Take their regional word for it

Today, the Gateway LitFest hopes to address the marginalisation of regional writing in India, spark debate on artistic freedom and focus on literature in seven Indian languages, writes Kareena Gianani

Mohan Kakanadan, editor of the Malayalam magazine, Kaakka, is a regular at literary festivals and has one lasting memory common to all. "I have noticed how writers from the regional languages are treated as ordinary folks at such festivals," he says. Kakanandan vowed to change that.

Shanta Gokhale, Marathi author
Shanta Gokhale, Marathi author 

Today, as his brainchild, the two-day-long Gateway LitFest winds up, it will have discussed freedom of speech in the context of Perumal Murugan (the Tamilian writer who recently renounced writing), whether regional literature is keeping up with new-age tools in literature, what writing of the marginalised means, and whether regional literature in India can ever be a 'business' like Indian writing in English is. By the end of it, Kakanandan hopes he will also have answered a few questions of his own.

"We live in a globalised community and it is natural that English writing gets prominence. But this has knowingly or unknowingly resulted into an apathy, if not neglect, toward regional literary streams which have created master storytellers and poets. They do not get the recognition they deserve.

Kureepuzha Sreekumar,  Malayalam poet
Kureepuzha Sreekumar, Malayalam poet 

State governments and the media, too, do not give them the share of limelight at the national level. This is an attempt to put regional languages on the same page with English and Hindi, a small beginning," he says.

Things for regional literature have got worse over the past decade or so, he feels, especially in terms of marketability, prominence of English and social media. "Regional writing in India is gasping for attention beyond its own regional boundaries. Regional writers now want to write it in English. It is like heroes of Malayalam or Kannada vying for Bollywood for wider recognition," feels Kakanandan.

Subodh Sarkar, Bengali poet
Subodh Sarkar, Bengali poet 

Translation, too, he feels, is selective, not inclusive. "Translations happen from English to regional languages, but the reverse process is slow. Translation from one regional language to another is slower," he says.

Today, the speakers at the festival include Bengali poet Subodh Sarkar, Malayam poet Kureepuzha Sreekumar, Marathi authors Shanta Gokhale and Makarand Sathe and Gujarati poet, Sachin Ketkar.

The Gateway LitFest is being held at the NCPA, Nariman Point

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