Hello! Check … Check … Names…

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Glanced through the schedule of the upcoming Kolkata Literary Festival, spanning over three days, and scheduled on and from Feb 2nd (2017) until Feb 4th. Being an author of a few books (both poetry & literary nonfiction) and translator of some reputation, I have failed to locate a session that might speak on “politics of publishing in Kolkata.” We have several small presses here in India, especially in West Bengal, but the organizers of the literary fest have been consistent in fetching authors published by big houses. Can we expect a session involving the owners of the small presses? Can the organizers be empathetic towards the small presses that have produced quality work over the years? Oh well, I can remember Casey Dorman’s much acclaimed novel The Peacemaker, which centers around the keyword, “empathy.” But then, who is Casey? I can say, Casey is the editor-in-chief of Lost Coast Review (California), and again, I’ll ask you to check his credentials on Google. A matter of a few seconds, eh?

Indeed! But, how sincere and honest can one get in the process of exploring data? Is it difficult to gather information on the small presses that have carved a niche? Are you aware of Hawakal Publishers, if I ask you? Do you know the credentials of Transcendent Zero Press in Houston (Texas)? What about Shambhabi? I’m sure you are not quite well acquainted with the works published by The Poetry Society of India, Gurgaon! Let me tell you, Hawakal, in spite of being a non-academic Bengali imprint, has produced several books in the English language, written by well-known poets and critics in India. Of late they have published a book, Mumuksha, written in Sanskrit. On the other hand, Houston-based TZ Press, in spite of being an American small press, has a Kolkata poet in their kitty. Shambhabi’s Santiram-er Cha by Bitan Chakraborty is a brilliant collection of Bengali short stories, which received much critical acclaim in India in 2016. A close look on Dr. Madan Gandhi headed The Poetry Society of India will reveal that they have published a poetry anthology, Jora Sanko, which includes major Bengali poets who write in the English language. For your information, Jora Sanko has been placed in the poetry library of the Royal Hall in London. I strongly believe, it is the duty of the lit fest organizers to bring the small presses and their authors before the public eye. It is their responsibility to search, locate and inspire the small press owners so they can sustain quality production in the coming years.

I have failed to locate Sunil Sharma, Ketaki Datta, Atreya Sarma Uppaluri, Sharmila Ray, Sanjukta Dasgupta, Bitan Chakraborty and many other talented authors in the list of the esteemed speakers. Aren’t the organizers repeating names time and again? Do they intend to emphasize on big houses by ignoring the immensely potent small presses?

Literary Festivals, by all means, should focus more on creative writers and their publishers. It’s high time we quality check the names before scheduling a lit fest in the world’s largest book fair!