Guwahati: Series of resourceful programmes along with cultural activities in front of enthusiast audience turned the venue of 1st Brahmaputra Literary Festival into a confluence of creative writers, energetic journalists, committed filmmakers, active theatre personalities, dynamic publishing professionals etc to attract a
sparkling gathering for three days at Srimanta Shankardev Kalakshetra in northeast India.

The pre-historic city of Guwahati welcomed over 15 eminent authors from 10 foreign nations along with over 150 writers from different parts of the country for the three-day literary festival starting on 28 January 2017. Organised by the National Book Trust India (an autonomous organization under the Union human resources development ministry) in association with Assam government, the festival witnessed over 50 panel discussions, many book release & readings, a number of cultural events including film screenings based on literary creations in presence of thousands.

First of its kinds in the alienated region of India, the festival witnessed overwhelming response from the participants to various sessions hosted in six venues inside the cultural complex namely Tagore Hall, Pandita Ramabai Hall, Premchand Hall, Subramania Bharathi Hall, Nalinibala Devi Hall and Bezbarua Hall. With this unique festival, the expanding city has emerged as an important venue of literary festivals lately coming up in Jaipur, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi, Lucknow, Patna, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Ajmer, Jammu etc.

Inaugurating the festival under a sunny winter sky, the Union human resources development minister Prakash Javadekar appealed to the litterateur & authors to contribute for the mission to build a culturally sound society through their literary pieces reflecting the truth. Once a journalist, Javadekar also assured the government's support in ensuring the freedom of thought & expressions in the country.

Talking about the country's strength in diversity, Javadekar cited the rich cultural heritage of India since time immemorial and asserted that it would further grow stronger with the true spirit of pluralism.

The Union minister urged the young people to inculcate a habit of reading and emphasized on revitalizing the library movement across the populous country. Javadekar also mentioned about the rich tradition of libraries in Nalanda, Takshila and Vikramshila era.

Addressing the august gathering, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal expressed hope that the festival would provide a rare platform for interaction & exchange of ideas between readers & litterateurs from all over the country and abroad. Commenting that the literature is the mirror of the society, the young chief minister asserted that it has also the power to transform the society.

Sonowal did not forget to mention about the mighty river Brahmaputra which remains the essence of life for millions of dwellers in the fertile valley. Legendary Assamese singer Dr Bhupen Hazarika created many of his masterpieces adoring the misty river with his creative zeal and immortal voice, added the enthusiast chief minister.

The State education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, while welcoming the visiting participants to the ‘land of blue hills & red river', stated that the festival was a dream event coming true for everyone in the region. The energetic minister pointed out that the literature is‘the art of discovering something extra ordinary about ordinary people and saying with ordinary words something extraordinary'.

"Since time immemorial, the human civilization has thrived mostly on the bank of a river whether it is Indus, Nile, Mesopotamia, Huwang Heor the Thames....Brahmaputra has also been at the core of Assam's folklore, inspiring literature, art and music even though often left behind a wave of destruction during the monsoon. Thus Brahmaputra Literary Festival seeks out to recreate the magic of convergence of literature from all over the world to create stronger ties," commented Sarma.

Mentioning about the 15th century saint, philosopher, cultural icon Mohapurush Srimanta Shankardev, 19th century authors like Ananda RamDhekial Phukan, Hem Chandra Barua , Lakshminath Bezbarua, Chandra Kumar Agarwal , Jyoti Prasad Agarwala etc, Jnanpith awardees Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya & Mamoni Raisom Goswami with others, the minister claimed that the Assamese creative writing is among the most vibrant regional literatures in India.

Celebrated Japanese author Randy Taguchi, Konkani author Damodar Mauzo, Arunachali writer Mamang Dai, NBT chairman Baldeo Bhai Sharma &its director Rita Choudhury, the State chief secretary VK Pipersenia also addressed the gathering under the pleasing winter sky. It was preceded by a spectacular literary carnival welcoming the participants to the festival venue in the southern part of the ancient city.

Eminent authors including Neal Hall from USA, Alessandra Bertini &Carlo Pizaati from Italy, Nicolos Idier & Francois Gautier fromFrance, Subramani from Fiji, Dhunpal Raj Heeraman & Ramdeo Dhorundhur from Mauritius, Selina Hossain, Shaheen Akhter & Urmi Rahman from Bangladesh, Rajiva Wijesinha from Sri Lanka, Raj Heeramun, Ramdev Dhoorandhar & Niranjan Kunwar from Nepal, Yugyen Tshering from Bhutanalong with many others joined in various discourses and bared their hearts on different relevant issues.

Many prominent writers from the mainland India including Narendra Kohli, Rami Chhabra, Vimala Morthala, Khalid Mohammed, Subhash Kashyap, Makarand Paranjape, Bhagirath Mishra, Amar Mitra, Binod Ghosal, Angana Choudhury, Mirza Ali Baig etc also participated indifferent sessions of the festival.

Similarly resourceful personalities like Manju Borah, Leena Sarma,Khalid Mohammed, Jahnavi Barua, Ravi Singh, Preeti Gill, NabinBaruah, Bhaskar Dutta-Baruah, Dipa Choudhuri, Bela Chandrani, Utpal Borpujari, Rabijita Gogoi, Arup Jyoti Choudhury, Nanigopal Mahanta, Arup Borbora, Shiela Bora, Basab Rai etc contributed in various discourses.

A number of famed north-eastern creative personalities and journalists including Arup Kumar Dutta, Yeshe Dorjee Thongchi, Sanjoy Hazarika,Dhruba Hazarika, Kula Saikia, Jnan Pujari, Prabuddha Sundar Kar,Wasbir Hussain, Phanindra Kumar Debachoudhury, Pradip Phanjoubam, Monalisa Chankija, Dileep Chandan, Anuradha Sarma Pujari, Maini Mahanta, Mrinal Talukdar, Prasanta Rajguru, Aniz Uz Zaman, Sananta Tanty, Srutimala Duwara, Monikuntala Bhattacharjya, Nilim Kumar, Suparna Lahiri Baruah, Geetali Borah, Monalisa Saikia, Juri Borgohain etc were also present on the occasion.

As a part of the festival, few acclaimed movies including Adajya (Assamese feature film, directed by Santwana Bardoloi) and Mirzya(Hindi film, directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra) were screened at the venue. Moreover, distinguished film maker Mehra, Bollywood film stars of yesteryear Asha Parekh & Shatrughan Sinha and film writer Shahid Rafi interacted with the art appreciators.

The glamour queen of Kati Patang, Teesri Kasam, Dil Deke Dekho, Mera Gaon Mera Desh etc movies, Ms Parekh repented that she did not takethe opportunity to perform in a movie of great Bengali film maestro Satyajit Ray. The Oscar winning film maker offered a major role to Ms Parekh for his movie Kanchanjungha, but she had to refuse it because of her busy schedule in Bombay (now Mumbai). The former chairperson of national film central board now regrets that she actually lost a life time opportunity with that refusal.

On the other hand, the actor turned politician Sinha claimed that hehad the experience of Uphas (making fun), Upeksha (neglect), Tiraskar(criticism) and Daman (exploitation) in his filmy life. He also commented that his biography titled Anything But Khamosh was an honest revelation of a struggling performer in the glamour world of Mumbai.

Terming the Brahmaputra Literary Festival ‘a grand occasion for the people of north east India to celebrate', the New Delhi based daily newspaper Pioneer described that with the celebration the region has also joined the league of glamorous literary festivals across the country, which is a reason to rejoice after decades of turmoil and conflicts.

"The very name of the event, which is kept after a mighty river in the State, will remain a source of congregation, unity and festivity for the common people. As Brahmaputra has an age-old tradition of spreading both its fertility and fury equally throughout the State of Assam, the literary festival must symbolise and take it forward now interms of exposing the rich reservoirs of the literary and cultural dynamics of the region," said the editorial.

It also added that there should have been a literary festival in the region long before and now the festival would rediscover the literary and cultural extravaganza of all the States of the alienated region. The editorial expected that the literary festival, proposed to be an annual affair, would help in channelizing new ideas and their dissemination simultaneously.

Earlier the NBT director Ms Choudhury also expressed hope that the festival would focus not only on languages & literatures, but also on cultures, society, politics, performance traditions, music, identity and the regional media. Herself a Sahitya Akademi Award winning author, Ms Choudhury also added that Assam aimed to make the festival a landmark event in the country's literary calendar. She opined that after years of conflicts, the people of the region received a fresh air of friendliness, accomplishment and joy.

Jaya Bhattacharji Rose, while posting in her blog after participating in the festival, has termed the endeavour a refreshing experience.It had a crackling good mix of regional writers from all over India along with a few international delegates. It was heartening to note how all the guests were treated at par. The hospitality arrangements made by the organising committee were impeccable, she added.

Talking about the Lit Mart, which was conceived & inaugurated by Ms Choudhury,the admirer described it a fascinating experiment at the venue.Assam Governor Banwari Lal Purohit graced the closing ceremony, where Gauhati University vice-chancellor Dr Mridul Hazarika, eminent Italian author Carlo Pizaati, famed Indian author Narendra Kohli along with few others were also present. Introducing himself not as a writer, but a vivid reader, Governor Purohit also recited few poems from Hindi literature.

The curtain came down to the festival on 30 January evening with along poetry reading session among the delegates on an exotic cruise over the misty Brahmaputra river. The setting sun and its gloomy reflection on the wavy river water articulated a final goodbye to the visitors with the promise to meet again in near future on this small planet. The author is a Guwahati (in northeast India) based journalist.