Valley of Words, the grand international festival of literature and arts which was specially named after the valley of Doon, has now established itself firmly as one of the most important literary and cultural events of the mountain state of Uttarakhand. It is also becoming one of the leading events of its kind in the country. Yet in its second edition, it has progressed extremely rapidly in being recognised as a landmark event where writers, artistes, scholars, economists, army personnel and experts from various fields intermingle and enrich themselves with knowledge and intellectual activity the kind of which this valley had not seen in years.
No wonder then that the people of the Doon valley as well as surrounding cities of Mussoorie, Haridwar and Rishikesh are crowding the three day festival which began on Friday and concludes on November 25. What better way could there be to spend one’s weekend than meet authors , listen to them talking about their works and also signing books ? Authors of the Doon valley are prominent in their participation in this festival that is in no way less popular now than the Jaipur Literature Festival. More than two hundred arbiters are in the valley to be part of this literary extravaganza. Just taking a round of the event, one can run into many a celebrated writer or publisher. This was something many had been waiting for in the city but could have not even dreamt of it actually coming true.
Be it English fiction, Hindi poetry, Urdu verse, childrens’ writing, travelogues, political writing or autobiographies , you name it and you can get to attend wonderfully curated sessions at VoW. This fest works across genres, languages and styles, across all the states of the country. It has such a wide perspective that there has to be something here for every person in the audience. The inaugural session was an in-depth affair with eminent persons as Gen Cardozo, Robin Gupta and Lakshmi Shankar Bajpai addressed the audience. The keynote address on “Universal Learnings from Sanskrit Classics” was delivered by Bibek Debroy. Sanskrit skits were also presented by students of DPS, Haridwar.
On Saturday morning, an extremely gripping session was held on the biograohy of PN Haksar written by renowned economist and MP, Jairam Ramesh .The book is titled “Intertwined Lives :PN Haksar & Indira Gandhi”. The panel for the session consisted of the author Jairam Ramesh, Mark Tully and Sekhar Raha. It was, in a way, the most interesting session of the fest so far as it threw light on the country’s history in the 1960s and 1970s, especially in the political arena. A vibrant discussion on the book covered many an importat historical event of those decades. Ramesh said that he had written “not a judgemental but a narrative biography of Haksar”. The strong influence Haksar had on Indira Gandhi was discussed and Ramesh described it as not just a relationship between a PM and her adviser but as a “personal relationship” where Gandhi saw Haksar as “her ideological beacon”. He said that she had implicit, blind faith in his judgement and in his loyalty to her. The author also said that Haksar had not been sacked by her but had made a voluntary exit from “the sanctum sanctorum” when he realised that things had changed now due to Sanjay Gandhi.
Mark Tully observed that Haksar had been “arrogant” and disliked by civil servants –the ICS officers . Jairam Ramesh agreed that he was and had a “disdainful attitude” towards politicians and also the judges.
Doon writer Pradeep Singh’s book “Sals of the Valley” featured in a session today which had Sargam Mehra in the chair. In this book one meets incorrigible ramblers of the forests; a party of farm hands launching a desperate night search; a daunting wilderness that does nothing to restrain boisterous revel late into the night; and a worried landowner searching far and wide with time running out. These stories are rooted in reality and re-visit idyllic hamlets and villages along the Suswa River and recreate the atmosphere of a hundred or more years ago. Time and terrain unify these stories in a single narrative of evocative prose synonymous with Pradeep Singh. This is largely a reflection of his passion for recreating for the readers, the vanishing rural vistas of the valley while retaining enough dramatic elements. These stories build up to a climax taking you closer to the blazing fires on winter nights in the open.
A session on Doon author Lokesh Ohri’s “Been there, Doon That” was also held on Saturday. Sunday’s sessions include a special session on Hindi poetry, literature is schools, voices from the hills, Buddhism in Uttarakhand and Hindi in media. The valedictory address will be delivered by Tarun Vijay.