The South Asian Literary Festival was held for the first time on August 25, 26 and 27 in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. The grand opening of this three-day literary festival took place on Friday evening, August 25, at a prestigious hotel in the city. The Nalanda Sahitya Award is given to encourage writers in various South Asian languages. Prominent writer, researcher and organizer Subrata Kumar Das received this award as the best Bengali-speaking writer of Canada.
Mention may be made of the books written, translated and edited by Subrata Kumar Das numbering thirty-nine. In 2003, he launched Bangladeshi Novels (http://en.bdnovels.org/), the first website on Bengali literature. For the past two decades, this bilingual website has been providing food for the minds of literature lovers. A Bangladeshi immigrant to Canada since 2013, this author’s book ‘Kanadiya Sahitya: Distinct Thoughts’ is a widely acclaimed book. Murdhanya is the publisher of this book published from Dhaka. In 2018, he received the Gayatri Gamers Award from New Jersey, USA for his contribution to literature.
His name appeared on the short list of Canada’s best immigrants in 2021. In 2020 and 2022 he attended the Toronto International Writers Festival (TIFA). This year, his autobiographical book ‘Uts to Parbas’ was published from Murdhanya.
Among the 200 guests invited to the inauguration were important South Asian writers based in Canada, along with prominent South Asian citizens in various parts of Canada. Present from the Bengali community were CEO of NRB Television and editor of weekly Banglamail newspaper Shahidul Islam Mintoo, prominent politician Mohsin Bhuian, his wife Dolly Bhuian, barrister Surya Chakraborty, artist Amal Dev and IT specialist Jaideep Bhowmik.
Indian High Commissioner to Canada Sanjay Kumar Verma handed over the award to Subrata. At that time, Tahir Aslam Gora, one of the initiators of the event, well-known writer and television presenter, was present on the stage. During the announcement of the award, one of the organizers, Halima Sadia, highlighted the outstanding contribution of Bengalis to the literary community in Canada.
Accepting the award, Subrata asserted that the Canadian South Asian Literary Festival will help bridge the gap between South Asian writers in Canada and connect South Asian writers with Canadian mainstream writers. He assured that more Bengali writers will participate in South Asian literary festivals in future and their participation will be more active and direct.
Bengali writers participated in various sessions on August 26 in this literary festival organized for the first time with South Asian writers living in Canada. Sham Mukherjee, Silmi Abdullah and Sumaiya Mateen, who joined the ‘Bengali in Canlit’ session at 11:30 that morning, were three English-speaking writers of Bengali origin. This episode was directed by eminent Bengali translator Shreyasi Bose. It may be stated that Sham Mukherjee’s main book is called ‘In the Name of Love’, Silmi Abdullah’s book is called ‘Home of the Floating Lily’ and Sumaiya Matin’s book is called ‘The Devil’s Bride’.
The Bengali writers speaking on the day in the episode titled ‘Canadian Bengali Writers’ at 2.30 pm are researcher Sujit Kusum Pal, poet Chayan Das and fiction writer Zakaria Muhammad Moeenuddin. This episode was directed by Nandit writer and presenter Tasmina Khan.
Subrata Kumar Das joins non-Bengali writers Baldev Mutta and Anuva Mehta in the ‘Canadian Landscape for South Asian Writers’ session at 10:30 am. Halima Sadia, one of the organizers, was the moderator.
In this episode, the topic of the challenge of South Asian writers in Canada comes up in interesting discussions. Subrata opined that the challenge is similar to that of writers from any other country immigrating to Canada. Canadian publishing companies get importance in publishing books of Alapane authors. Participating authors expressed the opinion that South Asian writers in Canada should publish their books through Canadian publishers instead of publishing their own books from India or Bangladesh.
The next two days of the literary festival are held at the Century Gardens Recreation Center in Brampton. Several Bengali poets and writers were also present in the event apart from the panelists.