The Independent Student Newspaper of Ashoka University

Ashoka Literature Fest 2019 Recap

By Surabhi Sanghi, UG20

The first ever Ashoka Literature Festival took place on 30th and 31st March with a wide range of the line up of speakers along with various activities and workshops. The speakers came from diverse fields of history, news, politics, academia etc. and included some of our beloved professors including but not limited to, Gilles Vernier,  Rita Kothari and Malvika Maheshwari. The fest boasted more than 40 speakers, with esteemed figures such as Yogendra Yadav (politician, President Swaraj India), Gurmehar Kaur (Social activist, author Small Acts of Freedom), Vidya Shah (Singer, writer), Prannoy Roy (Founder NDTV), Ravish Kumar (Senior Executive Editor NDTV), Vqueeram Aditya Sahai (Writer, Poet, Activist), etc.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, our Vice-Chancellor inaugurated the event with an opening speech and all the present speakers along with the fest directors (Sufi Dharma, UG 20 and Anant Shah, UG 20) lit the ceremonial lamp.  Day one of the fest saw some very interesting and engaging panels with discussions on queerness, poetry, the figure of Vilayat Khan, Mahabharata, a debate on Amazon vs Prime etc. Day two of the fest witnessed discussions and dialogue on issues and topics such as wanderlust, biographies, the world of ghazals, how cities have a life, politics and the current scenario and even medical literature and imagery. Full Circle bookstore set up a tiny shop for the duration of the fest with copies of all the books authored by the speakers who were going to be present at the Lit Fest. There were also a wide variety of vendors catering to the hunger pangs of the attendees with food stalls from a variety of brands such as Subway, Mad Over Donuts and Burnout Food Truck.

The Partition Museum of Amritsar had also set up a pop-up museum on day one to showcase the history of partition, its individual stories of partition and how the present generation have come to look at it. Sreya Muthukumar and Sayan Sinha conducted a workshop on day one on songwriting and composing. Parthiv Shah, a noted photographer took a workshop on the second day titled “Self Portrait to the Selfie: Redefining image making”. Ashoka Film Festival in collaboration with the Ashoka Literature Festival organized film screening on day two of three documentary films (Grey, Chahat ke gubare, Aghatit). These dealt with important issues that have been historically ignored by the mainstream media – Transgenders Persons Bill 2016, domestic violence and child labour in India. The screening was followed by a discussion with award-winning filmmaker Amritanshu. The Bastion, an independent news organisation founded by students from Ashoka University hosted “Unplugged” which was an informal space for the audience to come and interact with the different speakers in a setting that was not like a formal interaction between a panellist and audience in a huge room.

After each session, there was an opportunity for the audience to talk to the speakers and get their books signed by them, to which the speakers gladly obliged. Both the days of the fest ended on a spectacular note. Day one concluded with a musical performance by Vidya Shah accompanied by William Dalrymple’s narration. Dalrymple is a historian from Scotland, now living in India who has worked extensively on Delhi, Mughals and the rule of the English East India Company. The performance was a soulful rendition of Dalrymple’s book – The Last Mughal, where certain instances and events were brought to life through the power of classical music by Vidya Shah and narration by the author himself. The second day ended with the closing note by the fest directors and the final panel in Dr Reddy’s Auditorium. The panel was called “Does the Nation know”. The panellists were Yogendra Yadav, Ravish Kumar and Rajeev Bhargava moderated by Manisha Priyam.

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