No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive.
– Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
ILF Samanvay is a contemporary call to rediscover the genius of Indian languages to interlink, and, thus, create a democratic cultural continuum. This annual Indian Languages Festival leads from a dynamic yet nuanced enterprise for cultural companionship anchored at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. It interlaces the diversities embedded in the transnational matrix of the country, through the media of its variegated languages. In facilitating genuine camaraderie among the many-splendoured linguistic cultures of India, ILF Samanvay interprets ‘Indian Languages’ beyond verbal terms, and explores the transverbal possibilities of human expression and communication.
Knowing India’s Plurality through Languages
A veritable theatre of cultures, India expresses itself through thousands of indigenous nationalities, intertwined traditions and translated forms of expression. Even our techno-intensive age has not been able to offer the peoples of this land, any sure means to fully comprehend or effectively deal with the questions of ‘nation’ and ‘identity’. Lest its much-touted plurality ironically turned this ancient land into a breeding ground of internal rivalries, it is vital for India now to initiate a rigorous cultural movement that can meaningfully connect the diversities embedded in its transnational matrix. Such a connective relevant to and transformational for the country, even as it aligns itself with the profound vision of a creative future for humanity at large, seems the need of our divided times. And, the layered space of Indian languages cannot but be the most viable channel to make this convergence a living reality.
ILF Samanvay has thus been conceptualised as a platform for Indian languages to come together—resisting hierarchies, upholding democracy, celebrating friendship. The key philosophical as well as operational facets of ILF Samanvay that aim at engaging Indian languages to co-create beauty and connect with one another through their common seeking of truth, are outlined in this Vision Manifesto.
ILF Samanvay: The Name and Philosophy
The term Samanvay evokes a nuanced sense of cultural coordination in the country, as different from the standardised processes of national integration. ILF stands for Indian Languages Festival. The IHC-Indian Languages Festival has adopted this name with a vision to connect the many-glories and diversities of India, as reflected in its plentisome tongues. This term permits the vision of ILF Samanvay to manifest itself as an open interactive space at the crossroads of languages through various types of sequencing, shuffling, synchronizing, churning and harmonising processes, while allowing room for surprise successions and coincidental conjunctions.
As its name suggests, ILF Samanvay privileges the vital principles of co-ordination that allows us to live, work and remember together—co-existence, co-operation, commemoration. This would mean that ILF Samanvay is not merely an annual carnival of the literati in India, but a ceaseless enterprise to institutionalise the values fundamental to the co-existence of languages, and hence the diverse cultures they live in, represent and reflect on, too. In order to manifest this vision, ILF Samanvay assumes the philosophical disposition of a cultural continuum, and goes beyond the logistics of a mere event in time. It at once brings into play the dream and reality of what a democratic pluricultural India could contribute to the world at large.
The Overall Design and Logo
The shifts in the modes of understanding and communication ushered in by the politicality of our age often tend to generate a sense of bewilderment and ignorance and a feeling of instability and fear, even as it promises empowerment. As Assam’s Nilmani Phukan says:
Do not ask me how I have been,
because it is darkness now.
– Translated from the Ahomiya by Pradip Acharya
Amid rampant instability of thought and violence infecting communication, ILF Samanvay aspires to thrive as a space for relevant reflection and uninhibited celebration of the inherent companionship of Indian linguistic cultures. Its overall design, including that of all its intellectual, physical and virtual sites, thus evokes India’s cultural destiny vis-à-vis its multiple political aspirations on the one hand and the future of humanity at large on the other. Hence, the festival design reflects the concerns and responsibility of the Indian writers, artists and other creative thinkers towards creating a condition and environment to bring the multi-centred country into a cultural camaraderie rather than any attempt at homogenisation.
The ILF Samanvay logo is the visual embodiment of the above design concept. While the curious interweaving of straight lines and curves in the scripting of the term ‘Samanvay’ has from its inception reflected the continuum of tradition and modernity that the festival emphasises, it is branded as ILF Samanvay in its fifth year, considering its one-of-its-kind status in the country as a festival bringing Indian languages together.
The revised logo marks the directional integrity in the organisation of the festival.
Artist Riyas Komu who conceptualised the new visual expression of the ILF Samanvay logo says: “In our times characterized by fragile thoughts and volatile expressions, an Indian languages festival such as ILF Samanvay must live and present itself as a profound space for thinking. It must be a site to reflect on the past, present and future of humanity and nature at large. Hence, the attempt here has been to create a head space that represents the thoughtscape embedded in Indian languages. Again, as we need an insignia for thinkers who can make relevant changes, the red dot becomes the mark of that awareness.
The seven colours of the spectrum, capable of forming white light on their merger, are laid in a seed form in the line above the lettering of Samanvay in the logo. Another indication of the ‘coming together’ inherent in the festival, this linear mandala also intimates one of the possibility of playing with each of these colours in specific contexts within the frame of the festival.”
Main Objectives of ILF Samanvay
- To facilitate an atmosphere and create a ground for creative collaboration, cultural companionship and critical thinking within and among Indian languages and cultures.
- To emerge as a seminal space for critical thinking on language, literature, the arts, and various other emerging streams of knowledge and creativity.
- To promote translations from and into Indian languages, especially direct translation between two languages.
- To contribute to the growth and development of individual Indian languages, especially minor or dying languages.
- To encourage the growth and dynamic archiving of different oral and written forms of language.
- To promote various linguistic traditions within India, foster the organic connections among the country’s literatures, the arts, sciences, and social sciences and the society in an effective way through the medium and metaphor of ‘language’.
- To form a connective of interrelated activities and stakeholders towards initiating a sustainable cultural praxis in the country.
- To address and bring to the mainstream of the contemporary societal discourse, the narratives concerning people, issues and concerns that are often marginalised.
- To identify new talents, movements, discourses and trends in various fields of knowledge and creativity from different regions and languages.
- To institute various awards to recognise talents and achievements in fields falling under the mandate of ILF Samanvay.
- To bring out relevant publications and other cultural productions, and offer mentoring programmes as and when required.
- To enter into creative collaborations with like-minded agencies across the country and abroad in various verticals.
- To bring more children, youth, women and special communities into the festival space.
- To curate programmes and publications in a way that would establish and communicate the design integrity of the festival.
- To contribute thoughts, ideas and collective action towards developing a national cultural policy that is cohesive, appreciative of diversity, inclusive in nature, non-hierarchical; to inspire effective arts administration, and to nurture the material cultures of our country.
- To awaken the aesthetic and political sensibilities of creative and critical communities, the media and audiences, in tune with the times.
- To bring international critical, creative and media attention on contemporary Indian cultural sites and developments.
- To create a sustained audience, critical appreciation and reception for innovation in contemporary Indian literature, arts and other fields of thought and expression.
- To facilitate active sensitisation about the multiplicity and continuity of linguistic and cultural forms and practices of India.
- Create documentation and methodologies of dynamic archiving on cultural practices in India, on the historical movements in literature, art and performance, towards the making of a relevant political sensibility and a new aesthetics.
ILF Samanvay takes up a specific theme every year, and also chooses a few focal languages drawn from different regions of the country. This is to ensure the continuity of cultural experience on the one hand, and to enable a democratic representation of the country’s diverse linguistic fields within the frame of the festival, through years. Care is taken to interpret and translate the theme in all its nuances through the sessions of the festival, even as they expand the mandate of ILF Samanvay, in terms of re-understanding ‘language’ in the fast-changing Indian context.
India Habitat Centre as the ILF Samanvay Port
The India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, was conceived to provide a physical environment which would serve as a catalyst for a synergetic relationship between individuals and institutions working in diverse habitat-related areas thereby maximising their total effectiveness. To facilitate this interaction, the Centre provides a range of facilities. ILF Samanvay has been conceived as an annual celebration of writing in Indian languages hosted on the IHC campus in the Lodhi area in New Delhi. The festival aspires to align itself with the IHC’s vision of habitat-formation in terms of building and housing an institution facilitating transformative conversations among languages, cultures, creative spaces and communities in India. ILF Samanvay is instituted with a vision to scale up to become a cultural landmark in the thoughtscape of Delhi and the country at large. Delhi’s culturally fertile soil provides a natural ground to germinate and grow the multidynamic aspirations of ILF Samanvay. That November, when the festival falls every year, gifts Delhi with a very pleasant weather is another reason why all roads must lead to the ILF Samanvay venues at the India Habitat Centre.
ILF Samanvay Festival Framework
ILF Samanvay is organised annually in the month of November mainly at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, and other outreach venues according to the festival requirements. Its general frame involves the following verticals, which may be expanded, and developed into full-fledged programmes and projects.
- Reading and Discussion Panels
- Workshops and Mentoring Programme
- Books and Events
- Art Curation
- Awards and Recognitions
- Food and Cuisine
- Social Outreach Programmes
Indian Languages: A Reflection in the Context of ILF Samanvay
The stated mandate of ILF Samanvay is to nurture the strengths and profundities within, and interactive spaces among, the languages of India. Even as it addresses the specific concerns of India’s written and oral languages and literary traditions, it furthers the scope of the term ‘Indian Languages’ by interpreting and exploring the concept of ‘language’ beyond the limits of verbality, and by bringing in the visual, musical, performative, technological idioms into its purview. This eclectic, interdisciplinary vision of culturality allows several discourses and epistemologies relevant to the times to be brought into the framework of ILF Samanvay through the media of languages. With the festival verticals including the panels and workshops, this festival space may lead to the development of a larger culture conservatory in the country.
Today, all Indian languages—verbal as well as transverbal—face the pressing need to forge expressions that would tie their contemporaneity with the abiding splendours of this variegated land. In the market square of ideologies, our languages must seek and plant seeds of genuine friendship— seeds like these words from a poetic movement that had inspired the length and breadth of the subcontinent for centuries, and continue to connect the citizens of modern India in a radical legacy of nonchalant engagement with the play of time and space:
ऐसीवाणीबोलिये , मनकाआपाखोये
Speak words so selfless,
they peel the ego’s shell–
words which cool your body,
give pleasure to the rest.
— English translation by Aman Nath
— Dogri translation by Lalit Mangotra
–Malayalam translation by Anita Thampi
நம் உடலை அமைதி தழுவும் பொருட்டு
பிறர் மகிழும் பொருட்டு
அமைய வேண்டும் நம் மொழி ..
–Tamil translation by Salma
–Bangla translation by Subhro Bandyopadhyay
بات اس طرح کرو کہ ذرا بھی انا نہ ہو
خود چین سے رہو تم اوروں کو خوش رکھو
–Urdu translation by Sohail Hashmi
करी शीतल तन
–Marathi translation by Pradnya Daya Pawar
Kabir’s verse, translated by poets in different languages across time and space, come together on this page in all their visual variance as a metaphor of the play of cultural companionship that India offers the world in these fragmented times. Yet, that is only an intimation of what India can offer the world today, for, it is not only such verbal and scriptal forms that make languages in this country. The precise dive of the white-breasted kingfisher, the types of ripples that pebbles create on various waters, the patient lines of the black ants, the yellows and sweets of the mango season, the sculpted musculature along the back of a tiger in wait for its prey, the rhythm of the body to the tunes of human thoughts and emotions—all these and more have been long acknowledged and received as full-fledged sites of expression and meaning-making in these parts. Hence, it makes perfect sense when Amrita Pritam says,
the sun came to my doorstep today
and asked for an ember
to kindle his own fire.
— Translated from the Punjabi by Arlene Zide
In this many-splendoured land, every language thus bears witness to an invisible cultural matrix. ILF Samanvay promises, manifests and projects a design that visualizes the interflow of eight rivers of activities. While the festival envisions a scale up in terms of locations and editions, the anchoring event would be at the India Habitat Centre campus in New Delhi. This master programme envisages eight tangible venues across the IHC campus as well as 8 thematic intangibles within the festival, each named after a river. Each river beginning with a letter of the word SAMANVAY written in English, represents a particular direction and spirit of the festival. The curatorial alignment of a venue and a theme within the frame of the festival shows the aspiration of ILF Samanvay towards transforming its cultural intervention into a visible historical marker. Thus embodying a curious interplay of the tangible and the intangible within and about each of the names, Sabarmati, Alaknanda, Mahanadi, Amaravati, Narmada, Vaigai, Ajay and Yamuna, the festival brings an extraordinary experience of the different regions of the country collaborating in a profound and intensely beautiful play of interculturality. These eight streams incessantly flow in and out of one another through the vision, formation and direction of ILF Samanvay; they are hoped to be understood and lived in myriad ways through different editions and future manifestations of the festival.
ILF Samanvay appreciates that the intangible fibres of India’s history ceaselessly affect, thrill, and transform the everyday lives of its citizens, as well as inspire the world at large in multdynamic ways. Its testimony gathers a multitude of voices from many chronicles and geographies. It immerses itself in the song of a wandering minstrel, a whirling dervish, a rambling sufi, a bhakti poet, a child monk. But it also analyses how the Indic cultural space has given speech, pause and silence to a leader, a criminal, a quester, an assaulted at once. It acknowledges that the native memories of this region have remained untainted by the homogenising agendas of today’s politics, thus always offering its speakers epiphanic chances of recovery and dream. ILF Samanvay aligns itself with the world’s most resonant voices that transcend the territorial, nationalist, and economic limits of our modernities. It takes upon itself to bear witness to these voices that would manifest into a wall of resistant cries, capable of upturning empires at critical junctures. In bewildering times, it vows to raise its voice in readiness to lead the peoples of this extraordinary land into a certain samanvay, a synchronised song of belonging.