The hustle in D’ Royal Auditorio on the morning of 20th October 2016 was indicator enough that the day ahead was going to be full of excitement, thrilling competitions and interesting events. The inauguration ceremony started off with the arrival of our esteemed guests, Mr Upamanyu Chatterjee, a well renowned author, Mr Adil Hussain, noted actor and Mr. Arup Kumar Dutta, honourable president of the North East writer’s forum. The program started with the “Jatiyo Songeet” of the state being played in the mesmerising voice of Late Dr. Bhupen Hazarika which was quickly followed by lighting of the ceremonial lamp which officially marked the beginning of the three day event. The honourable guests were felicitated by the chairperson, vice chairperson and founder director of RGI. This was followed by Dr. Shrutimala Duara conducting the felicitation of the presidents of the different Sahitya Sabhas of the region. The honours were done by Mrs. Rashmi Narzary and Ms.Angira Mimani. Mr. Ashok Kumar Pansari, Chairperson, RGI, then addressed the audience with the official welcome speech. It was followed by an enlightening speech by honourable guest, Mr. Arup Kumar Dutta. He spoke on the commercialisation of writing, mentioning the advent of “star writing” and also explained the meaning and essence of River Talks. A Humble man, Sir thanked the institution for being the only one in the last two decades to have collaborated with the forum in organising a literature festival. What followed next was an exhilarating performance by Guru Rewben and Saka Mashangvka which delighted the audience spreading the message of peace and harmony. The guest of honour, Mr.Upamanyu Chatterjee, humorously addressed the audience with an appealing and arresting assemblage of words. The magnetic aura of the esteemed author surely worked its charm over the audience. Finally, Mr. Adil Hussain shared his experience with literature and the pieces of writing which he gets to work with as an actor. The inauguration ceremony ended on a high note promising that the following days will be no less than a literary paradise.

PIX-A-TALE :

With the advent of River Talks the first event Pix-a-tale started right after the inaugural ceremony. It is a junior category event wherein some photographs were displayed and the contestants were asked to pen down a tale which relates to all the displayed pictures. A total of 20 participant teams from over 15 different institutions participated in this event. The event was judged by Dr. Baishali Rajkhowa and Mr. Pranab Mukherjee. The team from St. Mary’s Maligaon bagged the first prize with Royal Global School being the close second. The third prize was surprisingly won jointly by three teams of the same institute, Assam Valley School.

BARD’S CORNER :

The competitors for the Bard’s corner were all set to convert their imaginations into the form of writing, awaiting for the 4 photographs to be displayed which were to be employed for making the story. The event was judged by one of the renowned dignitary Dr Darshana goswami Deka. More than 30 participants from over 25 institutions competed amongst themselves to outshine others and emerge as the winner. Putting their best performance up for evaluation the contestants left the room with their minds full of uncertainties and expectations, awaiting the results which are to be declared the following day.

HEADS-N-HANDS :

As the name suggests “Head & Hands”, was a poster making competition with its name implying the use of ideas from the head and flawless strokes with the hand. It is said that “Art speaks where words are unable to explain”, so to express those thousand emotions this competition with the theme “Save Environment” was organised by Royal group of Institution along with the North-East Writer's Forum at the literary fest River Talks 2016 wherein all the participants very beautifully portrayed their imaginative ideas on the canvas. Posters that depicted the theme beautifully without the use of any words or slogan came out as the output of this event.

 

Mr. Ranadhi Sharma was the esteemed judge of the event. Mr. Sharma is presently the head-Marketing, PR and branding of the Assam tribune group of newspapers.

  • 1stprize – Bidisha Borthakur
  • 2ndprize – Kiran Agarwal
The first day of River Talks saw the occurrence of the panel Discussion on the very topic which included Dr. Bishas Choudhury, a noted author, Bhaskar Dutta Baruah, publisher and writer, Geeta Dharmaranjan, writer, editor and publisher and Preeti Gill, from the publishing industry, who upon their arrival were felicitated with traditional Assamese Gamochas. Dr. Bishas Choudhury, as the moderator, put forward his recognition of the distinguished panelists and mentioned the changing circumstances of today’s publishing world. Choudhury sir, then urged Preeti Gill ma’am to share her experiences as a veteran and noted member of the publishing world.

Preeti Ma’am mentioned that she has been a part of the publishing industry for more than 20 years and has had the pleasure of working with many authors on a variety of topics. But the things that we hear about the publishing industry are just chatter and conjecture that young people don’t read, or that they read a certain kind of book, with very few facts to go on. Ma’am mentioned that currently there are about 1600-1700 active publishers with more than 50,000 books being published in about 22-24 languages. A lot was expected from E-books but a lot less has come out of it. But the main question that still remains to be answered is “Has this changing trend of reading in today’s world expanded the number of readers?”

Geeta Ma’am then expressed her pleasure to be in Guwahati. She then went on to add more to Preeti Ma’am’s sayings by speaking on how big publishing field is but raised a question “Whether these huge amount of books that are being published are doing justice to the trees that are being cut to make paper?” Ma’am also said that books make the world better to live in, whenever anyone is in despair and provide us with solutions on how to tackle the various situations of life.

Bhaskar sir, thanking Preeti Ma’am and Geeta ma’am, referred to the publishing industry as nasty. There are no laws in publishing which makes the publishing line easier. He talked about how all the book store owners in Panbazar were also publishers.

Dr. Bibhas Sir expressed his thoughts on how we live in an uneven world, on which choices a seller makes and what choices are available to them. Does the society have a role in the choice of buyer and seller?

Geeta Ma’am spoke on how certain children love the touch of books. India reads English but Ma’am preferred saying the “Bhasha” instead. She explained how reading comes to children, how 1/3rd of those children go to the library and the rest 2/3 rd haven’t even read our literature. In other words, we don’t know what India produces for us. In government schools and slums, children have no access to books. So these are the places that need to be reached by publishers.

Preeti Ma’am expressing her approval for Geeta madam’s sayings added that publishing is an area that involves a lot of politics. Any book, in any language, that needs to be published in say Frankfurt, need to have a translation in English. So English is the bridge that helps the publishing industry. Also, publishers have to think about how to make numbers match. But, the main thing is the content. Some books are meant for paperbacks and some are better to read while on the metro in our phones. It really depends on the content. Some people think that translations are not as good as the real ones, and so it hinders the translation process of the publishing industry.

Bhaskar sir asked “what creates the interest of reading in children”. Which he answered depends on the upbringing and the family. He said how glossy books are more attractive than others and children are easily attracted to such glossy books. In the market, people bargain the same way for books as they do for vegetables, which are deeply upsetting.

Geeta ma’am said that she has trained about 600 teachers to upload, download, read over net and named them “Cloud Gurus”. People nowadays are completely dependent on media. As a result, regional literature is not being shared and collaborated.

Preeti ma’am talked about how the numbers of books are printed as required. She spoke on the richness, quality and content matter and how the formats need to be exciting to attract young people. She also mentioned about a girl from Amritsar who posts pictures of herself in different exciting locations on Instagram with a short story. So how about storytelling? It’s been a tradition present throughout time. But changing times brings newer ways in its wake.

Dr. Bibhas sir pointed out the problem of stocking of books and why E-books are so famous. Bhaskar sir said that in digital publishing, there is no need to buy the whole book; we can just go through the relevant topic in the net. People need space to store the books but they have none. Here E-books come into play.

Dr. Bishas sir put forward the next subtopic as how digital content is affecting. Bhaskar sir said that publishing is an unorganized industry. Vanity Publishing is replacing mainstream publishing. But writers have to make a judgement first if the work is good enough or not.

This attracted a member of the audience to speak up. He talked in defense of publishing apart from mainstream publishing. He pointed out how Indian poets were always put down by publishers. Bhaskar sir in response added how publishers had to think about a hundred things before doing something.The person still disagreed. Bhaskar Sir said that it would be unfair to generalize, to which the person said what if we use the term self published instead. Preeti Ma’am added that sometimes what a publisher wants to do is very different from what needs to be done because the market also needs to be considered.

Another audience member asked how much of a future is there in E- publishing? What about the stocks? Why can’t we send them to libraries and schools?

Geeta Ma’am answered saying that the stocks from “Katha” are being sent to various places like schools and colleges. But the government too must play a crucial role in this.

A few more questions were raised from the audience, which were all answered by out esteemed panelists. The discussion ended with the audience content with the answers and the panelists looking pleased with the success.It concluded with a vote of thanks from moderator Dr. Bishas Choudhury Sir.

COLOUR-O-GRAPHY :

Colour-o-graphy, one of the many events organised on the first day went on to witness success which was far greater than expected. This event basically emphasised on putting thoughts and ideas beautifully and skilfully in the form of art on paper. As a junior category event, it had attracted a total of 48 enthusiastic students divided amongst themselves into 24 groups coming from a number of schools in the city like Kendriya Vidyalaya, Royal Global school, St Mary's school, Axel public school, St Francis and St. Stephens. The theme of the event was Conservation of Wildlife’ and as one could see from the work of the different participants engrossed in their masterpieces , the creativity and artistry of the students were surely in their best form . The judges of this event were Ms Tulirekha Deb and Mr Koushik Hazarika . Ms Tulirekha Deb being a very talented artist had been recognised for her notable work and dedication by the Assam Science and Technology & Environment council as well as by the Ministry of HRD, government of India and is currently working as a fine arts teacher at RGS Guwahati. Mr Koushik Hazarika has been the editor at G plus since May 2013. A very spontaneous and hard working person, he has been actively involved with marketing, creatives as well as editorial activities. The winners of this event were both students of RGS with Dristiron Saikia in the first position and Pratish Paban Patwari along with Siddeshwari Ranawat as a team in the second position.

TUG OF WORDS :

A debate competition with the topic stating that “The house believes gender equality can never be achieved on this planet “, Tug of Words was an event worth watching. The event was judged by Mrs. Aparajita Bhuyan , Mr. Deepak Sharma, Dr. Bidula Sharma with Mr. Amlan Das being the speaker of the house. The heated arguments put forth by the contestants certainly raised the temperature of the house by a few degrees. Towards the end the judges and Speaker put forward their views on the performances put up by the contestants and pointed out the pros and cons, wishing the contestants a good luck for their future. The winners were:


Best team – Cotton College.
Runners up – Assam Academy of Media Studies.
Best speaker – Monami Bhuyan from Assam Engineering College.

READING SESSION :

The programme was initiated by Juri ma’am and the host of the event, Swapnil Bharali sir. The stage was then taken by the first speaker Shinie Antony ma’am, who read out a story about a woman in a married life, facing problems with her husband. The second reader was our very own Dr. B. Banerjee sir, who spoke a bit about himself and his life during his time in Jorhat Engineering College. He spoke about how life is a game of 53 cards and not 52 with the joker being very much in play. He went on to read about his teenage years and how he feels about his family, and the things that make a man. After this Monalisa ma’am took the stage with her funny self, speaking about the dynamics of culture and society and about Mizoram University. She then read about destiny and about Dylan, on how he won the Nobel Peace Prize for literature. The fourth reader was Surajit Sir, who read out three poems translated from Assamese to English. The 1st was by Hembaruah (1915), the second by Prabin Phukan, and the third poem was by Nabakanta Baruah (1926). It was about the different masks worn by people during their lifetime. The fifth reader was Shrutimala Duara ma’am, who read out a short story about a spiritual journey of a women and how she feels about it. Then the stage was taken by Indrakshi ma’am who too read a short story. Like this many more readers came and read some of the most beautiful writings and poems.

As soon as Shri Upamanyu Chatterjee entered the room, we could feel the change in the air. The people in the room were so excited to hear him speak that they could barely wait for him to enter the stage. Sir was led to the stage where he was felicitated. Preeti Gill ma’am and Monalisa ma’am were also felicitated.

The conversation started with Monalisa ma’am, appreciating the company she was in. Ma’am expressed how she would love to give the space or hand over the stage to this man who is here, sitting in between Preeti Ma’am and herself, like a respectful ‘Bharatiya Naari’. Preeti ma’am pointed out how much she loved reading ‘English August’ by Upamanyu sir. She also added a question, “Is English August an autobiography?”

Upamanyu sir answered as negative. He also quoted Henry James by saying that if we write fiction, we don’t have to write an autobiography. But people sometimes draw their own personal experiences in fiction. After the first book, specially, the metal horizons expand. Monalisa ma’am joked that Preeti ma’am was going to ask all the academic questions. But she would like to mention that she had not read any of sir’s work. But as a writer, what did he think about using flowery language in literary works?

Sir answered as no and that it really depends on the writer. Monalisa ma’am again joked about sir reading cookery books. Sir also shared that he wanted to write a collection of short stories but then ‘English August’ happened. Preeti ma’am asked why sir left the government service. Sir answered that he has been no longer in government service since July. He has been writing for more than 30 years. He called the world a funny place. He talked about his experience. He uses humor to create interest in readers. Preeti ma’am asked about beaurocrats involved in writing. Upamanyu sir agreed with Preeti ma’am and said that beaurocrats have really presented outstanding writings.

“Before my retirement, I’d actually been waking up at 5 and do with my writings and I drive off to the office”. “Now that I have retired from work, I usually wake up at 8 in the early hours, you get used to in life, u knows?” were the words I heard from one of the great Indian writer, while busy jotting down the notes of the event. “Tell us about a little of yourself apart from all the fame as a writer?” “What inspired you to write?” asked Monalisa ma’am as the maleficent writer quoted, “We had n T.V., might be that what had inspired me for reading books. And reading books is always a better option than to see someone behead in the YouTube”. And the most amazing thing that made me keep wondering is that his fascination to drive his old ambassador as he said. “It’s rather the car takes me but instead I have to take. It feels good when the people in and around Delhi points and looks at my ambassador more than the other newer cars.” And as he paused humoring with Monalisa ma’am.

As another remarkable author Mrs. Preeti Gill questionnaires upamanyu chattarjee on a serious note, about his new book that recently got published. She asked, “The book capitalizes on modern mythology, with subordinate characters and comical novels, say us a little about these characters?” as he replied “it feels horrible to answer such aquisitory questions. I m an ugly man with my imaginations at a speak. I rather sit on the table for an hour and day dream or just feel fascinated with my plots, though the prince and the popper disturbed me for me years since childhood. And the anglimaar from the fiction was something I could recollect from the boring Hindi classes since school (puffs alof).

Now hearing for this little awhile, of such a great author makes me felt that rather these great people are so down to earth, they are so much open minded that conversing with them indeed feels a dream come true. My imaginations rather expanded listening to him n person. For it feels they have also travelled the road of imagining wild like me. Now my talks apart as Monalisa ma’am asked in a rather humorous way, for she didn’t read his books but have brought them a while ago, “how much of literature have you read from the northeast?” and thus a sincere reply arrived,” to be very precise I have never read anything from any writer of the northeast, since I was always busy with shakesphere, until I met Mr. Arup Kumar Dutta and heard his fine speech.” And as both of them shared a word to read each other’s novels, and basically the north-east writings as a whole.

Sir was then asked if there was a going to be a 3rd book on Augustus Sen? Sir answered that yes it might be done. But it will take time. He has already been working on a collection of short stories since the last three years. Preeti ma’am asked about the rumor that is it true that sir does not want any word or phrase changed in his book? Sir answered that it is true. Preeti ma’am urged sir to read an excerpt from his collection of short stories upon which he read a part of “Othello sucks”. It was enchanting indeed.

Monalisa ma’am also questioned sir on Bob Dylan. He explained that he loved his music but was a put off about him. Then the questions were put forward by the audience. One sir asked that Upamanyu sir writes by hand is it about the hard work he put into it? Sir answered that he is just used to it.

Another audience member wanted to watch the movie by Dev Benegal. And asked sir what is success? Sir answered that that is the kind of thing one should ask while going in management. Another sir from audience asked what makes sir write? Sir was prepared for this answer too. He said some people worship, some people run in the morning, like that writing was a ritual for him.

Another member of the audience asked who his favourite writer was and he answered that a particular person does not necessarily come to mind but he would like to mention “The interpretation of Dreams” and “Moby Dick”. Another sir asked about the frog and bicycle from the film. Sir explained that when he was District Training in Chandrapur, he shared the room with a huge frog and laughed about how big it was. Another audience member wanted to know why he did not like ambassadors but loved fountain pens? Sir explained that it is a great looking car, but it just did not work. The last question asked was why should students study literature for exams which obtained an answer as “Don’t” from sir.

It was truly an amazing experience having sir amidst us.

Documentary Screening : RAMBUAI

For the screening of the documentary “Rambuai’ Mizoram’s ‘Trouble’ years”, all the guests were escorted to the Royal Global School where they were greeted by Banani Hazarika ma’am. The producers Sanjay Hazarika sir and Preeti Gill ma’am were felicitated by Anuradha Devi ma’am. After that Moli Senapati, Bikash Kumar Dutta and Hiten Thakuria, all noted personalities, were felicitated and honoured. The documentary showed that because of the flowering of a species of bamboo, there was an increase in rat population. This caused destruction of crops and other basic amenities. The villagers were hungry and the hunger turned to resentment. All this turned into an anti-Indian insurgency. The documentary revolves around this topic. It truly was heart warming and was a pleasure to have such a beautiful piece being screened at the end of Day 1 at River talk.