Monday, March 22, 2010

Penguin Spring Fever - Trickster City

Today was a fitting finale to the Penguin Spring Fever celebrations. This evenings program encapsulated everything that the festival stood for. The theme for this finale was  - Discover the uniqueness of Delhi
To start off the evening, was the recent release "Trickster City". Shveta Sarda is the translator of this unique anthology whose stories have been written by a group of 20 somethings who live in neighbourhoods like LNJP colony, Dakshinapuri and Sawda-Ghevra in Delhi. What is unique about this collection is that it gives voices to stories which otherwise may have just been statistics in a social workers register. Neelofar, one of the writers and Shveta alternated reading passages from the book in English and Hindi and had the audience spellbound. I've read some of the stories from the book (they are short stories) and will review it when I'm done. But this is definitely a must-read.

Sam Miller then read an excerpt from his last years release "Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity". Sam Miller was a BBC correspondent in Delhi in the early 1990's. He has returned and lived in Delhi since 2002. His book is more about Delhi as seen through his eyes while he walked about the city.

William Dalrymple, then read from his novels set in Delhi. "City of Djinns" and "The Last Mughal" effectively tying up the Delhi of Millers book to the Delhi portrayed in Mahmood Farooqui's upcoming book. What can I say about him? He is an author who always has his audience eating out of the palm of his hand!


The last reading for the day was by Mahmood Farooqui and Danish Husain from Mahmoood's yet to be released "Besieged: Voices from Delhi 1857" It was a pleasure to see the two of them in action again. Its been almost 4 years since I last saw them perform in Bombay. While todays reading was not half as flamboyant, (You have to try and watch a Dastangoi performance at least once in your lifetime, they are next performing in Pune on April 12th) it was very illuminating. Mahmood has been researching papers at the National Archives and his book attempts to explain 1857 through the voices of the common man rather than the parroted lines in History text books. The book is a collection of translations of letters of various people during the time of the uprising and seige on Delhi. There are letters from butchers, hawaldars, thanedars and the like. We could have listened to the 2 of them all night.
The audience who had foregone the IPL, Liverpool-ManU & Navroze celebrations, to be here, was completely spell bound.
A beautiful end to the evening was the 2 hour Qawwali performance by the Nizami Brothers. Ghulam Sabir and Ghulam Waris. They performed the traditional qawwals and sang about national unity and integration among other traditional themes.

Listening to a performance like this can truly put you into a spiritual trance if you stop trying to control your mind, close your eyes and just go with the flow. the little kids who are training to be qawwalis gave us a short performance and there was so much potential there. The eldest of the 3 boys already has remarkable control over his voice for his age and they are sure to take this performance art further.

Wonderful evening, beautiful memories. Waiting for the next literature festival now.

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