Lucknow Military Lit Fest: Capturing Hearts, Invigorating Minds And Paving Road to “KISSAGOI : 1971''
Lucknow || Created with the objective of rekindling interest in various interesting facets of life, holistically discussing issues and events as well as reviving the fast-dwindling interest of the present generation in literature, Military Literature Festival Lucknow [Mil Fest Lko], has lived up to the high standards that it has set for itself.
It’s inaugural webinar ‘Exploring the Tiranga: The Indian National Flag’, was not only very educative but being replete with lesser-known facts and anecdotes about our Tricolour turned out to be an extremely gripping session.
This was followed by 11 episodes with multifarious topics ranging from history, war, literature, success stories as well as humour, and these were very well received by both the young and old. Mil Lit Fest Lko started with a bang and has not looked back thereafter and two things make it a cut above the rest. One, the subjects picked up by Mil Lit Fest Lko go far beyond the mundane, and two, with extremely proficient guest speakers and incisive moderators, the discussions are very educative and absorbing.
Let’s take for example the selection of themes. While taking about war and glory on the battlefield is commonplace, Mil Lit Fest Lko instead discussed war from an entirely different perspective-focusing on the humungous human tragedy that it spawns. In a webinar appropriately titled ‘Weight of Sacrifice: 1971’, lesser-known facts, like Indian POWs of 1971 Indo-Pak conflict who have not yet been repatriated by Pakistan and the pathetic plight of displaced civilians from Chhamb during this war.
It also included the personal account of an army officer who taken POW and the tear-jerking narrative of his wife who was then just a young bride and had been told that her husband was “Missing in Action.”
In an interesting webinar titled ‘War as Seen from the Pen of Women’, women writers who were either caught in conflict zones or had a first-hand experience of the same candidly shared their personal tribulations. In another session, seasoned male war correspondents with operational experience in Afghanistan , Iraq , Lebanon  and Bangladesh  covered the intricacies and hazards of reporting from the battle front.
Similarly, India’s First War of Independence figured in two webinars. London based scholar, author and expert on Lucknow Dr Dr Rosie Llewellyn-Jones MBE, whose book “Lucknow1857’ is due for release shortly, brought out many hitherto fore unknown facts about this war.
In the second webinar, noted author Ali Khan Mahmudabad talked at length about ‘Aghaaz-e-Sahar’, a work of Urdu fiction written by Khan Mahboob Tarzi based on events of 1857, which Ali has translated into English.
He mentioned that one of the characters in the book who fought against the British was not a fictional personality but a member of the erstwhile Mahmudabad royal family and this is what had motivated him to translate Tarzi’s novel into English.
Mil Lit Fest Lko deserves credit for increasing public awareness regarding forgotten vignettes of our rich past that have been consigned into obscurity by ravages of time and lack of interest. For example, not many would have known that during World War I, the Bhopal Battalion of the erstwhile Bhopal principality was not only the first non-European unit to have arrived in France to fight, but was also the recipient of the Victoria Cross. It was Mil Lit Fest Lko that introduced Lt Gen Milan Naidu, Retired, who has published his thoroughly researched book ‘Nizam-e-Bhopal’ on this subject, to us.
Everyone knows about the massive pan-India military campaigns undertaken by Mughals. However, only few would be aware of the efficient engineering and logistical backup that gave the Mughal army requisite manoeuvrability and sustenance to undertake protracted wars in distant lands. Mil Lit Fest Lko deserves credit for educating us on this issue by conducting an illuminating webinar on this subject.
The audience was also regaled with a good dose of ‘humour in uniform’ as well as no holds barred interactions with veterans turned entrepreneurs and administrators who made a difference. Since 2021 marks the golden jubilee of the 1971 Indo-Pak War that saw the birth of Bangladesh, Mil Lit Fest Lko has appropriately selected ‘Kissagoi 1971’ as its last event for the current year. While Kissagoi [storytelling] is part and parcel of Awadhi culture, using this style for narrating a modern conflict apparently has no precedent.
Perhaps this is why this event scheduled to be held on 27, 28, and 30 November at 5 PM at Lt Puneet Datt Auditorium , Kiranti Lines ,Lucknow Cantt is something that shouldn’t be missed!
- Nilesh Kunwar
(The author is an army veteran who is a keen Kashmir Watcher and a regular contributor of articles on security issues.)