Sunday, February 10, 2013

MELOW International conference, 8-10 February 2013

8-10 Feb 2013

The 12th international conference of MELOW began this morning at the Panjab University, Chandigarh. This year it dovetailed into the  Fourth Chandigarh Festival of LettersThis year's conference and festival was inaugurated by Sh KK Sharma, Adviser to the Administrator and the Vice-Chancellor of Panjab University, Prof AK Grover.  

Prof Cheryl Johnson, from the Miami U of Ohio, gave the keynote for the MELOW Conference. Her subject was slave narratives and she focused on the agony, pain and fear in the writings of AfroAmerican memoirs. She set the tone for the conference which focuses on different aspects of story-telling, adaptations and revisions. Her session was followed by parallel sessions in which twelve different papers were presented by visiting delegates. 

In this morning's CSA event such awards were given to eight city litterateurs who have made lived a life dedicated to literature and a significant contribution to its promotion: Ms Sarjit Kalha, an exemplary teacher who has spent forty years or more teaching literature in the city and inculcated the love of literature among thousands of her students, was the first to receive the CSA Award of Recognition. Others recipients were Sultan Anjum and Shree Ram Arsh (Urdu), Renuka Nayyar, Prem Vij and Dr Paresh (Hindi), Subhash Sharma  (Punjabi), and Vandana R. Singh (translation).

Irshad Kamil, lyricist-poet who is an alumnus of Panjab University, interacted with the audience in a late evening session. He spoke of popular and elitist literature, talked about the difference between poetry and film songs, critiquing the reasons why there is sometimes a bias against the latter. Irshad's session was greatly appreciated by the audience who wanted him to recite more and more of his poetry.

Day 2: 9th Feb:

The second day began early in the morning with several parallel sessions of the 12th MELOW International conference on Story-telling Patterns.  By lunch time more than forty registered delegates of the conference had presented papers on different aspects of the theme. These were divided into fifteen parallel sessions that ran back-to-back through the morning. Chairing these sessions were senior scholars from Chandigarh and also from other parts of the country. Several foreign delegates also presented papers.

Simultaneously, the events of the Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi were held with interactive sessions between the audience and three well-known writers: Mamta Kalia who is bi-lingual and writes in Hindi and in English, Manjula Rana who writes in Hindi, and Gauri Shankar Raina who translates from Kashmiri into Hindi and English.  These are writers engaged in taking their stories out of limiting confines, into a wider world, to a larger readership. 

the post-lunch sessions were devoted to Conference papers again, with fifteen more scholars presenting their papers in six different sessions. 

The highlight of the evening was another interactive CSA session with two budding creative writers who have scaled the heights of success: Vikram Sampath from Bangalore, best known for his novel My Name is Gauhar Jaan, and Siddhartha Gigoo, author of the acclaimed novelThe Garden of Solitude. Listening to these two very young writers was a delightful experience. Vikram was in animated conversation with Aradhika Sharma while Anil Rain engaged  Gigoo in an interesting tete-a-tete.

Present at the evening session was Shri KK Sharma,  the Adviser to the Administrator, who evidently enjoyed the sessions with the writers. A versatile person, interested in the arts, literature and the finer aspects of life, Shri Sharma gave his own point of view on the relation between literature and history, between an individual's perception and a public catastrophe, as he mingled freely with the delegates after the session.

Over all, it was a rich and fruitful day at the Chandigarh festival of Letters, made even more meaningful with the participation of the hundred odd delegates of the conference who relished the experience and made the best use of the intellectual feast.  The festival clearly has an academic tinge to its activities. This, perhaps, is its USP: seriousness, purpose and direction, all aimed at sharing the spirit of humanity that one understands best through literature.

Day 3: 10 Feb:

On the final day of the MELUS-MELOW Conference there were more than thirty scholarly presentations in  nine parallel sessions and one plenary. The highlight of the day was the special Isaac Sequeira Memorial Session in which three outstanding papers by young scholars were presented.

In memory of the late Professor Isaac Sequeira (of Osmania University) who was a leading academician and the patron of MELUS-India and MELOW, the ISM Award is given to a scholar below forty years of age for the best conference presentation. It is essential that competing scholars should meet all necessary deadlines for submission of abstracts and full papers. Thereafter, the written papers are evaluated by a panel of senior professors and three best papers are selected for presentation in the ISM Session of the conference. The award is highly prestigious and  hotly coveted by younger scholars.

This year there were 27 abstracts submitted for the ISM Award, of which 10 were long-listed. The ten full papers were then evaluated and three were shortlisted for today's presentation.  Navreet Sahi, PhD scholar from the English Dept of Panjab University, competed today with Garima Williams of Kanpur and Sangeeta Singh of Hamirpur for the award. The competition was very close as all three presentations were outstanding and it was very difficult for the judges (senior professors: Sushila Singh of BHU, Mukesh Williams from Japan, and Meera Malik from Chandigarh) to arrive at a decision. Finally the award went to Garima Williams but the other two candidates were also highly commended by the judges. The award comprises a certificate and a cash prize of Rs. 5,000.

Post-lunch, the Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi's meet-the-writer sessions were also a great success.  Poet Arundhathi Subramaniam from Bombay was in interaction with Balpreet in the first session. She recited some of her poems to an appreciative audience. Meghna Pant, author of the best-selling novel One and a Half Wife, was engaged in a witty repartee by Vivek Atray. She spoke about the process of publication, marketing and promoting the novel. Her forthcoming collection of short stories, Happy Birthday, will soon be out in the market. In the final session Amandeep Sandhu was in conversation with Siddhartha Gigoo, himself a writer of note.  Amandeep's first novel, Sepia Leaves was a success and the new novel Roll of Honour, has been recently published to wide acclaim.

The concluding session of the Festival brought in a large number of young students from Chandigarh schools and colleges along with their parents. They came to receive prizes for the creative writing events that the CSA has been conducting through the year. Shri Vivek Pratap Singh, Commissioner for Chandigarh Municipal Corporation, gave away the prizes and the certificates and later congratulated them on their achievements. Altogether about forty children happily received prizes this evening.

This brought to a satisfactory conclusion the three-day festival of letters. There was a glow of happiness on all faces, the sense of satisfaction that comes from an enriching experience.

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