- AJEET COUR

If you follow the sun, follow your instinct of mere survival, and flow the way the river flows, then life can be spent quite easily, without complexities and without complications.

But, if you start looking through the lies and hypocrisies of the chaotic world order in which you live ; and have a third eye which all creative people have, and feel justifiably horrified, with the stark inequalities between human beings, with the constant tensions among the neighbouring countries, with the world order where just one country is the ultimate bully, where the great chess-game is being played across the Pacific to the Persian Gulf, revolving around energy flows, capital flows, control of sea routes and access to markets, you have just two choices : to keep silent, or to stand up and be counted.

For all creative people the second option is the only option.

That is why in September 1987 I organized the first-ever Indian Pakistani Writers Conference in New Delhi to gather together creative writers and intellectuals who can express their collective opinions and collective protests frankly and fearlessly, for more sane, more peaceful neighbourly relations. Writers and intellectuals who can stand up and be counted.

Because wars are only won by governments. People always lose them.

Indian-Pakistani Writers Conference was followed by number of such interactions with writers of Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka.

It was like a crusade, undertaken by a mad dreamer !

I wanted to consolidate the voice of writers and intellectuals and creative people to give voice to the voiceless millions who want peace. To say no to calls for destruction and war because writers negate all intentions of war with their very act of creation. They create because they want to make the world a better place to live in. They create because they believe in a better future for mankind. They create because they know they are a part of the great civilisational process which must go on getting richer with greater philosophical insights, with more meaningful creativity, with greater harmony among human beings and their environment, with greater skills for a better life in harmonious coexistence with fellow human beings, fellow creatures, plants and trees, clouds and stars, little squirrels and rabbits, everything !

Everything that enriches human life on this planet !

Writers believe that those parts of history which are painful should be forgotten, forgiven, reconciled, because life has to go on, acquiring harmonious dimensions and expanding visions and hearts and souls !

Writers believe that there is yet beauty in this brutal, savage, damaged, distorted world of ours.

Those first pebbles flung in the stagnant pond of cultural relations with the creative fraternity of the neighbouring countries, gradually matured in bringing together the writers from all over the SAARC region.

So far ELEVEN MAJOR SAARC WRITERS CONFERENCES have been organized, and the TWELFTH is going to be a SAARC Fiction Writers Conference in Aligarh Muslim University, from March 20-24, 2005.

We are also planning to have a SAARC Writers Conference in October 2005, revolving around and exploring the Theme of ‘Sufism and Bhakti Movement as the Great Civilisational Linkages in the SAARC Region, particularly in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh’.

All the Big Bullies of the world cannot dictate the destinies of mankind because we writers will keep raising our united voice against a world being constantly terrorized, increasingly globalized, torn asunder by fundamentalism and terrorism, dominated by unipolar politics, marginalizing plurality and diverse cultures.

Yes, if you insist, there is a ‘clash a civilisations’. We the civilised South Asian and Middle Eastern and Asian countries, with our civilisations dating back to thousands and thousands of years, are indeed in clash with less civilised, hardly 500 year old nations. We the inheritors of ancient civilisations like Mohanjodaro and Harappa, of Babylonian and Mesopotanian civilisations, are in clash with the pseudo-civilised Imperialists and their ‘holier than thou, because we are ‘mightier than thou’ policies. Their history has soaked enough blood of others, mostly ours. Colonialism, slavery, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, chemical and nuclear weapons ! They have plundered whole nations and civilizations !

We the writers have not only to stand up against all evil designs, we also have to comprehend the horrible fallout in our own countries which is giving rise to a new sense of nationalism, a dangerous road leading to fascism. Trying to assert our self esteem, while keeping our eye on the nod of approval from the Big Bullies, we are becoming less tolerant. Burning and banning books, destroying museums, smashing sculptures, blackening the faces of writers, and even physically assaulting those who do not conform to a particular view of nationalism, destroying and burning of paintings, setting fire to art galleries, hacking the writers who tell a difficult and uneasy truth, censoring films with a different message !

‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ is no longer a question. It tolls for you and me ! For creative writers and all creative people who have their own truth to tell. The creative people who do not follow the course of the sun and the course of the flowing water.

We swim against the current. And we have the courage of our convictions.

And we are here to strengthen a bondage among like-minded creative writers and intellectuals, resolving to stand up as one body, with our firm belief in peace and tranquility, resolving to recognise our real enemies and raise our voice whenever our right to assert and articulate truth is threatened anywhere.

We are here to raise a collective voice of protest to denounce all nuclear weapons anywhere in the world. We don’t want our earth to jump up in horror, or a whole mountain turned to white ash. There is absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel.

We stand by all those who have been killed in recent years. The past histories need reconciliation and forgiveness. The recent history and the current history is our immediate concern : millions killed in Korea and Vietnam, in Iraq and in Afghanisation. We stand by all the innocent people killed in Nicaragua, Cambodia, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Haiti, Chile, Bosnia, Rowanda, Palestine, Bhopal, Bhiwandi, Bombay, Delhi, and farmers committing suicides, everywhere !

We are here to resolve that we will not allow our culture, our literature, our languages to die.

Is there no homeland left anywhere in the world ? What happened to that feeling of being at home in one’s own country ?

We are here to revive that cosy feeling ! We are here to resolve to save hope, save dreams, save beauty, save the earth !

We are mad dreamers no doubt, but our dreams do make miracles happen.

Writers are like an oasis in wild, scorching hot deserts, where warring tribes can come and take rest.

There is no embargo on dreams. And dreams do have the miraculous power of coming true too ! If not in our own lives, in the lives of our children at least !

Meeting of creative minds is always a miraculous experience. Throughout the history of civilizations, it is the written word that has endured. It is creative thought and its expression that has overpowered and transcended Time and Space, because Word is the Universe.

Let me share with you another mad dreamer Pablo Naruda’s lines :

“I want to … ascend the rungs of the air

Upto the void,

Scrape the innards

Until I touch mankind.”

We, through our Foundation, are trying to bring the best creative writers and intellectuals of the Region closer, so that in times of any conflicts and wars in the world, and inner strifes -ethnic or of other types – voices of their collective protest should be heard with the respect it deserves. We, living in the SAARC region, are a major chunk of humanity inhabiting the planet earth. We should wake up to our share in the right of determining the destiny of humanity.

We are not a part of the arrogant tattoo of the boots of history, nor should we allow ourselves to be trampled under them. We are not concerned about what media likes to talk : the terrorist attacks, the death and the dying, the imperialist attacks by unilateral powers, the impact of globalisation, the glitterati at the so-called human rights conventions at Geneva which are more a ritual than genuine anguish of concerned people, the uprisings and military coups.

We are the mad dreamers who keep dreaming of a better and more homogenous and more just world. We are the mad dreamers who are like clouds and birds, floating and flying in our common skies, transcending all borders and boundaries. We are upholding the legacies of Yevgeni Yevtushenko, Pablo Naruda, Octavio Paz, Kabir, Sheikh Farid, Nanak, Kalidas, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, and hundreds of others, and of all the contemporary writers who are working to challenge the entrenched power structures of the societies in which we live.

Our endeavour is for freedom, social justice and respect for cultural diversity of this region, and above all making our voices heard and respected as a collective voice of sanity and compassion.

It is only the writers who can defy the arrogance of unilateral and totalitarian regimes, because totalitarianism is not practiced only by dictators but also by arrogant forces who ignore the voices of dissent in the world, and even of the United Nations. It is only the writer who has the courage to defy, the way the British Poet Laureate Andrew Motion did in January through his poem which was published on the front page of GUARDIAN :

They read good books

And quote

But never learn a language

Other than the scream of rockets.

Our talk is drowned in :

Elections, money, empire, oil, and Dad

We have to consolidate our voices for a better and more peaceful world for our children, by working to create a more just, sustainable and compassionate future for the coming generations by increasing our pubic visibility, our sense of interconnection, and our access to visions, stories, poetry and shared dreams for change : for a better and more just civil society where women’s issues, peace, civil liberties, food and shelter for everyone should be of primary concern.

We have only one tool by which we can contribute to this dream: the power of our words and our collective voice.

– Ajeet Cour’s address at the SAARC Festival of Literature in Pakistan in March 2005

 

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