Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

To be honest, I haven’t enjoyed writing for a long time now for reasons beyond my control. I enjoy reading mainly contemporary texts in English. I also read a lot of Urdu poetry, mainly classical poets and poets of modern sensibility, including the modernist poets of the Progressive Writers Movement.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

 My latest translation is of The Life and Poetry of  Bahdaur Shah Zafar written by Aslam Parvez. My endeavour was to make a wonderful book that has for long been confined to a narrow Urdu readership available to the wider English-speaking world. 

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Literary festivals of various hues have been creating a revolution of ideas across India in the last few years. However, most literary festivals take place in metro cities and resort towns. This is going to change with a new literary festival being launched in India by the people of the Seemanchal region of Bihar.

profile-pic-180by180The Seemanchal International Literary Festival (SILF) is an international literary event organized by Kitaab International, Singapore, in collaboration with Insan School, Kishanganj, Bihar.The first edition of SILF is scheduled to be held on 17-18 November, 2016 at Insan School campus in Kishanganj to coincide with the golden jubilee celebration of the Insan School, one of the well-known educational institutions in the region.

SILF is the brainchild of Singapore-based journalist, writer, publisher, and founder of Kitaab, Zafar Anjum, who hails from Kishanganj.

By Devraj Kalsi

When parents admit their child to an English medium school run by the Catholic community, the primary objective is to instil in the child discipline and moral values, gain access to the best environment to gain proficiency in English, and develop a liberal mindset that prepares the young mind to face the challenges and complexities of the modern world. The pupil is told again and again that he is here to imbibe the best. But as the young impressionable mind enters the teenage years, the school authorities find an irresistible opportunity to start talking about issues that should not arise inside a secular campus. The missionary institution, though it behaves secularly as much like any elected government in the country, ends up vitiating its professional pursuits with personal agenda.

Although I learned to see God as a more amiable persona in the Catholic school, it wasn’t too long before I realised that this was the beginning of a subtle crash course to preach the merits of their religion. My first awakening happened when I was told to love God more than fear Him. Usually, in traditional North Indian households and many others perhaps, there is a deeply ingrained, though flawed tendency to view the creator as a temperamental dictator who can turn your life upside down any moment. His power is something to be feared all the time.

Here was the first opportunity to view the Omniscient as someone who has created me to enjoy his creations and I should, therefore, be fond of Him all the time – just like a friend to reach out to. From the ivory tower, the creator was brought down to my level – just for me. I did feel an urge to share dreams and desires and wishes without nursing doubts that He would deny those to me. God himself became a temptation for me. The relationship with Him developed along friendly and compatible lines; I saw Him as user-friendly because human qualities were given priority and the complexities and conflicts between believer and provider had been fairly rationalized and sorted out through prayers and monologues.