The Trendsetter

Sambha Lamarr, the brain behind the Creative Arts, Literature and Music Festival (CALM) of Shillong unveils her plans to ANANYA S GUHA


How did CALM or its idea originate?


Unlike everyone else, I discovered being creative at a rather late stage. In my generation, creativity was limited to the art and crafts subject in school or being an ideal pastime for girls only. One rarely heard of boys being associated with the arts of any form. Even painting was a ‘girlish’ subject. It never struck teachers or parents that the wonderful essays, autobiographies and stories we wrote as part of the English Language subject was an expression of creativity. Being a voracious reader from my early years, I recall the amused and even disgusted looks received when I expressed my ambition was to be an author. It was but natural for my parents to tell relatives and friends that their second daughter would be an excellent housewife for a bureaucrat someday since I did not have the head for maths and science and excelled in knitting, rearranging furniture and drafting official letters for my father.


Perhaps, the desire to compete with my sisters who had opted for medicine and engineering made me excel as a student in English Honours and opting for a teaching profession. The dream of becoming a journalist or an interior designer or anything associated with the professional field never materialized until the existing century!


What were the challenges faced by the organizers of the Sahaki Society lead by you?


Starting a bookshop when the spirit of reading was wearing off was my biggest challenge. One fine day, I suddenly decided to quit my teaching profession of more than 15 years and decided to do what I wanted to do and not what I had to do. Having to do what I wanted to do meant starting from a scratch. But the results were amazing.


The Bookmark Sahaki Bookshop reflected my personality. Totally unconventional with warm colours of red, green, blue, yellow, orange and white with a comfortable screaming red sofa and wooden floors, people flocked in just to browse, have coffee with no CCTV cameras to intrude into their privacy. Till date, I shudder at the thought of installing such cameras. The ambience created is that of a living room with fusion music in the background. It dawned on me that I needed to reach out in a bigger way. With one son studying Fine Arts in Sydney and another a school photographer, I realized that a festival on the same areas along with literature and music was more than required in a place like Shillong. Ironical as it may sound, the name CALM struck to me when I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, never having organized an event in the 43 years of my life. The moment I said CALM, I calmed down and the rest was history as they say.


CALM 2012 was a success and I have a gut feeling that CALM 2013 will be an extraordinary success. Bringing under the umbrella different art forms such as music, dance, painting and literature is the reason of CALM. It is a holistic perspective of the manifold colours of art forms and aesthetics.


What are the future plans and what does she envision for CALM in the coming years?


My motto was to observe, absorb and implement. I seem to like living on the edge, risk and gain as an organizer, be prepared for criticism, poor funds right down to negligence of sleep, food, family and friends. Your social life goes for a toss leave alone social obligations but it is worth every drop of sweat, frayed nerves, tears, flying tempers.


You watch the rapt attention of the audience in a panel discussion, the hysterical laughter in a comedy show, the pride in the face of a budding author’s book launch, the plea of a child for more time at the craft section, the camaraderie among the crew members, the eternal friendships made and cemented – this to me is the odoriferous smell of success.


Cultural habits such as reading are declining in the face of the explosive internet culture. This must be revived and the take off point is the school child



Why is this festival this year dedicated to our senior citizens?


CALM 2013 has been dedicated to the senior citizen, to honour them and also to plead for a revival of cultural habits such as reading and creative writing, which can be implanted in the child right from school onwards.


It is challenging, but fun too, with new ideas emerging each time we plan the fest. The storm before the calm is exigent, but the calm after the storm is exuberant. It is a synergy amidst diversity in every aspect. The selection of the senior members or senior citizens in CALM 2013 is aimed at bringing the old and the young on a common platform, not only in the various interactive workshops specially structured for both generations but also under the umbrella of unity in diversity. This is present not only in the ethos of national integration but in the various disciplines of the arts.


CALM understands the vastness of Indian culture and also emphasizes on indigenous traditions and history blending into a pan-Indian cosmos. This will be the future and abiding concern of CALM. The festival aims to reminisce upon and honour the hill station, which was once dotted with Assam-type houses, where old-age homes are yet to become a necessity, and which was the centre of inspiration for authors like the legendary bard and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.


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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.