by Anupama Jaidev and Guntasha Tulsi
The department of English at Maharaja Agrasen College hosted its 3rd National Interdisciplinary Conference “Reading Migrations: Fractured Histories, Forged Narratives” on 20-21 March 2017. The accent of the conference was on the complex and myriad narratives of migrations and migrants. Professor Saugata Bhaduri, the Guest Speaker for the Inaugural Session, offered intriguing insights into the linkages between migration and the mandate of literature. His presentation “Migratory Bards: Of Narration and Itineration”, traced etymological roots of words such as “sahitya” and illustrated how unlike “sa-hitya” which is suggestive of peace and harmony, literature is born from conflict. Professor Kalpana Sahni in her plenary talk “Home and Away”, chaired by Professor Simi Malhotra, interrogated the representation and ethos of a migrant. She also deliberated about the constant intermingling of populations, languages and cultures.
The special session “Writers Speak” had three writers Professor Sukrita Paul Kumar, Professor T. N. Dhar and Mr Tenzin Tsundue, who talked about creativity, exile, and belonging. Tenzin Tsundue narrated his experience of being a Tibetan refugee in India and about the movement “Free Tibet”. He also recited some of his poems on related themes. Professor T. N. Dhar, in his talk titled “I am a Migrant” spoke of his experience as an ousted Kashmiri pandit, and also of the predicament of the community in general. Professor Sukrita Paul Kumar read out some poems in which migration was explored as a metaphor for modern predicament. Dr. Punita G. Singh and Dr. Nidhi Trehan explored the notions of identity and persecution with regard to the travails of the historically dispossessed Roma people in the session “The Roma Question”. Dr. Mujibur Rehman, in his presentation, talked of the implications of the majoritarian politics of the diaspora.
Day 2 of the conference began with Professor Harish Trivedi’s keynote address on “Reading Beyond English: Migration, Translation, and Languages”. Professor Chandra Mohan chaired the session. Professor Trivedi questioned the much ado about the relatively small subsections of communities that migrate, stressing that “migration” per se is not a crucial factor within the subcontinent. He then focused on the often ignored creative output by diasporic writers, who write in their own languages instead of the language of the adopted country. Professor Rana Nayar in his plenary talk titled “Post-colonial Katha: Continuities and Ruptures in Videshi Punjabi fiction” highlighted the pre and post-colonial flux in Punjab, and the specificities of the Punjabi short story by writers of the diaspora. This session was chaired by Professor H. C. Narang. Brati Biswas in her presentation focused on the plight of the Bangla Dalit refugee and the ministrations of the state. Indira Prasad talked about the Bidesia tradition of performance in Bhojpuri folk theatre with special reference to the work of Bhikhari Thakur. Madhuri Chawla spoke of the construction of the diasporic self in Punjabi diaspora literature. Gitanjali Chawla presented her views on “Bhangra Rap” as a hybrid form of music evolved by South Asian immigrants. Monica Zutshi in her presentation focused on the distress of Afghan refugees as played out in Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountain Echoed. Aishwarya Babu looked at the representation of Afghan diaspora in Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Abhinaba Chatterjee talked about re-evaluating the idea of the diaspora in the context of contemporary migration literature. Giraj M. Sharma spoke of the shifting dynamics of the city as a space to be claimed and reclaimed. Charu Arya’s presentation dealt with the migration from Libya to Italy. Indrani Das Gupta pitched the idea of science as “diaspora-ization” in Amitav Ghosh’s The Calcutta Chromosome. Debosmita Paul deliberated on the Bengali identity in the wake of the Partition of Bengal and subsequent migrations.
The final session, chaired by Dr. Tapan Basu, had an interactive performative presentation by social activist and theatre person Jaya Iyer and the world renowned magician from Kathputli colony, Ishamuddin Khan. Jaya dealt with issues of stereotyping and social construction, while Ishamuddin threw light on the desperate plight of the traditional performing communities in India. Professor Vijaya Ramaswamy delivered the valedictory address titled “Mobility, Migration, Memories: Some Reflections”. Dr. Diamond Oberoi chaired the session. She explored the relationship between migration and oral traditions, and the syncretic, shared spaces inhabited by people/communities.
Anupama Jaidev is Assistant professor of English at Maharaja Agrasen College. She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from University of Delhi. Her areas of interest are Romani studies, narratives of the emergency, tribal narratives and migration studies.
Guntasha Tulsi has done her doctoral studies from the Centre of English Studies, JNU. She has also completed a Post Graduate Certificate in ELT from EFLU, Hyderabad. She is currently an Assistant Professor at Maharaja Agrasen College with several research papers, books and national and international conferences to her credit.