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It's a celebration of literature, one that aims to bring together people with literary leanings and a love for the written word. Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi's (CSA) Festival of Letters, which begins on February 8, will bring together established writers and brand-new voices, claiming a legitimate place in the literary world on one platform. "CSA takes the literature business seriously. Over the past five years, it has endeavoured to make Chandigarh a literary hub of sorts, by creating occasions to bring local writers to interact with creative minds outside the city," reflects Manju Jaidka, Chairperson of CSA.

This is the fourth festival by CSA, in collaboration with Panjab University and MELOW (The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the World). This year, adds Jaidka, the festival has been clubbed with an international literature conference. The theme of the conference is "Patterns of Story Telling: Traditions, innovations, visions and revisions". The sessions are open to the audience. Jaidka adds that the festival will bring visibility to Chandigarh as CSA's constant effort has been to involve the public in these literary interactions.

The sessions begin on February 8 at the English auditorium at 10.15 am, with Keki N. Daruwalla, a poet and short story writer opening the festival. Daruwalla, also a former IPS officer, has written over 12 books and was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1984 for his poetry collection, The Keeper of the Dead. "The festival has been designed in a way that it appeals to a wider audience. Poetry, drama, fiction in English, Hindi and Punjabi find place in the festival," adds Jaidka.

For budding writers, the festival will provide a lot of exposure. One of the highlights is an evening with poet and lyricist Irshad Kamil, a former student of Panjab University, who will talk about his journey as a poet and film song writer, and his connection with the campus. Ravindra Kalia, a renowned storyteller of Hindi literature, Nabha-based Punjabi poet Darshan Buttar, known as the "big poet of short poems" and Sahitya Akademi Award winner will present their works on the first day. Buttar's anthology of poems, Maha Kambani (The Ultimate Trembling) also won the National award. On the second day, Mamta Kalia, who has more than 25 books to her credit including four novels and ten collections of short stories, will conduct her session. Her novel Beghar was a major success and ran into five editions. She writes in both English and Hindi and has also written a collection of one-act plays. Gauri Shankar Raina, a playwright, theatre director and TV producer will talk about his varied roles, while Manjula Rana, Vikram Sampath and Siddhartha Gigoo will present the new phase in Indian literature, and their personal experiences with writing. Also part of the festival is Arundhathi Subramaniam, whose poems explore various facets of human existence, life in a Third World megalopolis, the politics of culture and gender. "Meghna Pant and Amandeep Sandhu will conclude the event, and will also present annual awards of recognition to senior city writers and prizes to school and college students," informs Jaidka.

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