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Perfect stop for tradition

- Languages meet at lit fest

Patna, Feb. 14: The centuries-old literary tradition of the state with the “cultural revival” in the past few years found perfect space on the first day of Patna Literature Festival today.

From writers like Oxford-based Kunal Basu to Sarita Boodhoo of Mauritius — the second edition of the Patna lit fest was more of connecting to the literary tradition Bihar is known for.

On why Patna is the latest destination of the lit fest culture in India, former IFS officer and writer Pavan K. Varma, also the cultural adviser to the chief minister, said: “Nowhere in the country, a lit fest is attended by writers of eight languages — Hindi, Urdu, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Magahi, Angika, Brajika and English. Only Patna offers a convergence of a Bhojpuri writer like Boodhoo and an English language poet, Vikram Seth. We think it’s a cultural revival because of intellectual conviction in the state. The journey of Bihar as a developing state would remain incomplete had there not been any activity on the literary front.”

Chief minister Nitish Kumar, in his inaugural speech, also mentioned the same. “We are not saying English should not be in focus, but Bihar has its own identity. We know Jaipur Literature Festival in the past few years has been a place for all sorts of writers to meet. I want Patna to create such an identity of its own. We should not imitate what others do but we can take inspiration from them. We should do something what others could not ever think.”

The “Bihari asmita (pride)”, a common term used and propagated by Nitish, found its echo among the writers also. Bangalore-based Vikram Sampath, awarded Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar in 2011 for his non-fiction biography of Gauhar Jaan, said: “I’m here simply because I want to feel the economic and cultural growth of new Bihar. I’ve heard so much about Bihar that I could not help but dashed off to Patna as soon as I got the invitation.”

Sampath, also an organiser of the Bangalore lit fest, added: “It’s my first visit to Patna and I’m enamoured of the audience here.”

Basu, whose first novel The Opium Clerk was based in Bihar, said: “I think Patna is vital for appreciating India — culturally, politically, spiritually and in a historic sense. Growing up, I have been deeply moved by the writings of Phanishwar Nath Renu, particularly his iconic novel Maila Anchal.” For Basu, too, it was his first visit to the state capital.

“Regional writing has always been and continues to be the heartbeat of Indian literature. Patna, with its multifarious realities, should tempt every Indian writer,” Basu said, adding: “Patna is hardly a ‘small town’ anymore. Indians are a deeply literary people, and so spreading the festivals all around isn’t only necessary but long overdue.”

Lit fest director and cardiologist Ajit Pradhan, said why Patna could no longer be cut off from the lit fest calendar: “Since last year, we have successfully tried to revive and democratise Bihar’s tradition. Barring the lit fest, we also organised a three-day poetry samaroh last December. The success of these fests just make us more determined to enlarge the scope of the lit fest in the years to come.”


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