‘Utter Magic of Utter Nonsense’ At Tata Steel Bhubaneswar Literary Meet

Bhubaneswar: It was a session on The Utter Magic of Utter Nonsense on the 3rd day of the Tata Steel Bhubaneswar Literary meet held at Odisha capital.

During this session at Bhubaneswar Club, festival’s director Malvika Banerjee spoke with the ‘Masters of Nonsense’, Sumanyu Satpathy and Anushka Ravishankar.

They discussed about their anthology, ‘The tenth Rasa’ and some of their other works. The speakers emphasised the nonsense genre’s distinctive qualities and how it offers a fresh outlook on reality.

“The definition of nonsense is dismissive in the modern day-to-day culture whereas it was a bit more affirmative during the 19th century,” said Sumanyu Satpathy in initial remarks at the session.

“Indian writers are scared to admit to write nonsense and this genre has flourished and is almost limited to Bengal,” he added.

He also mentioned that their book was intended to put an end to the anxiety of such writers with the exemplary work of some of the best writers of nonsense including the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

“The word ‘nonsense’ is used very loosely by people, they confuse it with ‘joke’ whereas joke and nonsense are two completely different things. Joke is not nonsense. It was very difficult to make people understand what we wanted while working on this book”, said Anushka Ravishankar.

The genre has a timeless appeal of nonsense literature and continues to captivate audiences of all ages. It is not simply a form of entertainment, but also a form of social and political commentary that raises important questions about the world we live in.

Sumanyu expressed the presence of this genre in the medieval Indian literature that operated at spiritual level. However, most Indians are unaware of that since they have adopted the Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear-created legacy of European literary nonsense from the late 19th century.

Talking about Kabir’s work in this genre, Anushka quoted G K Chesterton, “The line between the nonsense and the divine is very thin,” and said “the idea of enlightenment is beyond logic and language and so is nonsense. Most of his works are not easily comprehensible by someone who is looking for pure meaning and that’s when the nonsense comes in.”

The audience had the chance to hear various readings from well-known works of nonsense, including “Haladia Bhalu” by Manoj Das, “Anghol Stotra” by Sarita Padki, and “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll, as well as their translations.

On the same day, five other literary sessions were organised as well.

  • Feasting India: A session that featured Chitrita Banerji with Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi discussing her book, ‘Eating India’.
  • Oblivion and the magic of Gopinath Mohanty’s stories: Sudheshna Mohanty and Sudhansu Mohanty talked about their anthology ‘Oblivion and Other Stories’ which is a translation of twenty stories of Gopinath Mohanty in English.
  • The Anglo-Indians: India’s leading quiz master Barry O’Brien talked about his new book ‘The Anglo-Indians: A Portrait of a Community’ with Sashmi Nayak.
  • Odia Darpan: This session was held in Odia. Mona Lisa Jena, Gayatribala Panda, and Paramita Satpathy, three well-known writers from the Odia language, spoke with Sakti Mohanty.
  • Balancing a life: Bachi Karkaria, Khuswant Singh and Jatindra Kumar Nayak had a discussion with Sashmi Nayak about biographies and how much the authors’ life inspire them.

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