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Bhopal Literature and Art Festival 2020

The second edition of the Bhopal Literature and Art Festival (BLF) held between 10-12th January at Bharat Bhavan was yet again a superb celebration – a boutique and bespoke knowledge event – with provocative discussion, debate and dialogue. There were 56 Knowledge Sessions, with about 80 authors and distinguished literary and public affairs persons participating over a period of 3 days.

There was a special focus this year on environment and conservation. Magasaysay Award winner Rajendra Singh spoke of the importance of conserving and pricing water appropriately, Bharti Chaturvedi founder of the acclaimed waste reduction body Chintan debated with SPS Parihar the Chairman of the Central Pollution Control Board whether we were headed for an environmental collapse, Mridula Ramesh author of the acclaimed The Climate Solution spoke about harnessing clean technologies, Jairam Ramesh former Union Minister of Environment said that Indira Gandhi was the first Prime Minister to give importance to environment, Dr Raghu Chundawat the tiger expert explained wildlife conservation and Professor Mahesh Rangarajan who heads the Environment faculty of Ashoka University warned of environment being at a precipice.

Prof Erach Bharucha, Director of the Bharati Vidyapeeth Institute of Environment Education and Research made a presentation on the need to integrate tribal planning with environment management.

On international affairs former Foreign Secretary and National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon spoke about the foreign policy choices before India – his session gave rise to many questions, the most provocative being whether India will truly benefit from a Security Council permanent seat, Pradeep Baijal spoke at length from his deeply researched book about how the onslaught of China can be contained. Minnie Vaid spoke about India’s space mission to Mars and its future challenges. Former Secretary MEA

Amar Sinha and current Secretary MEA Ajay Bisariya who is our next HC to Canada were also present.

Arghye Sengupta, head of Vidhi Legal Centre debated with Dr Vijay Kumar the Director of the National Law School Bhopal from his book whether the Indian Higher Judiciary has issues of independence and accountability. Former Chief Election Commissioner of India Naveen Chawla discussed the challenges of conducting elections in India. Eminent journalist AK Bhattacharya spoke about the issues holding back India from reaching its true potential. Saleem Beg spoke about Kashmir’s unique built heritage and issues connected with that. Dr Didar Singh debated the future of work in a modern world, impact on workers and the newly emerging gig economy – with successful IT promoters Sanjeev Shriya and Anurag Shrivastava and Shabari Nair, the representative of the International Labour Organization.

Deepak Gupta former Chairman of the UPSC discussed the future of the Civil Services with the current Director of the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy of Administration Dr Sanjeev Chopra. The biographies of Veer Savarkar, Subhash Chandra Bose, Gandhiji and Martin Luther King written respectively by Vikram Sampath, Anuj Dhar, Pramod Kapoor and Santosh Bakaya were analyzed and debated.

There were several sessions on management, leadership and innovation: Stephano Pelle the CEO of Ferraro spoke about the importance of cultural intelligence in cross-border investment decisions, Vineet Bajpai described his journey from successful entrepreneurship to writing bestsellers like Harappa, Pralay and Kashi; Air Commodore Nitin Sathe spoke about the pilot who got incapacitated and yet rose to the top. Devdutt Pattanaik illustrated the uniqueness of Indian business techniques and their inspiration from our mythology.

Purely on the fiction side, celebrity author Ashwin Sanghi was candid and explained his writing style, plot development and his experience of collaborating with international bestselling author James Patterson. There was a discussion of Tino de Sa’s elegant collection of stories: The Disrobing of Draupadi and One for Sorrow Two for Joy and Raghav Chandra’s novel Kali’s Daughter which has been mentioned by the Economist magazine as a book to be read.

Other famous authors who participated included: Hindol Sengupta, Kiran Manral, Usha Narayanan, Preeti Gill, Noor Zaheer, S Venkatesh, Harini Srinivas, Parvati Sharma, Swapna Liddle, Janice Pariat, Ajay and Atima Mankotia, Satyarth Nayak, Mihir Shrivastava, Sadhana Shankar, Vinita Sinha, Rajesh Joshi, Arun Kamal, Rajendra Sharma, Naval Shukla, Umashankar Choudhary, Rima Hooja, Abhilash Khandekar, SC Behar and many others.

Padma Shri international danseuse Geeta Chandran gave a lecture-demonstration entitled: The importance of Abhinaya in our Lives.

Rajesh and Naresh Bedi the famous wildlife photographers put up an exhibition of their best wildlife photographs: Born to be Wild and also explained how they go about their wildlife photography even in the most difficult terrain and gave a sneak preview of their new film, ‘Chasing Shadows’ about the elusive snow leopard. The famous VJ Maria Goretti was in conversation with chef Ravish Kumar about her style of cookery.

The BLF also conducted an open Short Story Writing Competition in English and Hindi on themes like environment, Relationships and science. It drew widespread participation from all colleges and communities.

The festival witnessed the giving away of the Sushila Devi Award for the best fiction in English written by a woman and published in 2018 to Shubhangi Swarup for her book Latitudes of Longing.

The books that were launched were: ONE FOR SORROW TWO FOR JOY by Anthony de Sa, Deshdeep Saxena’s BREATHLESS, Pramod Kapoor’s GANDHI, Vertul Singh’s BHOPALNAMA, Shreyans Dixit’s WHEN I MET MYSELF, Rima Hooja’s PRE- INDEPENDENCE MEMORIES, Ishavasyam Dash’s MURDER AT MOONLIGHT CAFÉ and Bhavya and Navya Singh’s POST MILLENIAL TALES

Beginning with a captivating invocation of the Goddess Saraswati by renowned vocalist Kalapini Komkali (daughter of late Kumar Gandharva) the inaugural ceremony saw the MP Chief Minister Shri Kamal Nath appreciating this initiative of BLF Director Raghav Chandra and urging for “Brotherhood and tolerance … the ethos of India since the time of Ashoka and Chandra Gupt Maurya.”

The Chief Guest for the Valedictory event was the Urban Development Minister Jaivardhan Singh.

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