Monday, June 14, 2010


MELOW (The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the World) and MELUS-India (the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United Tates - India Chapter)


This year MELOW and MELUS-India collaborated with Panjab University and the Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi to hold its 10th International Conference on “Literature and Culture Since 1980” from Feb 25 to 27, 2010. After holding a successful 2008 conference at the University of Vishwa Bharati, Santiniketan, West Bengal, the place associated with the Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, members were back in the City Beautiful, Chandigarh, for another conference. Scholars from Nigeria, US, Japan, US and UK, and from almost every corner of India were present.

After all the rigorous screening, the rejections and corrections of the papers, the submissions were filtered down to match the international standard of the MELUS-MELOW Conference.

The three days of the conference were filled with friendly reunions, academic discussions, paper readings, lectures and presentations that went on simultaneously in four parallel sessions.

The conference began with a warm welcome by Prof. Gulshan Kataria. The Special Guest of the morning was Shri Pradip Mehra, Adviser to the UT Administrator. Apart from the welcome address and the Chief Guest’s remarks, the inaugural session included the announcement of the Isaac Sequeira Award and a Book launch (of selected papers of the last conference). This was followed by a keynote address by Prof. Harish Trivedi who, with his scholarly address on “India, America and World Literature,” held the audience spellbound.

In the parallel sessions, as many as four were held simultaneously. These were chaired by senior scholars including Tejnath Dhar, Sudhir Kumar, Gulshan Kataria, Mita Biswas, Anil Raina, K.B. Razdan, Sushila Singh, Lovelina Singh, Anu Celly, Somdatta Mandal, Mukul Sengupta, Vijay Sharma, Mina Surjit Singh, Sushi Dutta-Sandhu, Meera Malik, and Himadri Lahiri.

The second Keynote Address, ‘The American Gulliver and World System – Cooperation and Consensus,’ was delivered by Prof. Mukesh Williams from Soka University, Tokyo. Focusing on the issue of dominance, Prof. Williams spoke of the bipolarity that exists in the world today because of globalization on the one hand and religion on the other. “A cosmopolitan consciousness is in conflict with ideology today”, he said. Chairing the session was the eminent academic, Prof P.L. Mehra, former head of Panjab University’s History Department, who followed the lecture carefully and gave some valuable insights in his concluding remarks.

Incidentally, Mukesh Williams came from Japan accompanied by a strong contingent or young scholars who charmed the delegates with their enthusiasm as well as the traditional Japanese attire they were dressed in. They blended well with the local scholars and added a splash of color to the academic ambience.

On 27th February, the first Isaac Sequeira Memorial Lecture was given by Prof. P.C. Kar on ‘Aesthetics of Modernism.’ Prof Kar, who knew the late Prof Sequeira personally, shared some of his thoughts with the audience, recalling the academic endeavors he and Isaac were together a part of. In a free-wheeling talk on literature, he focused on the continuity of literary traditions, emphasizing that all endings are in a way the origins of new thoughts and movements. Literature being a never-ending stream, records the flux of life to which we all, academics and scholars (like Isaac) contribute in our own ways. There is no finality, only an ever-ongoing process. Prof Kar’s talk, personal as well as scholarly, brought the conference to a fitting close, leaving delegates of MELOW in a mature, mellower frame of mind.

The conference presented an interesting mix of senior, middle and entry level scholars. There were young and upcoming researchers along with student volunteers. One of the research scholars, Navreet Sahi, made a film presentation on “The Virtual Life of Michael Jackson”. The legendary singer’s last performance that never took place, recorded in the documentary ’This is it’ was screened. The delegates also enjoyed watching a performance at the Open Air Theatre of the Panjab University where The Trojan Women in Hindustani was staged by the Dept of Indian Theatre, chaired by the well-known theatre personality Neelam ManSingh.

The MELOW General Body meeting was held to discuss future events and to elect office bearers for the coming term. There were changes in the executive board with Prof. Sushila Singh succeeding Prof. Gulshan Kataria as President of MELUS-MELOW and Somdatta Mandal being elected as Vice-President. In the Executive Group too there were some changes, all of which have been listed below.

A unique feature of this Conference was that it dove-tailed into the First Chandigarh Literature Festival which comprised Face-to-Face Sessions with eminent writers like Shashi Deshpande, Mamta Kalia, and Namita Gokhale in conversation with equally well reputed writers / critics, Manjula Padmanabhan, Malashri Lal, Pratibha Nagpal, Mina Surjit Singh, Sudhir Kumar and Madhav Kaushik, In addition, there were story and poetry sessions in English, Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi. The Hindi poetry session was chaired by Mamta Kalia and the English Session by Prof. Sushila Singh.

The Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu segments had award winning poets like T N Raaz, Yojana Rawat, Roshan Sharma, B D Kalia, Rupa Saba, Taaran Gujral, Santosh Dhiman and Atul Vir Arora share their thoughts on life and living. The English poetry session included Nirupama Dutt, Kailash Ahluwalia, Balpreet Kaur, Lalita Jagmohan, Aradhana Sharma, Saurabh Gupta and Debasish. Nature, relationships and pain formed the leitmotif of the verses shared by the authors with an appreciative audience, striking a responsive chord in many a heart.

The story sessions in different languages were also well received. Participating in these sessions, reading their stories, were some local writers like K.L. Zakir, Chander Trikha, V. Mehndiratta and Jaideep Chadha, along with some of the delegates from abroad attending the MELOW Conference.

Among the names that stand out in the LitFest segment is that of Shashi Despande, Padma Shri and Sahitya Akademi awardee for her novel, That Long Silence. Mamta Kalia, Director, Bhartiya Bhasha Parishad, is the author of the award winning 'Beghar'. Namita Gokhale is the brain behind the Jaipur Literature Festival which has become a literary landmark in the country. Manjula Padmanabhan, playwright, artist and cartoonist, also made her presence felt, contributing to the animated discussions with the panelists.

A Book Exhibition was held in the foyer and delegates were seen browsing around in their free moments.

DATES FOR THE NEXT CONFERENCE are still being finalized. Tentatively, the Conference will be held in Hyderabad (OUCIP) in the last week of September 2011. Information will be circulated as soon as we can confirm with our colleagues in Hyderabad. The conference theme will be circulated separately.

Office Bearers for MELUS-India, 2010 onward:

• President: Prof Sushila Singh, BHU, Varanasi.

• Vice-President: Prof Somdatta Mandal, Viswabharati, Santitniketan, WB.
• Secretary: Prof Manju Jaidka, PU, Chandigarh.
• Jt. Secy: Dr Manpreet Kaur, IPU, Delhi
• Treasurer: Prof Anil Raina (PU, Chandigarh)

Executive Members:

• Prof MG Ramanan (U of Hyderabad)

• Prof Gulshan Kataria (Pbi U, Patiala)
• Prof Tutun Mukherjee (U of Hyderabad)
• Dr Mukul Sengupta (Calcutta)
• Dr Himadri Lahiri (Kolkata)

• Dr Vijay Sharma (Delhi)
• Dr RG Kulkarni (Sangli)
• Dr Nandini Bhadra (Mumbai)
• Dr Roshan Sharma (Solan, HP)
• Dr Meenu Gupta (Chandigarh)

Editorial Board : Prof Anil Raina and Dr. Debasish Lahiri

International Advisory Board :
• Prof Paul Giles, Oxford University
• Prof Mukesh Williams, Soka University, Japan
• Prof Sushi Dutta-Sandhu, U Mich, Kalamazoo