posted by sahar romani
Metro Section, Kolkata Edition
Creativity without Chains
By Romila Saha
Kolkata, January 25, 2007
Talking stories, that’s what students of Arizona State University (ASU) and the English department of Jadavpur University were busy doing on January 11. In India, as a part of the Kalam initiative of Daywalka Foundation, Melissa Pritchard and her students from the creative writing department at ASU delved into the stumbling blocks of fiction writing in India and the world over. The foundation has been working with underprivileged children associated with city NGOs to provide them with a platform to express their creativity.
Rimi B. Chatterjee, who is the coordinator of the Writing in Practice course at the Department of English, JU, spoke of the sense of violation in putting one’s writing for judgment before a readership that is quick to criticise. Pritchard referred to the scenario in the US where political forces often silence stories. Deemed as one of the many ways in which the creative voice is being muted, students also spoke on the traditional marginalisation of women writers. Bollywood came under discussion as an arena where melodrama is considered a valid expression of creativity.
The financial hurdles before people who take up fiction writing as career was brought to the fore by Subhadeep Paul, a final-year MPhil student of JU. He spoke on the difficulty of balancing the dual roles of academic and writer. Rimi B. Chatterjee, a published author herself, agreed, saying “writers have to survive in India by hiding deep under the cover of an academic”.
Responding to a student’s comment about being unable to write after reading Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Pritchard stressed the need to find one’s voice: “The best way to read is to unpack the writer’s work to find out what you like about him — read like a taxonomist! You can’t let yourself silence yourself.”
Many from the morning session came together that afternoon again at Caffeine on Elgin Road to read out their works.
On January 12, Pritchard’s crew participated in another creative writing workshop with youngsters from Kalam. A magazine, Khola Baksho, put together by them will be released in February with contributions from underprivileged children of NGOs Sanlaap, Diksha and Development Action Society.
During the workshop youngsters Nargis and Reshma Khatun asked how identities of characters from real-life incidents can be protected in narratives and how best to handle sexuality in fiction. Michael Green, an ASU student responded: “Poets have to be courageous. They are the ones meant to break the barriers of complacency. If you want to talk about sexuality, go ahead and talk about it.”