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Sanjeev Chopra

Sanjeev Chopra

Sanjeev Chopra

There is a slew of Literature Festivals across the country with most of them being clones of each other. What are the features which make the upcoming Valley of Words: International Literature and Arts Festival stand out?

Well, many things are possible, but it is just not possible to CLONE either Literature or a Literature and Arts festival! There can be copies, but no clones … and in any case, this festival has drawn the best from festivals across the country- Jaipur, Kasauli, Delhi, Kolkata, as well as from across the world .. for everything is available on the net now. Every festival has a niche identity, and as this festival is based out of Doon, it has its own USPs: the outreach to schools and community, the special focus to  the ecology and livelihood issues of mountains and highlands, a platform to discuss military history and strategy (as Dehradun has the IMA, the RIMC, the Survey of India and  defence research establishments), equal emphasis on English and Hindi, the inclusion of Punjabi and Urdu, discussions on contemporary issues  and space for younger, hitherto unpublished /lesser known authors. … And we do not limit ourselves to ‘literature’ in the conventional sense. We acknowledge the special contribution of the community of bloggers: our partnership with Indibloggersis very strong and meaningful; and the genres we are covering include almost everything under the sun – from law  and literature to the history of cricket, women writing in Hindi, puppetry and theatre, story-telling in Hindi and Urdu and poetry in all the languages, besides of course, musical evenings and workshops for appreciating Indian music, recognising the tradition of valour, the story of Dehradun, lateral thinking  and Haiku and philately! We have a special first-day cover. VoW is an attempt to include everyone in the creative expressions – from schools to superannuated diplomats, bureaucrats and generals!

Why is the first edition being organized in Doon?

Because I love this city. Some are fortunate to be born here. Others chose to belong to this city – and I think they are more fortunate for they have made a conscious choice. As for me, well, my children grew up here. I have spent over eleven years of my professional career in this district and will be settling here post-retirement. I have been fortunate to attend festivals across the country and always felt that if there is one city which deserves a festival more than any other – that city is Dehradun. The idea was met with an enthusiastic response from all my friends in Dehradun, there are too many to name them in one breath, so here we are! 

But also on an objective note, the demographics, the schools and the institutions also make it the preferred destination. But I must say that we have morphed from being a festival of Dehradun to a festival for Dehradun … some of the Garhwal Post readers may recall that we initially called ourselves Dehradun Literature and the Arts DELTA .. now we are the Valley of Words! Naturally, the first, and all subsequent editions are firmly embedded in this city!

Please tell us about the themes of the festival and the people associated with the festival? What has the team been able to achieve over the past 100 days preparing for the festival?

As I mentioned earlier, we have four clear verticals: Hindi and English fiction and non-fiction, Contemporary Affairs, the Dr R S Tolia Forum on Ecology, Environment and Development Issues, besides Military History and Strategy. We have an Advisory Group led by Robin Gupta and includes LS Bajpai (for  Hindi), Arvinder Singh (for Military History and Strategy) and Priyanka Tolia and Krishna Rautela (for RST Forum ), besides Aloke Lal and Jaskiran for Jashn e Adab and Dolly Sigh for Poetry cafe. The photography exhibition is being curated by Avinash. Ira Chauhan is responsible for the school outreach, and she got a lot of support from Victor Banerjee and Dev Lahiri in this task. The Headmaster of Doon,… and Mr Ashok Wasu of Summer Valley have been very supportive. Our creative team, led by Kishore Menon of Takewings is based out of Chennai – but the internet has made all this collaboration across cities possible. We have received support from whomsoever we sought – from USI to Doon Library and Resource Centre to Survey of India and the Chief Post Master general of Uttarakhand! Our social outreach team and the blogging partners, led by Shashi Sharma are based out of Bangalore – and this makes it a truly pan India festival! The Secretariat is based out of Dehradun – Rohan and Neha Raj do all the groundwork,  with advise from HB Thapliyal who heads the Dehradun office of the Shivalik Hills Foundation Trust which is headed by Naveen Chopra. VoW has been assured all support from the Trust and the Chopras, India’s leading education and career counselling service providers, who are also establishing the University of North West Himalayas . 

Well, a lot has been achieved over the last hundred days! I am grateful to the dynamic editor of Garhwal Post, Satish Sharma for making this a household name in the entire state: now we are getting requests from authors and sponsors to be associated with the Festival! We have over a hundred confirmations, many top schools including Doon, RIMC, Unison and Summer Valley are on board. We have a dedicated band of volunteers, the Indibloggers have done a great job, the social sites are active .. though I must confess that in the quest for the perfect website, we are slightly behind schedule ..but  I am sure we will make up for it in the days to come !

What are the challenges associated with organizing a festival of such a scale? What gives you the confidence that it will be successful ? 

The main challenge is Logistics, Logistics and Logistics! And the only reason I am not too fluttered is the presence of Ashwani Sharma on our team … as also the support from the Madhuban family. Without this arrangement, I don’t think it would have been possible to organise something on this scale! But as one of the many protégés of Dr RS Tolia I would say: we will either find a way, or make one! VoW! 


currently serving as the Director of the LBSNAA in Mussoorie

 

About the Interviewee:

Dr Sanjeev Chopra, is currently serving as Direction of the LBSNAA in Mussoorie. He was posted as the Additional Chief Secretary and Agriculture Production Commissioner of West Bengal and has spent eleven years in Uttarakhand - six at LBS National Academy, and five as Secretary Industrial Development, IT, Rural Development and Horticulture in Uttarakhand. He was, till very recently, a regular columnist of the Garhwal Post for Book reviews and on AgriMatters. A recipient of the Hubert H Humphrey and the Robert S McNamara Fellowships, he has several books to his credit.