In the era of aggressive globalisation of cultures, which turns people across civilizations into mirror images of one another, languages as representative of respective cultures are dealt a severe blow, says diplomat-writer Pavan K.Varma.

For Indians not to remain as “caricatures or photocopies”, one must be firmly rooted in one's own language even while becoming conversant with the global language, he says, delivering the inaugural address to an eclectic mix of literary personalities at the Hyderabad Literary Festival which started at Taramati Baradari Cultural Complex on Monday.

Referring to the absence of news in mainstream English media about the recent demise of Hindi literary figure Shrilal Shukla, Mr. Varma said it raised questions about the status of Indian languages, and about the profound gulf that separated them from English. He located the phenomenon partly in colonial rule the purpose of which was “colonisation of the mind,” and partly in globalisation of culture which ought to be questioned if one's own language as a window to one's culture, history and identity was to be protected.

A great many educated people were now adrift from their mother tongue, but unsure about English, the Indian Ambassador to Bhutan said, noting that those who spoke English with right accent and pronunciation were scaling the heights of social order even without intellectual genius, while many who couldn't were left behind.

“We need to encourage new writing in our own languages or else, our concern for culture will amount to nothing but tokenism,” he said, and hoped that the Hyderabad Literary Festival would provide a forum for regional language writers.

Poet-director Gulzar, who was the guest of honour for the occasion, attributed the recent growth in the number of literary festivals to the yearning of expats to keep close to their respective cultures. He congratulated the e-journal Muse India for organising the event.

Chandana Khan, the Principal Secretary, Tourism, stressed the importance of encouraging subaltern literature and bringing it to the forefront. The event is co-sponsored by APTourism and APTDC.

Notable among the first day's proceedings were a session on Hyderabadi literature, conversations with two German authors Urs Widmer and Christopher Kloeble and Marathi-English writer Kiran Nagarkar, apart from reading sessions by Hoshang Merchant, Robert Bohm, and Nabina Das, poetry reading by Arathi H.N., Sridala Swami, and Arjun Chowdhury, and discussion forum on Historical Fiction participated by Amish Tripathi, Indu Sundaresan, and Jaishree Misra.