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Banglas bond over books

Caleidoscope
Bratya Basu and Abida Islam at the inauguration of Bangladesh Book Fair. Picture by Sanat Kumar Sinha

It’s a chance for book lovers to enjoy literature from across the border. A week-long Bangladesh Book Fair was inaugurated at Gaganendra Shilpa Pradarshashala, Nandan, on Thursday.

The fair, jointly organised by the Export Promotion Bureau and Academic and Creative Publishers Association of Bangladesh, managed by Bangladesh Deputy High Commission, Calcutta, and supported by Kolkata Indo-Bangladesh Cultural Centre, was in its third edition this year and has only been expanding.

“Around 80,000 to 1 lakh books have come from Bangladesh, including around 2,000 by new authors,” said Abida Islam, the deputy high commissioner of Bangladesh in Calcutta.

The fair is an attempt at uniting Bengalis on either side of the border through their common language and literature. “We are here to spread awareness about writings in Bengali from Bangladesh…. Books from Bangladesh are not readily available here and we are trying to bridge the gap,” said Farid Ahmed, the convener of the fair.

Just as Calcutta prides itself in its book fair, Bangladeshis too take pride in the fact that they host the world’s longest book fair in the month of February, coinciding with Bhasha Dibas.

Other guests at the event from across the border included poet and secretary of education in Bangladesh, Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury, and Shamsuzzaman Khan, the director general of Bangla Akademi in Dhaka. Both demanded that Bangladeshi books be made available on College Street.

“We have plans of setting up book stalls in every educational institute. Maybe we can keep the works of Bangladeshi authors there,” said Bratya Basu, the education minister and chief guest at the event. “It’s books and people’s love that connects the two Bengals. Books and language are eternal. We can be politically separated but culturally we are still together. Though there is a dearth of Bengali book lovers everywhere, we need to keep the culture alive. Let books and language win in the end.”

Leadership talk

Yohei Sasakawa at Jadavpur University. Picture by Arnab Mondal

Muslim women boxers from Ekbalpore, street vendors, singers on local trains and guitarists strumming together the city’s music history — diverse issues that depict social change have been strung together as part of academic studies made possible by the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders’ Fellowship Fund (SYLFF) programme at Jadavpur University (JU).

The flagship programme, a collaboration between The Nippon Foundation and The Tokyo Foundation, was started in JU a decade ago after the university won an endowment of $1million from the Tokyo foundation in 2003.

To mark the 10th year of the scholarship, a daylong programme on Leadership and Governance was held on JU campus on Tuesday. It brought together academics, industrialists, economists, philanthropists and students from India and Japan.

JU is the first Indian university, the other being Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, to be a part of the network of 69 SYLFF institutions that includes Princeton, Columbia, Yale, California and Berkeley.

The programme awards scholarship for research in humanities and social sciences to students enrolled in Jadavpur University at the master’s, MPhil, and PhD levels.

“The programme aims at creating a new generation of leaders who seek to overcome the divisions of nationality, religion, ethnic background and politics,” said Souvik Bhattacharyya, the vice-chancellor of JU.

Project director Joyashree Roy identified transparent governance and collective wisdom as the keys to the success of the programme. And that meant teachers, administrators and students of JU working closely together for a common cause, said Aritra Chakraborti, a JU-SYLFF PhD fellow and one of the organisers of the celebrations.

Yohei Sasakawa, the chairman of Nippon Foundation and World Health Organisation’s goodwill ambassador for leprosy eradication, was present at the programme to give the celebratory speech.

Parthasarathi Shome, adviser to the Union finance minister, delivered the JU-SYLFF 10th Anniversary Lecture on India: Fiscal and Current Account Rebalancing. The session was chaired by industrialist Harsh Neotia.

The programme ended with a debate on Leadership is more Important than Governance.

(Contributed by Chandreyee Ghose)