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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 6 | Issue 47 | November 25, 2012 |


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Hay Festival

Members of the audience got the opportunity to interact with the distinguished personalities at the sessions.

Rediscovering Love for Literature

Naziba Basher
Photos: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo

It was the most inspirational weekend an aspiring writer could have asked for. With some of the most well-established writers from different parts of the world -- not only speaking of their work and how they came about to becoming an individual with the position they hold in the world of literature -- but also, giving young budding novelists that certain boost of courage they need to make their way into this world, the Hay Festival took place in Bangla Academy, Dhaka University, Dhaka from November 15-17, 2012. The producers of Hay Festival, Dhaka were Sadaf Saaz Siddiqi, Tahmima Anam, Peter Florence and Lyndy Cooke. The title sponsor of the event was The Daily Star while the project partner was Jatrik.

A fan conversing with Muhammed Zafar Iqbal.

The inaugural ceremony was held on November 15, 2012 where Philip Hensher, author of 'Scenes from Early Life', his latest work, had mentioned how holding a literature festival at such a site was important. The inaugural ceremony also consisted of a dance performance by Shadhona and a cross-dressing piece of Bengali Folk.

Day two of the festival kick-started with an awe-inspiring session with Mohammad Hanif, author of 'A Case of Exploding Mangoes', and Anis Ahmed, author of 'Goodnight, Mr Kissinger', and was moderated by Sameer Rahim, from The Telegraph, United Kingdom.

One session after the other, with notable authors from Bangladesh and abroad, was reason enough for any young author to rediscover their love for writing. With the likes of Muhammed Zafar Iqbal, Sharbari Zohra Ahmed, Catherine Masud, Fakrul Alam, Anisuzzaman, Nandita Das, Anisul Hoque, Syed Shamsul Haq, Kaiser Haq, Arundhati Subramaniam, Selina Hossain, and many, many more, the festival was an absolute treat for literature-lovers across the city and beyond. The highlight of the event was none other than the mere presence of the beloved author of 'A Suitable Boy', Vikram Seth, let alone his motivational session with publisher and novelist, David Davidar.

Moureen Zahir, a student of Raffles Institute of Higher Education, with a knack for literature, and an avid reader and fan of Muhammed Zafar Iqbal's work, says, “What I really liked about the festival was the ambiance-- there was an atmosphere of excitement all around.” She adds, “Though I enjoyed each and every second there, two of my favourite moments were when I got to meet the gorgeous, awe-inspiring actor, director, writer Nandita Das and listening to the brilliant discussion by poet and writer Arundhati Subramaniam. But conversing with Dr Muhammed Zafar Iqbal, my childhood hero, definitely was a moment I will never forget, and coming back home with a signed copy of 'Good night, Mr Kissinger' was the icing on the cake! The Hay Festival was definitely one of the best events of the year!”

The final day concluded the festival on a high note with sessions such as 'Taboos', where notable personalities such as actor and director Nandita Das, poet Arundhati Subramaniam, playwright Sharbari Zohra Ahmed, and writer Audity Falguni spoke while it was being chaired by Firdous Alam, and 'Becoming A Writer', a session most important for young literature enthusiasts, where Philip Hensher, Kaiser Haq and Lucy Hannah gave important tips on becoming a successful novelist. Walking around the academy, one would come across an array of activities to indulge himself or herself into-- starting from checking out book stalls scattered around the corners of the vast field to a stage, on the lawn, on which readings, recitations, talks and more were carried out.

The variety of books sold at the festival.

Amongst the various bookstores, some of which caught attention were UPL, Omni Books, Bookworm, and of course, The Daily Star Books. For the first time, The Daily Star Books had had the opportunity to publish, veteran Indian journalist, syndicated columnist, human rights activist and author, Kuldip Nayar's book, 'Beyond the Lines'. The launching of the book included a session and discussion between Kuldip Nayar and the editor and publisher of The Daily Star, Mahfuz Anam. Among other books, Shazia Omar's newest work, 'Intentional Smile' was also launched. UPL launched their newest publication, 'Rising from the Ashes: Women's Narratives of 1971', in association with Ain O Salish Kendra. Photographer and columnist Ihtisham Kabir also launched his new book, 'Sundarbans'. Kaiser Haq's latest works, 'Published in the Streets of Dhaka: Collected Poems' and 'The Woman Who Flew', were published by UPL and Penguin India, respectively. Among some of the most sold books were 'Lifelines' by Farah Ghuznavi, 'A Suitable Boy' by Vikram Seth, 'White Mughals' by William Dalrymple, and many more.

Rizanuzzaman Laskar, a student of North South University, and a keen writer, laments, “I somehow managed to miss some of the best parts of the festival! From the ones that I did not miss, the sessions with Vikram Seth and Dr Zafar Iqbal stood out. It was a privilege just to listen to them speak. Listening to them, and the other speakers, writers, and thinkers inspired, inflamed, spurred and left me with an itch to write more and more! As for books, the autobiography of Kuldip Nayer and the not-so-finished autobiography of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman caught my eyes.”

The successful festival ended on a colourful, cultural note with rhymes inspired by Bangla Folklore, a dance performance, Shapmochon, by Pallavi Dance Centre, and the soulful ballads of philosopher-poet Lalon Shah, featuring Arif Baul.

Being a young writer myself, I could not get enough of the admirable environment even after spending two straight days, from morning to evening, at the Bangla Academy. Starting from the crunching of the fallen leaves from the trees above my head, all the way to the poise, enthusiasm, and humbleness with which the distinguished personalities spoke, the Hay Festival was more than just an event. It was the means through which young, aspiring writers, of this day and age, could find that place in their hearts and minds which needed that extra boost to go further, and take their rightful place in the amusing and enthralling world of literature in the near future.

Readers and writers found heaven on Earth at the Hay Festival!

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2012