River Talks 2016 : Day 2

The second day of River Talks had the grandest opening, with the honour of having the Wordsworth of India, Sir Ruskin Bond under its roof. 21st October 2016, is surely going to be a red-letter day for the entire family of Royal Group of Institutions, henceforth. A day where we all were blessed to meet the ‘living legend’, the most beloved Anglo-Indian writer Sir Ruskin Bond. The second day embarked on its journey of the literary paradise with the interactive session named ‘In Conversation with Ruskin Bond’ in which Sir Ruskin Bond took the chair and the session was officiated by the two eminent literary personalities of the state, Mrs Srutimala Duara and Sir Dhruba Hazarika . It was an enlightening session and the audience was very much enthralled by Sir Bond’s witty, non-deceptive and distinct replies.

After the interactive sessions, it was time for the various competitions and panel discussions of the second day to make its way.

The first event of the day was ‘Poetry-out-Loud’; a poetry recitation competition for the students of 8th grade to 12th grade. Poems by the some of the greatest maestros of poetry of all times, came to life when they were being recited by our youthful participants, who gave in their own touch of intonations, expressions, dramatizations and aesthetic appeal. The beautiful poems that were being recited are: “The Cherry Tree” by Ruskin Bond, “Freedom” by Jayanta Mahapatra, “Let Me Not Forget” by Rabindranath Tagore, “The Soul’s Prayer” by Sarojini Naidu, “Always There Are The Children” by Nikki Giovanni. The competition which was actively participated by 27 participants from different schools and colleges of the state was judged by Mr Pranab Mukherjee, a noted theatre director and knowledge resource curator of the country and Mrs Parveen Hussain, a well-known singer of the state. The beautiful journey of mesmerizing poetry lasted for about an hour and half after which the names of the jubilant winners were declared. Upasa Borah from Army Public School, Narangi bagged the first prize and Shreya Sunandini from Axel Public School bagged the second prize. The third prize was jointly won by Jeremy L. Jahau from Assam Valley School and Aryan Goenka from Royal Global School. The room was ever lively with the captivating performances by the participants and the encouraging applauses by the audience. At the end of the competition Sir Pranab Mukherjee advised the participants about the technicalities and the points to be kept in mind while eliciting, debating and reciting. All in all it was a one and a half hour ode to poetry.

The other event which took place simultaneously was the quiz competition for the students of UG and PG level named “Gigamind”. Gigamind was actively participated by a number of teams from different colleges of the state. The Quizmaster for the event was the very talented Satyakee D’Com Bhuyan. The mind-boggling and brain-wrecking game of questions began with the preliminary round, wherein six top teams were selected to compete for the ultimate prize. The informative and enriching quiz session was actively participated by the audience and there were questions and prizes for the audience as well. After a total of five rounds and a tie-breaker round, Rittick Bhattacharya and Ayushman Kalita from Cotton College emerged as winners. It was an active session of quizzing wherein the participants and the audience got the opportunity to explore and expand their boundaries of knowledge.

In conversation with Ruskin Bond :

The Maestro in our midst

By Saloni Nahata, Biprojyoti Bhattacharjee and Pritam Saloi, River Talks 2016

D’ Royal Auditorio, an auditorium of substantial size seemed pretty packed on the second day of River Talks 2016. It was alive with people of all ages ranging from students from the primary section to the grey haired elderly, everyone getting head over heels to watch the storyteller live and hear him speak. Dr. Shrutimala Duara and Mr. Dhruba Hazarika were the moderators of the event. Even the air conditioners seemed inefficient enough to maintain the temperature inside the hall as the sheer exuberance of the audience peaked the atmosphere inside turning it into a heated precinct.

The event started with the felicitation of the moderators by the student volunteers. It was then time to greet the luminary and officially welcome him with a felicitation by Mr. Pansari. After this, without any delay in the proceedings, the moderators who themselves were tongue tied with excitement started the conversation with Mr. Ruskin Bond.

The conversation started with the moderator addressing him as a living legend, to which he humorously replied “It’s better to be a living legend than a dead one.” He elaborated, saying that he has been writing for more than 50 years and even though he is an established writer now it was difficult for him to garner popularity during the first 30 years of his career. So now that he is popular, the acclaim and glory that he has achieved does not get into his head. He went on to express how his mother wanted him to join the army since writing wasn’t as fashionable as a profession in those days as today. On being asked if he practices hard at not being deceptive the octogenarian replied that he is,“as simple as a jalebi”. He prefers writing for children which is why he is deliberately simple. However, he doesn’t choose to avoid using complex words and it is his hobby to browse through the Oxford English dictionary daily. He stated that experience is an important part of being a writer as all writers begin as readers themselves and even earlier as book lovers.

He was then asked about the character of Rusty in his book ‘Room on the roof’ and how much of Ruskin Bond is there in Rusty, to which he replied that he was very young during the time he penned down Rusty’s adventures and had not seen much of the world due to which he incorporated a lot of his personal experiences in those stories. He was also asked if there are times when he runs out of things to write about, to which he hilariously replied that he writes about people, and one can never run out of people to write about. If he does he writes about non scary ghosts and the pesky crazy relatives from his family.

Talking about his short lived career as an actor in the adaptation of his own book “Susanna’s seven husbands” he said, he was so nervous that they had to retake the shot of him giving Priyanka Chopra a fatherly kiss on her cheeks seven times. Other adaptations of his works include ‘Junoon’ by Shyam Benegal and ‘The Blue umbrella’.

The conversation then moved to an interactive session with the audience where the students and guests were showering their love for him with letters, poems and portraits. A member of the audience asked him an intriguing question about a problem faced by most writers, “the writer’s block”, to which he elaborately replied about keeping lots of paper and dustbin nearby. The audience had a lot of other questions ranging from his personal experiences to his works, from media’s portrayal of today’s politics to Bob Dylan recently winning the Nobel Prize for literature. A humble man, Mr. Bond answered all questions patiently and sumptuously.

When questioned about the Nobel Prize Committee’s decision to award singer poet Bob Dylan with the Nobel Prize for literature, Mr. Bond evidently expressed his disapproval of the committee’s decision. Saying that this decision is an ‘insult’ to all the great writers who have received the award so far, the Padma Bhushan awardee said “Dylan is a successful musician and a great entertainer, but I’m not sure if he was given the award in the right category.” Speaking about his future works, he said that he is currently working on a mystery series, an assortment of crime thriller stories which is set to be published next month.

Even though it was a two hour long session time still seemed short as everyone in the hall wanted to hear more from the legend. The conversation ended with many hands still raised in anticipation to express their heartfelt gratitude to Mr. Bond for gifting them with such wonderful stories and poems throughout the years. His stories have been stressbusters for many and a wonderful world of its own and have acted as a means of escape from the tiresome and mundane reality for individuals who have to live by the clock in today’s uber competitive era.

Panel discussion on “Children literature: fairy tale or reality”:

By Jahnavi Das, Tonmoyee Borthakur, Rahul Singh, Swandeep Sarmah, Rivertalks 2016

The moderator for the session was Dr. Shrutimala Duara is a bilingual writer of great repute, who is also an awardee of the “Naari Shakti Award” and “Woman of the year” award by International Human Rights Council Assam Chapter in 2016.

The bench of panelists was a cluster of eminent literary persons among which the brightest star was the ‘Wordsworth of India’, Sir Ruskin Bond. The noteworthy panelists which had illuminated the panel bench were : Arup Kumar Dutta is a full time award winning Indian writer who has attained international recognition, Bandita Phukan, the first lady science fiction writer in the northeast region, Geeta Dharmaranjan, writer, editor and executive director of “Katha”, Rashmi Narzary an author, a columnist and an independent editor and Shinnie Antony , Co-founder of the “Bangalore Literature Festival” and director of the “Bengaluru poetry Festival”.

Before the commencement of the panel discussion Ms. Bandita Phukan presented translated versions of Ruskin Bond’s “Our Trees still grows in Dehra” and “A Flight of Pigeons” to Mr. Ruskin Bond.

Dr. Shrutimala Duara started the Panel discussion on “Aspects and Reality of Fairy tales”, to which Ruskin Bond responded that he has not grown up reading many Fairy Tales; however he has read the book “Alice in the Wonderland” and books on adventures, which escorted him to the protagonist.

Following this the moderator pointed out that the titles of Mr. Arup Kumar Dutta’s works are very realistic. Justifying the point Mr.Arup said that he does so to make people believe that such places exists in real world and he also mentioned some of his writings such as “The Kaziranga Trails”, etc. He also mentioned about the Aspects of Fairy tales for children. He said that, as a child nature his/her perspectives of reality differ. He also mentioned about an imaginary character called “kunku”, a flying elephant which he had created for children. However, he criticized the role of social media (cinema, TV, etc) by quoting that, as children nature, rather than coming out of Imaginary Fantasy, they even get deeper in virtual reality due violent effects of social media. Dr Shrutimala Duara expressed her thought one of the reasons for escapism by children from real world and go deeper into world of imaginations could be “stress’’.

Ms.Geeta Dharmaranjan took over the following opportunity to share about her love for tales of imaginations.She insisted that imagining things gives a good sense of creativity to children.Talking about the Aspects of Fairy tales she said that “A Fairy Tale” gives us a way and resolutions to face reality with sheer courage. She emphasized that traditional lifestyle of rural people could be a Fairy Tale for urban children and vice versa.

Ms. Shinnie Antony shared her experiences of writing a Fairy Tale. She said that when a Writer writes a Fairy Tale there must be some elements of reality in it. She did also mention about the themes of the books “Hansel and Gretel”, “Thief”, etc.

The discussion took an interesting turn when the moderator brought up the “Black and White” characters which are portrayed in Fairy tales such as Prince, Princess, Step-mother,witches,dwarfs, etc. She took no time to mention about one of the best-selling books of the world- “Harry Potter”. She also interpreted about Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and the famous Fairy Tale of Assam “Tejimola”. She also had an inquisition as to why always a step-mother is kept in dark side.

This time Ms.Rashmi Narzary took to give a relevant answer to the question put forward by the moderator.She emphasized that with the changing time, “step-mother” is a Fairy Tale and “step-father” is a reality.She added that whether there is a stepmother or biological mother, her intentions for well being of her child may or not be liked by her child.And hence she may be categorized as a Good/Bad character.She was also heard quoting “There exists no rigid demarcation between a Fairy Tale and Reality, there is always a blend.”

The moderator then followed to ask if it was appropriate to expose the children to the ugly aspects of life .To this Sir Ruskin Bond gave a quick response by saying that books of all kinds is a form of escape.In a Tale every situations are from real life scenario, every dialogues are from day to day activities and thus he concluded that every tale has an element of reality or is inspired from real happening.

Talking about escapism, Dr. Shrutimala mentioned that 'Enid Blyton’ through her writings created a world of Fantasy for children living in poverty,so that children could escape into the world of imaginations and dreams. Mr.Arup Dutta too mentioned about the writings of 'Enid Blyton’ saying that her works are not realistic.Talking about escapism he suggested that “escapism is a must for children” and “Young people should transform from Fantasy to reality”.He took keen interest to mention about his work “The Kaziranga Trails” which speaks on poaching of the Rhino in the Kaziranga National Park.

Talking about the likes of today's generation,the moderator introduced the theme of 'Science Fiction’. Conceding about Science fiction,she threw the question to all that, whether the Science fictions which we are reading today could be a Reality of tomorrow? Being the first lady Mechanical engineer of Assam and also the Science fiction Writer, Ms.Bandita Phukan took keen interest to give a suggestion.She mentioned that her Science fictions are inspired from social problems and even pointed out some of her Science fictions such as “Meenu's friend”, ”Xoonti’s Robot Dog” in brief.

For giving a good ending remark to the discussion, Ms. Geeta Dharmaranjan took to saying that it is very difficult for a writer to categorize books for different age groups of children.Parents and children should be able to decide the selections of books. Some views about the writing style of authors of present generation were also indicated by Mr.Arup Kumar Dutta. Characters such Vampires, Zombies, Aliens, etc. were also mentioned by him in brief.

As a whole the Panel Discussion was very enriching.The points put forth by each Panelist were reiterated by each of them as well as the participants, pointing about the Aspects of Fairy tales and Reality in today's changing world.

The interactive session with the audience was one of the key segments of the whole event. The audience which was filled with literature lovers of all age groups was very spontaneous in interacting with the authors, with their queries as well as sharing their observations and point of view. There were a number of questions from the lively audience which kept us as well as the panelists to ponder over them and discuss solutions. A young girl from the audience posed the question on how fairytales are interpreted in ways as to safeguard a child's innocence whereas in the real world the child is unaware of the harsh realities of life and the concept of a "fairy god-mother" being their savior is unrealistic. To this, Arup Kumar Dutta had the view that children cannot be confined to an unreal world and that at a certain age they are apt to come out of their fictitious worlds and face reality and it’s both its joy and harshness. He mentioned that parents have a great role to play in educating their children about social evils and make them aware of the dangers they canface. A question was directed to Ruskin Bond as to how he felt about his story pieces being incorporated into the school curriculum books to which he honestly replied that he as a child had not been much amused with school books himself and that children should always be encouraged to read a book as an actual story book and an escaping comfort rather than just a necessity.

The panel discussion was also attended partially by our ex-CM Tarun Gogoi. In a nutshell, it can be said that the panel discussion was highly informative and it gave us a clear picture of all the aspects of fairy tale and reality fiction.