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With "Language as Public Action" as its theme this year, the 6th edition of Indian Languages Festivals (ILF)- Samanvay is set to explore the idea of language beyond the purview of the literary word. "It is a complex theme because we are not talking about just one aspect of language. When you put language in public, you not only look at language itself, but also its various forms of expression in public," says Rizio Yohannan Raj, Creative Director, ILF Samanvay. "When you talk about languages, it is not just the literature that you are talking about, it is not just the literary idiom.
There are also other idioms like the language of performance, art and social sciences," she says.
Unlike its previous editions, the festival this edition is set to be an extended affair over the next few months before culminating into the main event in November this year.
Separate sessions will be organised every month as part of the festival that will focus on stimulating the audience to think of "language in a broader and deeper manner."
"We want to explore the theme over the months to build up to the festival. We also want to build audiences through different perspectives, so that when we come to the final event, the public and the media have a larger understanding of what we are talking about.
"We don't want it to be a single odd event but a larger discourse that we are trying to create," says Rizio.
According to her, the objective of the festival is also to blur the existing distinctions between a "major and a minor language," which she says, in a way ends up marginalising the communities that practise the less spoken tongue.
"It is very important for us as a festival because we do not want to distinguish between a major and a minor language, because it is not your fault or mine that I am born into a particular language.
"But because the language is considered minor and not given enough importance, we end up marginalising the voices of the people who speak that language. As a result, they don't have a way of expressing themselves in the mainstream," she says.
Delhi being the host city, it is only fair that the "movement" begins at home, and therefore the first session today titled, "No Tongues Barred" will focus on the city's languages. "The theme for today is 'Languages of Delhi' where we are going to trace the evolution of Hindustani which developed in Delhi," says heritage activist Sohail Hashmi. A curtain raiser today revists the language's journey out of Delhi to Gujarat and the Deccan region in the 13th and 14th centuries and its expansion to areas now known as Hyderabad; how it absorbed words from languages like Telugu and Marathi before coming back to the Capital in the late 17th and 18th centuries to evolve as a language that would soon become the medium of literary discourse. The session will also trace the trajectory of Hindustani's downfall as Hindi and Urdu were culled out of it as two separate tongues, as a consequence of "nationalist politics," giving rise to new languages that continue to be part of Delhi's cacophony even today. "This is not going to be a 3-day literary festival with a lot of high profile people making significant statements but it is going to be a protracted engagement with language and expression," says Sohail. The discussion will be illustrated with readings by Fouzia Dastango. The first ILF Samanvay Project, "Langscaping Delhi: Mapping a city's linguistic routes" is also set to take shape. "The idea is to look at Delhi's space and its languages; to look at its historicity; how different languages have come to the city, how they are surving and what are their dynamics," says Rizio. As part of this project, the team at ILF is looking to make an audio-visual documentation out of the idea and make it a "people's movement for languages." The announcement will also seek to invite stakeholders into the project, she says.