Opening Weekend at the DSC South Asian Literary Festival

October 27th, 2011 | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Opening Weekend at the DSC South Asian Literary Festival
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The second DSC South Asian Literary Festival 2011 (SALF) kicked off on 07 October in Rich Mix, Shoreditch, London, drawing from themes of diaspora, migration, and identity. Visitors with pre-booked opening weekend tickets could redeem their money’s worth for books at the Brick Allen store on premises.

Brick Lane Bookstore New Titles

Graphic Novels and Hindu Mythology

DSC’s annual month long SALF spans over 50 events across 17 venues in London and nearby cities in the UK.  The group also sponsors Asia’s biggest literary festival in Jaipur every year. SALF director Bhavit Mehta expressed that the surplus of good literature from the Indian subcontinent fuelled a need to keep alive the “increasing appetite” for literature from the South Asian diaspora. Directors Bhavit Mehta and Jon Slack thus put together a unique ensemble of exhibitions, book presentations, poets, panels and film screenings drawing on traditional and contemporary themes affecting the region. The festival culminates with the DSC prize shortlist announcement in Shakespeare’s Globe on October 24. However, the actual winner will be declared only at the Jaipur festival, later in January 2012.

The opening night’s inaugural of Palgrave Macmillan’s biography of Sonia Gandhi by Rani Singh, about the rise of an unlikely political candidate to the presidency of a ruling Coalition of the world’s largest democracy, set twitter-verse abuzz. The next day there were art exhibitions, and intimate conversations about the ghazals of Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali with novelists and poets Kamila Shamsie and Mirza Waheed. Economics Professor and Kashmiri Nitasha Kaul,  took us through her multimedia presentation, into a country with only two private airlines, where monarchy had freshly fallen to democracy upholding the most peaceful Buddhist values, embodying a productivity that could be achieved only by Gross national Happiness, setting a very strong context for the Bhutanese narratives presented in the anthology November Light.

Art Exhibition: Kashmir Black and White

“Inner Birds, Modern Flight” Sascha Akhtar’s Performance Poetry

Sascha Akhtar from Karachi had the audience in raptures with her Gothic humor and punk poetry in “love song to Karachi” and “her malachite décolletage.” Veronica Doubleday performed Kabuli songs, and used the platform to promote her book Three Women in Herat as well as the educational NGO Little Books Afghanistan, and Afghan Aid. The evening was rounded off by sarod player Soumik Datta’s postmodern tribute to Raindranath Tagore in his blend of classical, soul, blues and electronica.

The second day launched an exciting case study of the graphic novel and Hindu mythology. Bhavit Mehta moderated a discussion with Indian independent graphic novel publisher Sarnath Bannerjee author of Delhi Calm and comic guru Paul Gavett. Panelists discussed the economics of independent graphic novel start-ups, the difference between comics and graphic novels, and whether the Indian comic industry was really in need of a boost from Hollywood animators (most graphic innovators live in Bangalore, working for Walt Disney). All speakers agreed that the graphic novel merited equal treatment as books in their positioning in important literary Festivals.

Strong Roles for Women in Fiction?

A panel comprising Costa First Novel Award winner Kishwar Desai for Witness the Night and Dipika Rai (author of Someone Else’s Garden), moderated by the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication’s Dr. Padmini Ray Murray questioned the role of strong women in fiction, in the context of larger issues like female feticide, abandonment of the girl child, and declining sex ratios. Could there ever be a hugely popular yet liberated heroine in contemporary literature? Could male writers effectively simulate the female experience? The discussion ended on a positive plea for the girl child with proceeds from both authors’ book sales going to select charities.

Photographer Irna Qureshi, presented oral histories of South Asia’s most famous highway, The Grand Trunk Road and regaled an audience with her road adventures from Delhi to Peshawar. Other events included an Islamic punk movie screening by Michael Muhammad Knight, Allen Ginsberg’s “India Journals,” Seema Anand’s one act storytelling from the Hamzanama about the art of seduction in the medieval times of Mughal Emperor Akbar.

Moni Mohsin: “Lahore has 3 problems: traffic, terrorists and no nice girls for my bore cousin. Otherwise it’s just fab.”

I came away from the opening weekend with author-signed copies of Pakistani journalist and Londoner Moni Mohsin’s Tender Hooks, a powder nosed, crackling satire on the social scene in Lahore and Mirza Washid’s debut novel about Kashmir, The Collaborator, at no cost! While I longed to attend the forthcoming days’ events featuring Mohammad Hanif, HM Naqvi, Anjali Joseph and Arunava Sinha, with quick despondence, I bid bye to Henry Beck’s world famous historic design template, scurrying back to Stirling in time for Scott Russell’s next class.