By DIVYA SAKSENA
As the Valley of Words 2019 literature festival draws nearer, anticipation is growing about the kinds of books and events it will feature. This year, VoW will open with a tribute to Guru Nanak on the occasion of his 550th birth anniversary. A live performance of holy Shabad Kirtan by distinguished classically trained artistes will enchant the audience and invoke blessings of the Divine. This Kirtan is the Sikh devotional music that originated in the Hindu tradition as songs of adoration addressed to God. Shabad Kirtan is also one of the important aspects of Sikhism as the singing of the Sacred Hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib accompanied by music. Traditionally, the music used to accompany Kirtanis’ Indian Classical Music, which is based on different Ragas and Taals. Often, in prayer meetings, semi- classical musical instruments such as the Harmonium and Tabla have been popularised for this type of music.This year, VoW presents Gurbani in its original form. This absolutely traditional and authentic rendition of Gurbani with instruments like the dilruba and pakhawaj accompaniment is rarely seen in public performances, today. Therefore, it is a wonderful opportunity for audiences of all ages and from all walks of life. As always, everybody is welcome to take advantage of this rare treat. As the tribute to Guru Nanak and the Shabad Kirtan performance will begin at 9 a.m. sharp, attendees should take care to arrive in time and be in their seats by 8:45 a.m. Entry to all performances and sessions of VoW is free as always. A successful literary event like VoW encompasses multiple dimensions of literature, reaching out to and including not only works OF literature but also works ABOUT literature. Academics and works based on serious research rub shoulders with creative writers of pure fiction; for the VoW festival provides points of convergence between authors, editors, translators, publishers, et al. One such academic critical work that will feature in one of the book launch sessions this year is ‘Kipling and Yeats at 150: Retrospectives/Perspectives’ edited by Promodini Varma, Director (Admissions & Evaluations) at South Asian University. She was Principal at Bharati College, University of Delhi, at the college’s inception. The book’s co-editor is Anubhav Pradhan, whose research includes colonial ethnography and the British imagination of India as well as questions of affect, heritage, land, and identity with close reference to Delhi. Kipling and Yeats at 150: Retrospectives/Perspectives examines the parallels, divergences, and convergences in the literary legacies of Rudyard Kipling and William Butler Yeats. Coming 150 years after their birth, the volume sheds light on the conversational undercurrents that pull together the often diametrically polar worldviews of these two seminal figures of the English literary canon. Contextualising their texts to the larger milieu that Kipling and Yeats lived in and contributed to, the book investigates a range of aesthetic and perceptual similarities – from cultures of violence to notions of masculinity, from creative debts to Shakespeare to responses to British imperialism and industrial modernity – to establish the perceptible consonance of their works. Kipling and Yeats are known to never have corresponded, but the essays collected here show evidence of the influence that their acute awareness of each other’s work and thoughts may have had. At the other end of the literary spectrum is Rana Safvi’s ‘City of My Heart’, a compilation of three Urdu texts translated into English that provide vignette-like windows into the soul of Delhi from Shahjahanabad to Mehrauli during the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Hailed by critics as a “valuable contribution to India’s cultural history”, the book presents Syed Wazir Hasan Dehlvi’s “Dilli ka Aakhiri Deedar” (Last Glimpse of Delhi), Munshi Faizuddin’s “Bazm-e Aakhir” (The Last Assembly), Mirza Taimuri’s Qila-e-Muállaki Jhalkiyan” (Glimpses of the Exalted Fort) and Khwaja Hasan Nizami’s “Begamat keAansu” (Tears of the Begums). Have you ever wondered what Delhi life was like before and after the 1857 conflict? Did you ever speculate what happened to the last surviving members of the noble families of the Mughal court and indeed, of Bahadurshah Zafar, himself? Here is the book to answer those queries and bring to life the joys, celebrations, trials and tribulations of Delhi-walas during those forgotten decades before the independence movement began in earnest. Occupying a special space in between these perspectives, just as Lutyens’ Delhi occupies the space between Mehrauli and Shahjahanabad, is Swapna Liddle’s book, Connaught Place and the Making of New Delhi, which takes its readers down a verbal and visual memory lane. Nostalgia strikes hard as the author documents and describes the building of the heart of New Delhi, and provides a powerful vision of the way things were at the dawn of independence. An amazing treat indeed for those who belong and those who want to visit the nation’s capital! One quick reminder: remember that admission to all performances and sessions of VoW is free as always. In addition to the Shabad Kirtan on the inaugural day, VoW 2019 offers exciting and diverse food stalls with highly subsidised prices on menu items from all around the country. There will also be a local arts and handicrafts bazaar offering a wide range of products, mouth-watering preserves, eye- catching fabrics, handbags and jewellery. Here visitors may browse for a bargain, a gift for a special friend or just some item of hand-crafted beauty for their home or personal use. What a marvellous way to relish a feast for the eyes, ears and tummy while making new friends and enjoying the company of old mates, basking in the gentle winter sunshine! And last but not least: A little bird just whispered in our ears, that among the host of celebrated authors attending the festival, given all this informative stuff on Delhi and the Mughals, no less a figure than William Dalrymple will be at VoW 2019. Yes, the same genial Scotsman who gave us The Last Mughal. But more of that to come, so stay tuned! Do, do, please remember that in order to keep the momentum of all the diverse events flowing, audiences and participants are requested to be in their places well in time!