Lighting of the inaugural lamp
Day 1, 6th January, 2018
The theme of Soi-mela Boi-mela 2018 was 'Creative Women Against Violence' . Worried by the dismal atmosphere of hatred and violence all around, the theme was a natural choice for the annual meet of Soi.
The event started with a warm welcome speech by the President, Nabaneeta Dev Sen. The eminent guests this year were Kamla Bhasin,social scientist ,human rights activist, writer; Mrinal Pande, ex-editor, writer; and Irom Sharmila Chanu, human rights activist, popularly known as the iron lady of Manipur. The President welcomed them with the yellow roses of friendship.
Judhajit Sarkar's renditions from Bengali, Hindi and Urdu poems by Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ather Zia, Jibanananda Das, Kabita Singha, Meena Kandaswamy and Piyush Mishra , was followed by lighting of the inaugural lamp by the guests along with Nabaneeta Dev Sen accompanied by Tagore's 'Hingsay Unmotto Prithwi...' sung by Soi members.
The first session of the evening was "Creative Women Against Vilonece". Kamla Bhasin, Mrinal Pande, Irom Sharmila and Anita Agnihotri conversed with Antara Dev Sen on the topic. Antara began the session mentioning that not only writing, but all art forms can be used to protest against violence. Creativity has the potential to heal, which helps in reducing violence.
While Mrinal Pande asserted that the roots of all sorts of violence lie in the families only, Kamla Bhasin affirmed that right value systems should be nurtured from childhood only. As a retired civil servant, Anita Agnihotri shared her experiences with different types of socio-political violences, and mentioned how any gorvernment loves to hide all the repressive activities from the common man's knowledge. Irom Sharmila shared how she too has seen discrepancies in families. She said she doesn't want to label herself as a feminist, rather wants to label herself as a humanist.
A detailed report on this session is available at this link.
A Musical play based on 'Aloukik Sanglap' written by Sisir Kumar Das, was presented by 'Mukto Mon' . In this play, women Characters from Greek and Indian mythologies come together in their fight and resistance against negative forces and death, to rise in love.
The last session of the evening was on child abuse. Child psychologist Jhuma Basak was present on the stage with young and spirited Sayani Sinha Roy,who works directly with sexually abused street children of Kolkata. The session was moderated by Anuttama Banerjee. The speakers discussed how children, both boys and girls are molested in the name of love and care. The children are too young to understand and differentiate between right and wrong, a situation that is exploited by perpitrators. Sayani focused on how the government rules against child labour are actually going aganst the street and slum children; there are no alternative, decent options for earning money for these childen, many of whom have to take care of their family from a very early age. They are left with no options except submitting themselves to paedophiles.
Day 2, 7th January, 2018
Day 2 of Soi-mela Boi-mela 2018 started with an elaborate session commemorating the birth centerary of Bani Ray, a prolific writer in Bengali, form the early 20th century. Bani Ray was an exceptional erudite personality of her time, well-known, much discussed and criticised for her views and writings revolving around female sexuality and love. Sadly, the Bengali literary world has conveniently forgotten her more or less, so fast. In this session, Esha De, Sumita Chakraborty, Sudakshina Ghosh and Rushati Sen spoke on the different genres that Ray wrote in. Esha De discussed Ray's first novel 'Prem'; Rushati Sen discussed about her novelette for young adult girls.Sudakshina Ghosh discussed Bani Ray as an editor, while Sumita Chakraborty elaborated on the influence of Western philosophies in Ray's works. This discussion session was preceeded by readings by Soi members from selected pieces of works by Bani Ray. Nabaneeta Dev Sen moderated the session.
The second event on this day was a special session where Kamla Bhasin, Mrinal Pande and Irom Sharmila read out pieces of their works. While Sharmila read out two poems in Meitei, Nabaneeta Dev Sen read out the English translations of the same. Mrinal Pande read out part of a story from her book 'Daughter's Daughter'. Kamla Bhasin, with her inimitable vigour, shared her slogans and songs that speak of equality for all.
The third and final session of the evening was a debate session on the topic 'Creativity Stands Against Violence' . Eleena Banik, Gopa Datta Bhaumik, Judhajit Sarkar and Anindya Bandyopadhyay spoke for the motion, while Miratun Nahar, Trina Neelina Banerjee, Jawhar Sircar and Suman Chattopadhyay spoke against the motion. Antara Dev Sen was the moderator for the session.
The closing ceremony started with Joint Secretary Debleena Tripathi delivering the vote of thanks to all. The evening as well as Soi-mela Boi-mela 2018 ended with song performaces by Soi members.
Chaitali Dasgupta was the compere for both days.
As part of the event, a Women's Book Fair, organised by the Publishers and Booksellers Guild, as well as a multimedia display , 'Voices from the Dark', organised by 'Swayam', were parallely running at Gaganendra Shilpa Pradarshashala.
Reporting: Rweeta Basu
Photographs: Ashim Dattagupta (Fujiama)