speaker was professor Tomaso Belloni. Professor Belloni was the associate astronomer at Milan’s Brera Observatory and had been working for more than 25 years in the field of galactic X-ray astronomy. His study dealt with high-energy emission from compact objects, particularly in black holes. I listened to the presentation of Professor Belloni. His discussion included, the restless galaxy, high energies of X-ray and sources of X-ray. I got a fair understanding of neutro stars, black holes and the difference between these two objects. The presentation was continued with remarkable mention of gamma ray bursts, annihilation satellite Beppo SAX, slow explosion and fast explosion of stars, swift satellite; rotating speed, magnetic field and vibrations of different stars. I was surprised to know that microquasars rotate more than 1000 times per second. Unfortunately, there was a technical fault in the projector and professor Belloni had to keep a halt in the middle of the presentation. When after a long time, I saw that problem could not be resolved, I had to leave the KLM auditorium. Session 22: Dickens @ 200: Tales of Two Cities – London, Kolkata The next session I attended was on the same date (30.01.2012). The topic was: “Dickens @ 200: Tales of Two Cities – London, Kolkata”. It was a wonderful session from British Council where authors Amit Chaudhuri and Craig Taylor came with a brilliant discussion with Sujata Sen. Both authors were brilliant in telling their feelings about city life in their individual styles. Author Amit Chaudhuri said, “Kolkata often reminds me of several cities e.g. New York.” He said that when he visited London in 1973, he observed a tension in the city as because a political change was happening there that suppressed the trade union change in the city. According to him, in present day, the city was much like Mumbai. But Chaudhuri was not too happy when he moved in to Kolkata. In his own words, “Once I moved here, I felt I actually don’t belong here (Kolkata).” To him, Kolkata has been a “city of paradox”, “city of dirtyness” but yes, of course, “city of self-consciousness”. When Sujata Sen asked Craig Taylor, “You have written a book on London. What was the origin?” Mr. Taylor answered that “the origin was general curiosity about London. Sujata Sen asked that “You have spent one and half days in Kolkata. Will Kolkata become London?” Craig instantly answered, “Perhaps the city (Kolkata) resembles London in different trajectories. Amit Chaudhuri made a significant comment about Kolkata which was controversial, I suppose. Chaudhuri said, “Kolkata is a mix of rural Bengal and urban Bengal. I sensed it from aeroplane. And I don’t sense it anymore…” It was also concluded that so much was made about the city by

not only writers but also by marketers. Mr. Taylor commented, “You are there (in London) to work as hard as you possibly can.” The interviewer finally asked, “Is there space for thinking in Kolkata?” Amit Chaudhuri answered, “I have access to the city from the members of my family. It might have dried up. The Bengali language is not used much. It (space of thought & expression) is deeply depended on magic of Bengali language. Irish people didn’t write in Irish language; they wrote in English language. And Bengali people wrote in Bengali…” Saying this the author Amit Chaudhuri wanted to draw conclusion. Both authors read from their respective piece of creation. While Amit Chaudhuri read a significant piece from his book, Mr. Taylor read a portion from his book, “”. What was fascinating was his way of expressing and differentiating between “London” and “Londain” with one of his characters in the book, Londoners. Both the authors made the discussion very special. Mr. Chaudhuri’s outspoken and Mr. Taylor’s soft spoken thoughts made the discussion worth to enjoy. At the end of the discussion session, I spotted Mr. Taylor at the Charles Dickens Reading Room. There I introduced myself as a self published author and took his autograph. Like any good author, Mr. Taylor was very open to his fans and he welcomed all questions and autograph papers towards him. While coming out of the Kalam auditorium, I went to the Macchu Picchu stall hurriedly. Next day, I was determined to come back for the Session number 23. KLM was making me addicted towards it. Session 23 : In a Strange Land : Traveling Through A Novel Session 23 was an insight into how traveling is portrayed through a novel. Eminent authors Rahul Bhattacharya and Kapka Kassabova participated in that session to share their own views about two cultures (Caribbean and Latin American). The session facilitator role was aptly played by Ruchir Joshi. Kapka Kassabova, brought the travelogue feeling from her novel, “Twelve Minutes of Love: A Tango Story”. The book was all about tango culture and the authoress said that she even named the chapters of the book at sync with Tango songs. Kapka’s reading started with her mentions of “Pacific Coast of Fictional Equador”. The reading covered a vivid description of a “Puerto” (village) from the fantastic viewpoint of the authoress. The portion that Rahul Bhattacharya read was about the Indian population of Guyana. According to Rahul, one third of Guyana went there from India nearly one hundred and fifty years ago as labourers. They evolved their own little India there. Rahul’s first piece of reading brought us how people of Guyana did emotional talks among themselves with evergreen classics of Indian singers Rafi and Kishore. Ruchir Joshi asked one simple question to Kapka. Ruchir asked that he could see from Kapka’s pronunciation about Spinish words that she knew Spanish. She had been in South America and associated with Tango culture. So, did she learn it during traveling or before that? Then both authors were asked about writing English books with deep association with other languages.

Kapka began the answer with her fine description about Latin American culture, her own knowledge of language and continuous interaction with different cultures starting from her childhood. Kapka said that she was a polyglot and Spanish was the fifth language that came out through her writing. She said that she learnt Spanish because she was obsessed with Argentine Tango. Her cultural association was one of “chronic confusion”. She grew up in Bulgaria within the boundaries of European culture. After the fall of Berlin wall, her family immigrated (perhaps to New Zealand). Her changing association with places reflected in learning different cultures and languages (and of course, through her written literary pieces for our reading!). Rahul explained that in Guyanese culture, different words were spoken among Guyanese people which were actually derived from French, Dutch, Indian Bhojpuri or sometimes from African origin. Ruchir Joshi threw some light on multi-language association from the perspective of Indian culture. For example, he mentioned his association with language Gujarati and English. Rahul responded back saying that we, the Indian were have been brought up in a “cultural hybrid”. Kapka gave examples of writers who switched languages through writing. She also said, evolving of different words from Tango and according to her, Tango is a beautiful metaphor for art, dance culture, friendship, movement and a true reflection of life. Then Kapka read a nice portion from her book about “Why do you Tango?” It reflected the answers from American, German, Russian, Italian, Swiss, Dutch, Spanish, Australian, Greek men & women with emotional answers on why they do Tango. And it was the emotion, ecstasy and wisdom that can be found in Kapka’s book on Tango. Rahul said that after the panel discussion, he would like to return to Delhi from Kolkata by train rather than by plain. As a reasoning, he said, one important thing about traveling is “encounters”. And he needed “encounters” to evolve his experience and get them transitioned through writing. Kapka added that Place is one thing and story is another. A proper travelogue can come in even years after visiting the place. The conversation continued and at the ending phase of the conversation we got an interactive session where questions were asked from the audience and both authors eagerly answered those. The session ended and with that, my virtual traveling with personalities like Ruchir Joshi, Rahul Bhattacharya and Kapka Kassabova ended, too. At the end of the session, I had a short conversation with both the main authors and I collected autographs from them. I had a surprise for Kapka. I wrote her own poem on a plain piece of paper and requested her to give autograph on that. She was actually surprised to see her poem hand-written by me and then felt kind enough to fulfill my request. Outside the KLM auditorium, I had a word or two with Ruchir Joshi. I thanked him for conducting the session well with authority, brain and smartness. Session 25: Ashanto Samay : Bhalo Sahityer Aanturghar This discussion was conducted in Bengali language. I give you the English translation. The session was about “Turbulent time : the exact timing for great literature”. The session’s participating authors were supposed to be Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Joya Mitra and Samaresh Majumder. Both are stalwart authors of Bengali literature. Unfortunately, Samaresh Majumder could not attend the session. So, Chandril Bhattacharya, a popular lyricist & columnist of our time, came in to act as programme moderator. I give you the excerpts of the conversation.

Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay started the discussion, “It is not that in turbulent times, literature of high standard has to be created. In turbulent times, some outrageous incidents happen. In our modern world, you can find plenty of such examples. It is supposed that turbulent times are actually the breeding ground of great talents. If you want to write something, you have to go deeper into it and you have to feel it. Then only, the truth will be properly reflected through it. In the present literary world, no new topic remains to be written, but great authors can represent the same topic in newer viewpoint.” Joya Mitra mentioned, “Literature created during the second world war are still very popular, although they have traveled a long way through the passage of time. Moreover, when one country does not attack another, does it mean that there is no turbulent time? Isn’t there any internal atrocious incident within a country? If so, then how can we divide between turbulent and peaceful times?” Then she added, “In turbulent times, we can expect Anne Frank’s diary. Also, you can’t expect any good grammar, sentence structure from American slaves, but the story of their painful lives has nothing but the ultimate truth. In our country also, truthful tales had been written in the times of communal riot. If you see lightning in naked eyes, you will see the garden of gods and you will be blind. Here lightning means turbulent times. Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay: Uncle Tom’s Cabin helped in the campaign against slavery. Chandril Bhattacharya: Suppose there is any war happening just now. Can somebody write something (partly) based on that war? Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay: This (literature partly based on the war) can be made possible using one’s imagination. Use of imagination makes the whole story dramatic. External matters don’t influence people for a long time. So, to create (great) literature, one needs to cover the inner perspective. Joya Mitra: There is a Mahabharata on Bhil tribe. But in that case, there is no mention of land related dispute. Chandril Bhattacharya: In every epic, there is a mention of turbulent times. Were such anticlimaxes created intentionally? Joya Mitra: In Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, we witness an apparently peaceful book. But a person, who has experienced turbulence, only he can write such a great book. We, the people of the sub-continent, have been going through a troubled time. But did the unpeaceful incidents like partition of India gave us any great literature? Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay: One writer can’t cross the time. There are some windows that we can accept. Suppose, a man is not interested about Politics. And there is another man who opens the

newspaper pages only to look into the political matters. Such different mindsets reflect in the writing. As a result, different things like memory, reality and imagination collate within us. Chandril Bhattacharya: Can extremely bitter stories be written at any time or only during the time of tensions? Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay: Well, it is possible to write such stories at every time. And for writing such stories, one needs to proceed alone. By birth, we can feel such loneliness. There is nobody to help us in this regard. Chandril Bhattacharya: Indirectly, time attacks everybody for all the time. And I must say, if a person did not go to jail, he could not narrate that to serve the literary purpose. Joya Mitra: What we have learnt from our days in jail, only a fraction, but not the all of it, has come out in public. Chandril Bhattacharya: But some important facts were still out. During second world war, if somebody drew any picture of a beautiful landscape, he would have been arrested. Joya Mitra: May be, that has happened. But when blow comes against your creativity, then the willingness to write becomes more. Within our brain, once a colony was forcefully formed, such that we obeyed all disliking incidents. Now, if we want to move over from such colonized condition of our brain, then we have to save the children. Even at turbulent times, we have to tell them that this world is very beautiful. So, don’t spoil it. Chandril Bhattacharya: Is there any literary piece of yours (Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay), after writing which it seemed that what you have written was absolutely true? Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay: As author, I try to narrate the truth. Chandril Bhattacharya: Within peaceful time, the turbulent time remains hidden and vice versa. Joya Mitra: It is not necessary to write about turbulent times by living within that time only. The main job is to reflect the truth in turbulent times. Chandril Bhattacharya: There is no hard and fast rule that you have to show light in a dark tunnel. You can show the same thing through the destructive process in turbulent times. After this conclusive remark by Chandril Bhattacharya, the discussion was ended. There was an interactive session between authors and audience, which I am not including here. At the end of the session, I took autograph of Chandril Bhattacharya and even got a chance to interact with Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay for very short period of time. After that the reporters created a human wall between me and Mr. Mukhopadhyay and I had to leave. I came out of the auditorium of Kalam or Kolkata Literary Meet and proceeded towards Embassy of Peru’s stall through crowd.


Professor Tomaso Belloni’s session details

Professor Tomaso Belloni’s presentation

Author bio of Amit Chaudhuri and Craig Taylor along with an autograph from Craig Taylor

Author Bio of Kapka Kassabova, Rahul Bhattacharya along with an autograph given by Mr. Bhattacharya

Sorry, the image and author bio of Ruchir Joshi was not there on the same page.

Short author bio of Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay, Samaresh Majumdar, Joya Mitra

Sorry, the image and author bio of Chandril Bhattacharya was not there on the same page.

A poem, “It Never Entered My Mind” by Kapka Kassabova (poem is hand written by me) along with her autograph and writing, “Biswajit, Nice to meet you”.

Amit Chaudhuri and Craig Taylor at the discussion

The two authors interacting with each other

Craig Taylor interacting with a reader

Authors Kapka Kassabova, Rahul Bhattacharya and Ruchir Joshi at the conversation

Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay in interaction with Chandril Bhattacharya

In conversation : Joya Mitra and Chandril Bhattacharya

Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay giving interviews to journalists after the end of the session

Hope you enjoyed the session briefs @ KLM. Let your love & passion for literature be continued. Write back to me with your feedbacks to the following email ids: ,

First Kolkata Literary Meet