Dumka Literary Festival: International Booker Award winner Geetanjali Shree believes small-town literary festivals are vital.

Geetanjali Shree, author and 2022 International Booker Prize winner, said events like the Dumka Literary Festival in a small town are “extremely significant,” and she would have missed it if she hadn’t gone.

“It’s like discovering my own centre…

This is an important event for me, and I would have missed it if I hadn’t attended. “I realise and understand how much I didn’t know,” she stated on Saturday, the first day of the second Dumka Literary Festival in Jharkhand on the theme ‘How I came to write’.

“We are striving to find ourselves: who are we and what is our identity?” she says of her motivation for writing. What are our origins? What are our plans? … What is the link between the worlds inside and outside of us, and what is my quest to find it?”

In 2022, Geetanjali Shree’s Tomb of Sand was named the first Hindi novel to receive the prestigious International Booker Prize. Daisy Rockwell translated the book into English when it was first published as Ret Samadhi in 2018.

Novelist Chandrahas Choudhary, Mihir Vatsa, author Achyut and professor Achyut Chetan, Trinamool Congress MLA Manoranjan Byapari, and national publishers such as Ravi Singh of Speaking Tigers, Naveen Kishore of Seagull, Trisha De Niyogi of Niyogi Books, and Neeta Gupta of Yatra were among the panellists.

MLA Manoranjan Byapari, who represents the Balagarh Assembly constituency and has published 27 novels in five languages, claims he never went to school and learnt to write and read during his prison sentence as a Naxelite. “I write because I can’t murder people for the evils they perpetrate in society. “I am filled with rage, which is why I write.”

In another session titled ‘Wildlife and Environment,’ acclaimed author, ornithologist, and conservationist Bikram Grewal stated that hornbills and bees are on the verge of extinction. He stated that environmental discussions are full of such heartbreaking anecdotes. “Unfortunately, there has only been one conservation success story in which we were able to conserve the Amur falcon with the assistance of the government. Thus all poachers were trained, and they are now guides; some have opened homestays, and Amur Falcon killings have decreased from 25 lakhs in 2021 to 2000 in 2022, indicating a successful conservation narrative.”

When asked what divisional forest officers at a local level can do to protect wildlife and forest, Grewal said: “People like DFOs suffer the largest challenge since they have little support from the population and their duty has been reduced to rescuing a snake or give recommendations on which trees to plant. Their role, though, is to go out and identify locations to regenerate the ecosystem, to work where water bodies are working. He doesn’t have much of choice, though. There is some connection between the local politician and the administration. It (forest resources) is gold to them (politicians), and it may be used to fund their next election. The DFOs must have a strong moral character.”

Between April 2021 and March of this year, the district conducted three literature festivals and one memorial lecture in honour of Paul Olaf Bodding, a Norwegian missionary who travelled to India, lived in Santhal Pargana districts, and contributed writing to Santhali folktales and grammar, among other things.

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