The eighth Kolkata Literature Festival, being held at the Book Fair in association with The Telegraph, started on Friday on a reflective note, which perhaps is appropriate, given that the city is emerging from the grip of two bitter years of isolation and loss.
Author Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay, who lit the inaugural lamp, spoke of the solitude that shrouds those who create with words. “Nihsongo pathacharir atmoromanthan (a lonely walker’s selfreflection)” is how he described the journey of becoming an author. “My role is essentially that of a clerk, seated at the desk as I am at home toiling with pen and paper, at the receiving end of reprimands. Through the day, I play various roles — father, husband, son, customer... At the dead of night, when I get my self back, I face the darkness and another me to whom I make offerings of my reflections — who I am, what I have achieved, where I am headed... Life’s myriad churnings throw up poison and ambrosia in unequal measure.” Literature as a process is too lonely. “There is no friend, no sympathy,” he said.
Recognition may come when the locks turn gray. “Then people seek autograph, touch one’s feet; it feels good. It seems then that the ardous journey was worth undertaking after all.”
At the celebration of literature that is the Book Fair, or more specifically, the festival, he said he wanted to remind everyone that authors were not happy people. “Their life is punctuated with sadness and sweat and sacrifice. Such moments as these of basking in the limelight and getting to address you are the rewards of that life,” the 86-year old reflected in his inaugural speech.
Musings on myth
Two central figures in the conversation between mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik and dancer Shinjini Kulkarni were Shiva and Krishna, who inform both their worlds, as they talked myth, mudras and metaverse in another session later in the day.
The audience at a session of the Kolkata Literature FestivalBishwarup Dutta
Pattanaik, who had the SBI auditorium brimming over, started off by separating the strands of myth, legend, folklore and history in response to Shinjini, a practioner of kathak that entails storytelling.
“Only in more recent times are we separating stories into objective and subjective truths. Two hundred years ago, they meant the same thing. When you talk of mythology, the key word is subjectivity. The stories are people’s stories, not universal stories that everyone will agree on. Faith is in the realm of mythology. Legends have political connotation, like kings proclaiming having had dreams. Folklore is any story told by people. It may give a clue to history but may not be history,” he elucidated.
The literature festival ends on Saturday.