Storm in CALM

The countdown for Shillong CALM Festival 2013 begins writes ANANYA S GUHA

The Shillong Creative Arts, Literature And Music (CALM) Festival to be held from May 9 to 11 2013, will organize book launches by authors based in Northeast India, hold photography and creative writing workshops, host a musical nite and a stand-up comedy show, among other exciting events. It will be a cultural dialogue between writers and artists from this part of the country, and those belonging to other parts. Notable participants will be Jerry Pinto poet and novelist, Victor Banerjee the internationally acclaimed actor, David Davidar publisher and novelist, Temsula Ao poet, and novelist, Mamang Dai poet and novelist, Mitra Phukan novelist, columnist and children’s writer.

In keeping with the dictum of the festival that finer habits such as reading, pursuing a vocation in writing, debating and inculcating such culture among the youth, the festival will also organize a series of panel discussions on poetry, Khasi rites and customs, Naga customs and culture, the travails of the writer in publishing books, old age homes and their ‘ necessity’, the pristine Shillong as compared  to the present, mental health holding the referential point of  both the young and the old etc.

Some of these panel discussions will follow book launches and will trigger off discussions pertaining to a book released generally speaking. For example after the launch of R.G.Lyngdoh’s book: A Point Of View which is an association of artwork and poetry there will be a panel discussion on poetry, on the theme: “Poetry Does Not Sell!”. Similarly after a book launch containing memorable anecdotes on Shillong and personal memories seeped with nostalgia, written by Parmarsa215calm_pix1n Thangkhiew, there will be a panel ‘chat’ on “Shillong Then And Now”.

However what stands out is the discussion on “Old Age Homes”, are they a necessity, if so why, are family and social mores breaking up, or are devalued, are they to be identified with Mercy Homes, and the discussion on the dire need of Mental Health, in the face of  personal trauma experienced by both the young and the old, the setting in of depression, the feeling of being unwanted, all under the rubric of  “Mental Health”, its diagnosis and possible remedies.

In this manner the CALM Festival attempts to rejuvenate societies and cultures based  on the paramount importance of not only writing or painting, or performing creatively, but most of all thinking creatively, reviving lost traditions, and feeling for the surroundings. The panel discussions will also invigorate independent thinking, relate past to present, focus on the need of  creativity, bring back traditions of book reading, now faced with the massive ‘ threat ‘ of gaming, psychedelic culture, and the implosive WWW! The Old Age Homes discussion, will employ debating formats where each speaker will speak on whether these Homes are necessary or not? Are family systems crumbling, are these homes just a ruse for pushing in old parents, and thus abdicating familial responsibilities, which are a hallmark of Indian and local tradition?

The focus will be the youth, but this year the festival consciously celebrates the services rendered by Senior Citizens, and the cultural force that Shillong has been, historically speaking. Many literary and cultural festivals nowadays use polemics, but the panel discussions especially in CALM 2013 are something to watch out for– no storm, but sedate, topical and relevant discussions, against the backdrop of creative and aesthetic compulsions.

The discussions will have themes pertinent to literature, arts and society. CALM is not an exclusivist literary discourse, it commingles literature and the arts with relevant social issues, like Old Age Homes, the commercialisation of creativity, mental succour for the young and the old alike, society and cultures of tribal life in North East India et al.

Preceding the main festival, on May 8, there will be “Conversations” organized in collaboration with The Thumb Print Magazine, an online magazine based in Northeast India, but opening windows to the rest of the country.  “Conversations” will be an informal chat between writers, artists, journalists, administrators and academics on Media and Northeast India – The Way Ahead. Hopefully such a discussion will set the trend for the main events, replete with book launches and discussions following them.

So there may be a ‘storm’ or two in CALM!

Ananya S Guha

Ananya S Guha

Ananya S Guha works in the Indira Gandhi National Open University, Shillong (Meghalaya) as an Academic Administrator. He has over 30 years of teaching and administrative experience. He has six collections of poetry and his forms have been published world wide. Some of his poems are due to appear soon in an Anthology of Indian Poetry in English to be published by Harper Collins.