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Dhaka Tribune

Dhaka Flow Festival: Where Literature and Mental Wellness Intertwine

We are all grown-up professionals with a thousand responsibilities. This writing workshop is very important for me personally because it gives me a creative outlet where I can share my ideas outside of my day-to-day work and responsibilities.’ 

Update : 16 Mar 2024, 02:38 PM

On March 9, day two of the Dhaka Flow Festival, a series of programs were held to celebrate literature. Starting with the reading of an ensemble writing piece to writers reading the excerpts from their work and talking about their books, the programs highlighted how writing has been a sanative practice to combat the daily battles of adult life. 

Murder Mystery by Pen Warriors

Mrs Khan’s Party -- an elite-class party scene that became a crime scene with a mysterious murder! The writers of Pen Warriors, a group founded by writer and reputed yogini Shazia Omar, presented their characters before the audience in the conversation centre of the Baridhara Lakeside Park. With the charismatic voice work of the group members, the murder mystery became more mysterious. The session showcased that anybody can be a writer. 

Pen Warriors -- a group of adult people with respective jobs, managed to write down the pieces as they found writing therapeutic. Syed Amer Ahmed, a member of the group who is also the Lead Economist and Program Leader for Human Development (HD) at the World Bank, covering Bangladesh and Bhutan, was talking about the importance of the writing workshops held by Pen Warriors in his life. He said: “We are all grown-up professionals with a thousand responsibilities. This writing workshop is very important for me personally because it gives me a creative outlet where I can share my ideas outside of my day-to-day work and responsibilities.”  

Salahdin Imam (Sal), another member of the group, said that writing this piece was the assignment of the last workshop of Pen Warriors. He shared his experience of how fun it was to become the character in the story while writing this ensemble piece. 

Other Pen Warriors members -- Shahirah Majumdar, Arrshia Sakhawat, Adita Hasan, and Minaal Choudhury presented their pieces in the session. 

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Readings by Golden Bangladesh

Golden Bangladesh, a name derived from Rabindranath Tagore’s lyric Amaar Shonar Bangla, is an anthology of Bangladeshi writers encapsulating the joys and sorrows, hopes and aspirations, and losses and anxieties of two generations of Bangladeshis from home and abroad. At the session “Reading,” conducted by Tasnim Naz, some writers of Golden Bangladesh- Saladin Imam (Sal), Farah Ghuznavi, Neeman Sobhan, and Nahyan Ameen read out the excerpts for their works in the session along with explaining their writing style and inspiration behind the writing.  

Farah Ghuznavi, the author of the novel Fragments of River Song published in 2013, said that writing has always been a natural thing to her. When asked about her writing style, she said: “When I have an idea, I start writing that as a draft immediately. Once I have the draft, I start working on it.”

Neeman Sobhan, an Italy-based Bangladeshi writer who teaches at the University of Rome, read from her writings that represented the natural beauty of Bangladesh. She talked about how the liberation war of Bangladesh always inspired her to write more about Bangladesh, to represent Bangladesh among her Italian students and the whole world.     

Salahdin Imam (Sal) read out an excerpt from the memoir he is currently working on, a memoir of the late ‘60s which covers college life and the counterculture in the US as well as his experiences during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. 

Express yourself: Where writers discussed their books 

In the session “Express yourself”, conducted by Rumana Habib, former editor of Weekend Tribune, two authors talked about their books and they shared how writing has been an activity to share their daily encounters and thoughts. 

Tasnim Naz talked about her first book Manicured Memories, which is a collection of stories. Divided into four parts -- An Ode to Melancholia, Nijhum: A Soliloquy of Silence, Rose-coloured Glasses, and Phobia and Micro-narratives -- this book has 19 short stories capturing emotions of love, melancholy, sadness, fear, and abandonment.    

Kashfy Ahsan, another author presented in the session, said that writing stories was always her ultimate way to vent. Her first book, Smol World of Women, has 10 short stories on 10 different women and their psychological worlds. The author attempted to explore the subtle but profound psychological worlds of a few fictitious women in greater detail and to illustrate their journeys. 

Through numerous programs like this, the festival showed how vibrant and nuanced the local literary scene is. With enthusiasm and dedication such as this, the future of Desi literature is sure to flow -- pun intended -- into the wider world and take it by storm!

Tahsina Inam Trisha is former sub-editor, Dhaka Tribune. 

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