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Diaspora writers celebrate roots

Bihar has not been the birthplace of Hindi only but several other languages that have now travelled across the world.

The second Patna Literature Festival offered a platform to a cross-section of writers to discuss the common roots and diaspora writing.

On one hand, writers like Mauritius-based Sarita Boodhoo tried to find importance of Bhojpuri in this ever-changing world of literature, while on the other, a session was held on Phanishwar Nath “Renu”, whose work of fiction not only picked up issues from the traditional north Bihar society but also made a mark in Nepal during the tumultuous times of the 1950s and 1960s.

Boodhoo, who set up a Bhojpuri institute in Mauritius, said: “The Bhojpuri tradition is much older than even Hindi. It has travelled from Bihar to Surinam to Mauritius. I find it the most beautiful language as you can express yourself with sweet notes of romance. In Mauritius, we have kept the tradition alive with the government moving the Bhojpuri Speaking Union Bill in 2011. Not many people in Bihar, where Bhojpuri was born, would know that we have also sang in Bhojpuri in the UN.”

Maithili, the language mostly spoken in north Bihar and southeastern Nepal, also found its space at the lit fest. Usha Kiran Khan, Ram Bharos Kapadi Bhramar and Taranand Viyogi took part in a discussion, “Desil Bayana Sab Jan Mittha”, moderated by Arun Narayan.

Folklore was the tradition of Renu’s novels and stories too. “Renu was hardly a local writer. His characters were rooted in the north Bihar districts, in the Kosi region. But his influence was global,” said Ruchira Gupta, who saw Renu from close quarters at her Forbesganj home.

Mithlesh and Bharat contemplated on the historical tradition of Magahi while lamenting that the language, still spoken by a large section of people in the north Bihar districts bordering Nepal, has not been recognised by the government for using it in official work and exams. “It’s a system of slow death that has been happening with these languages although promotion of mainstream languages has been going on unabated,” said a Magahi writer among the audience who did not wish to be named.

Same is the case of Angika and Bajjika. “We are thankful to the Patna lit fest organisers for giving us a stage to speak in our mother tongue but a little push from the government could have changed the situation for betterment in preserving the history and culture of these languages,” said Lakhan Singh Arohi during a discussion on Angika and Bajjika languages with Yogendra and Chandrakishore Acharya on the panel.

Former IFS officer and writer Pavan K. Varma said: “It’s a kind of anti-colonial approach. While we write in English, we tend to forget the existence of other languages. We should encourage all the languages as the Bihar diaspora is distinct in its own characteristics,” said Varma, the chief minister’s cultural adviser.