Special Reports

Seemanchal International Literary Festival

Kishanganj: In 1874, Thomas Hardy’s literary masterpiece Far from the Madding Crowd became a pragmatic metaphor. The novel still transcends in multiple forms from critical assessments to movie adaptations. It’s one more contextual adaptation was witnessed in the recently concluded inaugural edition of Seemanchal International Literary Festival (SILF) in the pastoral Kisahnganj region.

Seemanchal comprises of Kishanganj, Araria, Purnea and Katihar districts. An extremely neglected area in Bihar, it boasts of remarkable achievements including being the birthplace of the famous Hindi writer Phaneshwar Nath Renu. The region’s diverse ethos is vivid in people’s lifestyles. They profess many faiths, speak several languages or dialects and maintain unity in diversity.

SILF was the brainchild of Singapore-based journalist, author and publisher Zafar H. Anjum who hails from Kishanganj. Located in the lap of country’s chicken-neck adjoining the queen of hills, Darjeeling, at Bihar-Bengal intersection and close to Bangladesh and Nepal borders, Kishanganj connects Northeastern Indian states with the rest of the country.

Held in collaboration with Kitaab International, Singapore and Insan School Kishanganj, SILF was a first of its kind in an area which has not seen such literary events earlier. Distinguished literati from various parts of the world spoke their minds on this occasion.

SILF’s inaugural edition at Insan School campus coincided with the school’s golden jubilee celebration. Eminent writers and authors’ participation made the two-day literary fest a grand success. Speaking on various issues in many sessions, they included eminent critic Professor Shafey Kidwai of AMU, Senior Deputy Editor of The Hindu-Frontline, Ziya Us Salam, Editor of commercial and business books at the Penguin Random House India, Milee Ashwarya, co-founder of Bangalore Writers Workshop Write Leela Write, Rheea Mukherjee, Singapore journalist PN Balji, Malay novelist-cum-poet, Isa Kamari, UK-based Urdu poet Dr. Nadeem Zafar Jilani, Mumbai-based Urdu novelist Rahman Abbas, USA-based academician and writer Dr. Debotri Dhar, poet and author Abha Iyengar, creative head of IDream Production and Percept Picture Company, Aditya Kripalani, journalist Percy Fernandez and Dr. Kamlanand Jha of the Central University of  South Bihar.

The inaugural session, held at Insan School, was inaugurated by the Bihar Minister of Culture, Arts and Youth Development,  Chandra Ram. Insan School Foundation’s Saba Syed Hafeez welcomed the guests. PN Balji spoke on Indians abroad with a Singaporean perspective. Panel discussion followed on reclaiming humanity through literature with Rahman Abbas, Isa Kamari, Shafey Kidwai and Ziya Us Salam as participants. Writer and journalist Anant spoke on the life and works of Phanishwar Nath Renu, the pride of Seemanchal. Professor Kamalanand Jha spoke on opportunities and challenges in the contemporary Hindi literature. Professor Shafey Kidwai spoke in the panel discussion on challenges and difficulties of writing Urdu fiction.

Isa Kamari’s book Tweet was released on the opening day. Kidwai said that Kamari’s novel Intercession is the first Malay novel to be translated into Urdu. Another panel discussion discussed gender in fiction with Rheea Mukherjee, Abha Iyengar and Jayanthi Sankar as panelists. (Asif Anwar Alig -- asifanwaralig@gmail.com