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The year 2016 ushered in the first International Conference organized by the department of English, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Coimbatore campus. The topic of the two day conference, held between 6th and 7th January, 2016, was Configuring the Common Man: Trends and Perspectives in Contemporary Indian Literature. The conference covered aspects of the common man and woman recorded in English, Bhasha literatures, cartoons and in films.
The inaugural function was presided over by Dr. K. Sankaran, Registrar, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham and the Chief Guest was Ms. Pankaja Srinivasan, Chief Deputy Editor, The Hindu. Dr. Sankaran reiterated the importance of literature in the curriculum and insisted on designing such courses that will be useful to the student community. Ms. Pankaja’s inaugural address focused on the growth and evolution of Indian voices through writing in English till the present day. She gave a list of contemporary Indian writers and she suggested that academia should include their works in their academic framework.
The inaugural function was followed by two eminent plenary sessions by Dr. Nandini Sahu from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi and Ms. Nilanjana Senguta, a writer and a visiting Fellow at NUS Singapore. Dr. Nandini Sahu spoke on the waves of feminism and contribution of women poets to the repertoire of Indian English poetry. Ms. Nilanjana Senguta traced the evolution of the common man through Hindi movies and tried to define a common man in the present times as portrayed in the medium of films.
The post-lunch session started with Dr. S. P. Dhanavels’s engaging and thought-provoking presentation on ‘Indian Imagination’. Through his talk, he discussed how Indian imagination could contribute original thoughts, instead of parroting the ones received from outside.
In the evening, after the academic deliberations, Dr. Debashish Lahiri took the audience on a poetic trail, reading out a few of his poems. The day ended with a few memorable performances of students followed by a sumptuous and delicious dinner.
The second day of the conference started with an excellent plenary session by Dr. Chitra Sankaran from NUS Singapore. In her talk, Dr. Chitra defined the concept of a common man and a common woman, their fatalistic attitude towards life, the concept of ‘othering’ and the neocolonial agencies at work in modern India. Dr. Jayita Sengupta from Sikkim University was the next speaker and she brought out the transformation of the colonial Calcutta to post–independent Kolkatta, and then to the modern day Kunal Basus’s Kalkuta.
The conference concluded with a valedictory function presided over by Dr. Sasangan Ramanathan, Dean, Amrita School of Engineering and the Chief Guest was Dr. U. Sumathy, Associate Professor, Department of English, Government Arts College, Coimbatore. While the Dean insisted on the importance of English and need for academic excellence, Dr. Sumathi threw light on the description of the theme from her interpretation of the common man as portrayed by Upamanyu Chatterjee and her speech gave a sense of completion to the two day academic deliberations. From the feedback received both from the participants and the speakers, it was clear that the conference was a worthy and well appreciated effort.
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