Four luminaries of entirely different languages get together to discuss their takes on Bhasha in today’s world. Moderator and Odia author Paramita Satpathy kicked off the session by addressing Dr. K N. Ganeshaiah, asking him to share his thoughts on how progressive Kannada as a language has become.

The author of 7 novels stated that Kannada Literature is now trying to respond to the emerging concerns of the country. He then outlined two emerging trends in Kannada Literature. “What we see is that most writers are turning to history to write their novels. Some of the most famous writings are also based on history.” The second trend he mentioned is that in response to the progress that science and technology has made in the country, science also now factors in Kannada Literature. It is quite often taken as a backdrop for various interpersonal relationships that feature in Kannada writing. Ganeshaiah also spoke about a new kind of format in fiction writing wherein there is a lot more care taken to provide authenticity to the narratives and the facts or events that they feature.

Turning the discussion towards the current situation in Kashmir, Satpathy asked award-winning Kashmiri writer Mohammad Zaman Azurdah: “How does the creative soul thrive in the sorrow and strife in the backdrop of Kashmir?” To which the Sahitya Akademi Award recipient responded by saying that the roots of Bhasha are in culture. He said that some force behind us is driving our kids to another script. He cited an example of a good number of Kashmiri Pandits complaining about the fact that when their children move away from the valley, they find themselves learning not the Urdu script but Devanagiri. He further went on to state that we take to some languages because the economy now plays a huge role in our preferences.

In response to the moderator’s question about how some writers feel that their language is better than others, eminent Bengali poet Subodh Sarkar said “No language is superior, no language is inferior. Language is one of the greatest creations of humanity.” He observed that unfortunately we have distanced ourselves and our children from their mother tongues, citing himself as an example. “Why did I allow my own to go away from his language? We’re responsible for this, in the hope of making them Eurocentric, Americanized, Global. They have lost their connection to their ethnicity and culture.” The Guest Editor of ‘Indian Literature’, Sahitya Akademi’s flagship journal, predicted that in the next 20 years, “Our kids will not be writing in our languages but in languages now controlled and empowered by Neocolonists.”

Satpathy mentioned that a huge number of people speak and write in Hindi. She asked renowned Hindi poet, editor, music and cinema aficionado Yatindra Mishra, “How do you think Hindi as a language has evolved with so much of readership?” The author was skeptical in his response, pondering about the status of Hindi Literature today. “Professors and writers of Hindi themselves don’t want their children to write and speak in Hindi.” Speaking about his experience with publishing in the language, he shared that quite a few publishers say that Hindi poetry does not sell.

The session then concluded with the panelists sharing a glimpse of their respective works after which the discussion was thrown open to questions from the audience.

By Nupur Sachdev