Tag Archives: Gautam Choubey

2020 was the year of Bhojpuri disprutors

The article was published to celebrate the International Mother Language Day
in The Free Press Journal, Mumbai, on February 21, 2021.

To read more: https://www.freepressjournal.in/weekend/from-manoj-bajpayees-rap-to-podcasts-the-year-of-bhojpuri-disruptors

Jaipur Literature Festival announces programme for virtual 2021 edition

New Delhi, January 21, 2021: Set to take place between 19th to 28th February 2021, the Jaipur Literature Festival returns with a stellar online programme, spread over 10 days, for its 14th edition.

The ‘greatest literary show on Earth’ returns in a virtual avatar, featuring a spectacular line-up of speakers from across the world, consisting of writers, poets, playwrights, thinkers, politicians, journalists, cultural icons and recipients of major literary awards including the Man Booker, the Pulitzer, JCB Prize for Literature, Commonwealth, European Union Prize, the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, PEN Award for Poetry in Translation etc.  

The programme, unveiled today, is vast and kaleidoscopic, with themes ranging from Technology & AI, Politics & History, Environment & Climate Change, Mental Health, Economics, Translations, Poetry & Music, Food & Literature, Geopolitics, Science & Medicine, Democracy & Constitutions, Water & Sustainability, Historical Fiction, Travel, etc.

Some highlights from the programme include Glasgow-born author Douglas Stuart whose 2020 Booker Prize-winning debut novel Shuggie Bain evokes the essence of addiction, parenthood, courage and love. Following the bond between a son and his mother, fractured by alcoholism, poverty, aspiration and human misery, the novel graphs an intimate, devastating yet ultimately hopeful journey through their lives.  In conversation with writer and playwright Paul McVeigh, Stuart will unravel the thought and process behind bringing this heartbreaking story out into the world.

Celebrated American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, and political activist Noam Chomsky’s latest book, Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power, sharply questions the utopian idea of neoliberalism and the consequences of markets dictating all aspects of society. Evaluating the ten principles that have fuelled this idea, he will unravel its roots and its troubling impact on American society, culture and politics, in conversation with journalist Sreenivasan Jain.

Covering the ongoing pandemic, doctors and co-authors Randeep GuleriaChandrakant Lahariya and Gagandeep Kang will discuss their exciting new project in conversation with award-winning journalist Maya Mirchandani. The focus of the session will revolve around whether India wins the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Randeep Guleria, Director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, is an MD in Medicine and the first DM in Pulmonary Medicine in the country, and has been at the forefront of the Government of India’s efforts on the COVID-19 pandemic’s preparedness and response. Dr. Chandrakant Lahariya is a leading public policy and health systems expert and a recipient of the Indian Council of Medical Research’s Dr. BC Srivastava Foundation Award for his work on translating community-based health research in public policy interventions. Dr. Gagandeep Kang is a renowned infectious disease researcher and virologist who serves on many advisory committees in India and internationally, including for the World Health Organization.

During the Festival, award-winning Irish writer Colm Tóibín will take us through the rhythm and roots of his writing process and celebrated career. A master of expression and text, Tóibín possesses a unique ability to inhabit and blend through his words an expansive universe of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. He is the bestselling author of The MasterThe Blackwater LightshipThe Testament of Mary and Nora Webster; his upcoming book is The Magician.

Marina Wheeler, a Queen’s Counsel in England, opens the portals of memory as the daughter of a woman traumatised by the Partition of 1947 that divided British India into Pakistan and India. Wheeler follows her mother’s buried past, her marriage and move to England where she refuses to look over her shoulder at a lost world. In conversation with Navtej Sarna, the former High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom, she will explore the meaning of the Punjabi Sikh identity as it survives through cultural transitions.

In a special session, director and writer Devashish Makhija’s latest book, Oonga will be launched followed by a conversation exploring the book.  The book is a powerful novel based on his film of the same name. Capturing the inherent paradox between dystopian ‘development’ and utopian ideologies, the book narrates the journey of a little boy in the midst of a clash between Adivasis, Naxalites, the CRPF and a mining company.

Acclaimed author and historian Vincent Brown‘s groundbreaking geopolitical thriller Tacky′s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War takes on the Atlantic slave trade with a subversive and powerful reconstruction of the history of insurgency, rebellion, victory and defeat. With a keen emphasis on the seminal uprising that upended the dominant imperial rule of the British Atlantic world, eventually becoming known as the Tacky’s Revolt, and ultimately leading the way for abolition. At as session titled ‘Tacky′s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War’, in conversation with writer and academic Maya Jasanoff, Brown will unpack the complex narratives binding the conflicting histories of Europe, Africa and America, offering illuminating insights into the condition of terror and war, more relevant than ever in the era of BLM and socio-political change.

Our knowledge and information of the Aztec empire, their history and their conquest, for generations have been informed by the Western pen. Author and historian Camilla Townsend’s Cundill History Prize-winning Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs brings to light a complex and riveting history of the Aztecs based entirely on direct translations of the annals written in the neglected Nahuatl language. The author will speak to acclaimed author and Oxford professor Peter Frankopan and explore the precarious survival and brutal conquest of the people of the sun and their journey of endurance.

Journalist and writer George Packer’s Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century is an enduring account of the force behind the Dayton Accords which famously ended the Balkan wars. Packer’s sweeping diplomatic history is based on Holbrooke’s diaries and papers and gives a peek into the life of a man equally admired and detested. In conversation with journalist and writer Basharat Peer, Packer will dive into the life and career of an extraordinary and deeply flawed man and the political and social circles he inhabited.

Journalist and writer Meenakshi Ahamed’s latest book, A Matter Of Trust, charts the complex relationship between India and the United States from the years following Indian Independence to today’s evolving politics. Based on her research of presidential papers, newly declassified documents, memoirs and interviews, the book evaluates the dynamics between the people in power in both countries against the backdrop of constantly developing socio-political-economic changes. At a book launch session, the writer will be in conversation with former Foreign Secretary to the Government of India, Shyam Saran and former diplomat Frank G. Wisner, and will discuss the far-reaching implications of this relationship and the current global political climate.

Tripurdaman Singh‘s latest book Sixteen Stormy Days: The Story of the First Amendment of the Constitution of India is a fascinating look into the turbulent history and contentious legacy of the First Amendment of the Constitution. In conversation with journalist and writer Karan Thapar, Singh will explore the nascent years of India in the context of what he calls ‘the first great battle of ideas.’

Democracy is an inherently participatory process that ensures the role of constituents in the direction and operation of political and social life. Electoral systems convert individual votes and choices into larger decisions that impact societies, cultures and nations. At a special session, a distinguished panel consisting of author and the 16th Chief Election Commissioner of India Navin B. Chawla, former Chief Election Commissioner of Nepal Neil Kantha Uprety and the Chief Election Commissioner of Bhutan Dasho Kunzang Wangdi will decipher and evaluate the electoral process in conversation with anthropologist and writer Mukulika Banerjee.

These are dangerous times for democracy. In his new book, The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good? renowned philosopher Michael Sandel shows how the polarised politics of our time reflects the deep divide between winners and losers. He argues that we must rethink the attitudes toward success and failure that have accompanied globalisation and rising inequality. In conversation with celebrated author and Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor, Sandel will offer an ethic of dignity and solidarity that points the way to a new politics of the common good.

The Festival continues its rediscovery of the vast heritage of India’s languages. In a session focused on Hindipoetry, scholar and academic Rupert Snell will speak of the enduring legacy of the Bihari Satsai with its evocative romantic imagery and visual vocabulary, in conversation with fellow scholar, academic and translator Harish TrivediThe Bihari Satsai is a work of the early 17th century by the poet Biharilal in Braj Bhasha. The Satsai was written in the court of Raja Jai Singh of Amber near Jaipur. The poet was rewarded with a gold coin for each verse; 700 verses were compiled into the Bihari Satsai, which has been considered an outstanding representative of the Riti period, weaving together worldly experience and divine immanence, and adapting the writing style of court poetry. Rupert Snell’s translation for the Murty Classical Library is scholarly yet accessible and brings alive the tradition for modern readers.

The first Bhojpuri novel to be translated into English, Phoolsunghi, is a period piece about the life of a tawaif in the late 19th century in colonial Bihar.  Though Bhojpuri songs and cinema have gained popular appeal, the richness of Bhojpuri literature is not widely known. Gautam Choubey,  an academic and a columnist, has innovatively translated this modern classic and rendered it with cultural nuances and poetry. Academic and author Francesca Orsini is Professor of Hindi and South Asian Literature at SOAS, University of London. In conversation with academic and award-winning translator Jatindra Kumar Nayak, Orsini and Choubey will discuss the novel, the times it was set in as well as the challenges of presenting it for contemporary readers.

In conversation with the author of Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal The Cosmos, Priyamvada Natarajan, acclaimed Italian physicist and writer Carlo Rovelli will take us through the deeper meaning of the universe and our place in it. Drawing inspiration from the ancient Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna, Rovelli will take us on an illuminating journey through the unknown, exploring the mysteries of the cosmos, the fabric of space and the nature of time.

The Festival will remember legendary Indian actress Devika Rani through award-winning author and playwright Kishwar Desai’s book The Longest Kiss: The Life and Times of Devika Rani which charts the life and career of the celebrated actress. Based on her personal letters and documents, the book narrates her journey through the creation of Bombay Talkies, India’s first professional studio, her marriages to Himanshu Rai and Svetoslav Roerich, and the struggle of being a woman in the entirely male-dominated world of Indian cinema.

Speaking on the programme of this year, author and Festival Co-Director Namita Gokhale said, “It’s been a joyous challenge to work on the programming for Jaipur Literature Festival 2021. We look at our transformative times and try to understand the future through the lens of the present and the past.  Our hybrid digital outreach has opened up a new universe of possibilities. I’m excited at having Italian astrophysicist and writer Carlo Rovelli in conversation with Professor Priyamvada Natarajan, on Nagarjuna, Sunyata, and Stardust. Winner of the 2020 Booker prize, Douglas Stuart, speaks of his award-winning debut novel. We rediscover Emperor Ashoka’s ancient edicts through music with T.M. Krishna.”

“There is so much more to experience and reflect upon – from Gulabo Sapera and the dance of the serpents to the science, art and philosophy of Indian food – from the tragic life of the great Bangla writer, poet, and playwright Michael Madhusudan Dutt to the one and only M.S. Subbulakshmi. Shekhar Pathak and Ramachandra Guha tell us of the people’s history of the Chipko Movement. We present S. Hareesh’s award-winning novel ‘Moustache’, translated from Malayalam. In ‘Brown Baby’, British writer Nikesh Shukla explores shifting ideas of home. We pay tribute to the genius of S.R. Faruqi as we present his posthumously published novel, ‘Kabze Zaman’. These are some glimpses of the treats in store – a few surprises still await!” she added.

Sanjoy K. Roy, Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, producer of the Jaipur Literature Festival, said, “A year after the world was felled by the pandemic, we have persevered and shown that human endurance can and will prevail, fuelled by knowledge and information, empathy and the right to justice. The Jaipur Literature Festival is representative of these ideals and will continue to be a platform to celebrate the joy of knowledge.”

The full programme will be available to view at : Programme – Jaipur Literature Festival

Jaipur BookMark (JBM), a B2B segment held parallel to the Festival, will open its eighth edition with an engaging virtual programme between the two weekends of the Jaipur Literature Festival. The virtual edition of JBM will run from 22nd to 25th February 2021, hosting two sessions per day. JBM will continue to bring together a wide range of publishers, literary agents, writers, translators, translation agencies and booksellers from across the world and give them an opportunity to exchange ideas and listen to major global industry players.

Phoolsunghi’s English debut is a lot more than just a peck on Bhojpuri literature’s cheeks

By Shillpi A Singh

New Delhi-based academician, columnist and translator Gautam Choubey has scripted history with his literary outing — Phoolsunghi — that happens to be the first-ever translation of a Bhojpuri novel into English. Apart from being the most representative work in Bhojpuri, Phoolsunghi also happens to be one of the most loved literary works by Pandey Kapil, who is hailed as the protagonist of Bhojpuri literary movement in the post-Independence India. Published in Hamish Hamilton by Penguin Random House, the book hit the shelves earlier last week. 

The story from the soil of Bihar pans out in Chhapra where the magical, mystical, and mundane intertwine much like the lives of three characters — courtesan Gulzaribai who was popular in the region as Dhelabai; ageing zamindar Babu Haliwant Sahay, who worked as an official in the law court and had a stake in the flourishing opium trade; and Bhojpuri folk poet and singer Mahendra Misir. The timeless tale about these celebrated legends of Bihar has traversed centuries and fascinated litterateurs across ages. These dalliances resulted in three other literary jaunts of repute — Ramnath Pandey’s Mahendar Misir, Jauhar Safiyabad’s Poorvi Ke Dhah and Anamika’s Dus Dwareka Pinjara

The historical novel spanning ninety years touches upon the early years of colonial rule in India without making any direct references to the fight for independence or any social conflict or instances of religious disharmony. The plot, story, and setting spread over 16 chapters together draw a reader into the enchanting world of the lifelike characters. Music serves as the perfect backdrop in Phoolsunghi, and there is a lot of drama, action, tragedy that unfolds in the lives of these people, to keep one hooked, from start to finish. The enthralling mehfils and mujras, high-pitched abduction drama, episodes of court cases and counterfeiting notes reveal author’s attempt to make it a wholesome entertainer. The author explores various shades of romantic love, making it an emotional roller coaster ride for a reader. It delves deep into the characters through the maze of the relationships that they share with each other, crossing paths at times, and flowing like the two banks of a river in a few instances.

The novel documents the lives and times, rise and fall, love and longing, trials and tribulations of these characters, who live in and around the banks of river Saryu in Chhapra and its adjoining villages of Mishrawaliya, Sheetalpur, Revelgunj and Muzaffarpur. Like a river that flows through these cities, the plot intermittently drifts to Banaras and Calcutta, and makes pit stops in Punjab and Delhi, before returning to Chhapra. The story also traces the advent of the railway line and how dhuwankas or trains play an important part in the narrative. Phoolsunghi offers a bird’s-eye view of how the characters co-existed in harmony without being bothered by religious, class or caste considerations, and in some measures, it is also a social commentary on the lives of migrant workers. It reveals how some of them seamlessly merged in the mainstream in their adopted land while a few others, bit by melancholia trace their way back to their roots, sooner than later. The migrant’s life in a metropolis is bound to resonate with the readers, and tug at their heartstrings, especially those who have either been a migrant themselves or have witnessed something more heart-wrenching pan out in the country not so long ago. 

The Bhojpuri story is quite evocative and engrossing, and Choubey has done full justice to it. The translated work has a cinematic language to it with lively characterisation, and vivid imagery making it an endearing read. It will be no surprise to see the real characters, who inhabited Chhapra once upon a time, taking a reel avatar sometime soon and glossing the big screen, regaling the larger audience who live far, far away from this mofussil. The verses in Bhojpuri have been passionately and painstakingly translated into English by Choubey, but a reader would have benefitted from the richness of the language and appreciated it more had only a list of the originals been provided along with the glossary.   

By foraying into the unexplored domain of translating a popular piece of Bhojpuri literature for a discerning, elitist, city-bred reader, Choubey has managed to do the unthinkable, and in one go. It is a stellar act for its sheer thought and effort. He has not only highlighted the long and diverse literary culture of the language but also debunked the common perception of it being only a folk language, giving Bhojpuri its due. His disruptive effort, hopefully, might lead to many more such works being produced by the speakers and readers of the language, and in that context, Choubey’s present translation will fondly be remembered for being the first of its kind that helped to pave the path for many more.

Phoolsunghi has something for all; it serves as a timely reminder about the richness of Bhojpuri literature for the younger generation and has a multitude of joy and nostalgia to offer for the older ones. The story will transport you back to your roots so soak in the subtleties of a bygone era from a faraway land, and shore it up for yourself and your coming generations. 

(Cover image sourced from Penguin Random House’s Twitter handle)