The Aligarh Muslim University Literary (AMU) festival 2018 was to begin on a rather seldom note. With merely two events lined up for Day one, the organizers possibly decided to steer clear of putting too many irons in the fire.
The AMU Literary Festival is important and unique because it is by far the only literary festival in India that is organized by university students, and that too without any corporate sponsorship. The whole event is managed by the students, from the guests to the topics of the panels, everything.
A panel and Dastan Goi were the two events scheduled for AMU literary festival’s first day.
The inaugural panel of the event by Sankarshan Thakur proved to be a perfect rubric for the entire escalated event. Mr. Sankarshan Thakur is the current Roving Editor of The Telegraph. About five minutes into his lecture and the historical Kennedy Auditorium of AMU, power packed, fell dead silent. The audience intendedly listened as the political journalist revealed riveting insights. The former Associate Editor of Indian Express, Sankarshan Thakur created a landscape into the most secretive tunnels of the current Indian political scenario.
“My position is not to be blindly critical of anything that comes our way…But being able to critically look at it is very important” – Sankarshan Thakur
From the ravings about ‘firsts’ to the threat of the silence of a democracy gradually turning to its absence, his lecture resonated all the desired notes of a journalist’s pen. He spoke and the Necessity of Speaking was evident in the stark silence of the crowd of students.
The day ended with Dastan Goi, creating an ineffable ambiance of a soothing Urdu tradition.
Picking up loose ends, the second day began with Padhant – a beautified musical version of Urdu prose and poetry recitation. Simultaneous, in the vicinity, a feminist journalist raved about her stance. Kalpana Sharma, a columnist and former deputy editor of The Hindu, taught what it meant to have ‘equality in the sense of equity.’
As she stressed the need to see behind the obvious, she asserted to the interactive crowd of young women that –
“We need to report everything from a gender perspective”
This was the world and the next panel brought in literature. The festival finally became an eccentric amalgamation of the two. Chandrahas Chaudhary, a novelist and literary critic for ‘The Observer’ sat along the debutant writer Neyaz Farooqui. They traced back the origins of their masterpieces, Clouds and An Ordinary Man’s Guide to Radicalism. Both these novels are polls apart and yet, of the same roots. Roots that came to merge and collide as they read through their works and discovered life in literature.
“Everybody speaks in a way particular to themselves and when you add all those together, you have a view of the society.” – Chandrahas Chaudhary
Novels, as creating society, followed the demons of the society. Prof. Satish Deshpande and Shuddhabrata Sen Gupta, carefully dissected the criticality of The Curse of Caste in India. Satish Deshpande, presented an epiphany before the audience by breaking through the glass of vague terminologies. He called them ‘actions’ rather than ‘descriptions’. Everything was narrowed down to one simple word – ‘People’. A word that created coherent minds for the next panel titled Populism in the Age of Conspicuous Consumption. The penultimate Day of AMU literary festival began with culture, created a panorama of the world and its darkness, and ended with Ghalib and his tradition.
By now the audience, knew art, tradition, culture in context of literature and beyond. The final day bagged contemplative panels. Beginning from the connection between literature, life and the reality of representation, focusing on disabled literature and a final discussion over the politics of viewing people as numbers. Heavy loads of revelations were heaved over young minds. Loads turned to breeze in the end session back in the Kennedy Auditorium. The much-awaited panel by journalist and story-teller Neelesh Mishra was heralded with cheers and claps, which turned occasional after he began his Art of Storytelling. And the Kennedy Hall was left in stark silence once again, only this time in astonishing amusement.
“Only those who understand the world, are capable of changing the world.” – Akhilesh
The world belongs to the youth and AMU literary festival manifests this truth. With all its strings in the hands of young students of the university, this lit fest replicates a provident reality. Its successful organization is a paradigm to the epiphanic power that universities hold within their walls. A one-of-a-kind literary festival in India, that is gradually replicating the genesis of another Hay-on-Wye.