Category Archives: Creative Corner

Creative Corner is a space for creative expressions in the form of poems, fiction or creative non-fiction that expresses thoughts, feelings, experiences and passions that we’d like to share. The intention of this corner is to be able to encourage readers and writers to allow their imaginations to experience or create aesthetic work that expresses our journeys, our identities and our times. The word limits for stories and poems is approximately 1500 words.

As a starting project, we invite stories and pieces on ‘Home’ and will be posting contributions we receive from SANSAD members. The idea around ‘Home’ is for us to explore the emotions, experiences or ideas that the word inspires.

Late Poet Shamshur Rahman wrote this poem during the 1969 Gono Andholon (against President Ayub Khan) in which many people from all walks of life were killed by the army. We dedicate it to the memory of “Niloy Neel” (Niloy Chakraborty), Abhijit Roy, Ananta Bijoy Das, and Wahiqur Rahman, secular writers who were killed by Islamists in Bangladesh in 2015.

Where Shall We Keep this Body?

Where shall we put this body?

Where is its fitting grave?

Say the earth, or the mountain,

Or the deep-blue water of the sea–

All are tattered, only trifles.

That’s why we don’t put  this body in earth,  mountain or sea

But have kept it in our hearts.

–Shamshur Rahman (Trans. Chinmoy Banerjee)

From: “Gonojagoron Moncho”

এ লাশ আমরা রাখবো কোথায় ?

এ লাশ আমরা রাখবো কোথায় ?

তেমন যোগ্য সমাধি কই ?

মৃত্তিকা বলো, পর্বত বলো

অথবা সুনীল-সাগর-জল-

সব কিছু ছেঁদো, তুচ্ছ শুধুই !

তাইতো রাখি না এ লাশ

আজ মাটিতে পাহাড়ে কিম্বা সাগরে,

হৃদয়ে হৃদয়ে দিয়েছি ঠাঁই।

– কবি শামসুর রাহমান

 

 

 

Homeless

Chinmoy Banerjee

 

I cannot enter

Where he sits

On the freezing sidewalk

Beside the bank

With his head bent on his knees

 

 

The snow has gone

With the rain

But the man who sat

In his wheelchair

Where I cross the street to the coffee shop

Watching people go by

Talking with those who stopped

Is no longer there

 

Nor is the man in the baseball hat

Who weaved his way through the walkers

Passing and re-passing the window of the pizza shop

To be seen

 

The old man with the long white beard

Stands in the doorway

At the side of the barber shop

Conversing with a friend

 

Round the corner

Where the roses and potted plants

Light up the pavement

The man with the black beard

And denim jacket

Hails me as always

With wish for a nice day

The woman sometimes beside him

Is bent on the book in her lap

 

Crossing the street to the new tower

That I have made my home

I see the shopping cart

Covered in blue tarp

An umbrella protecting

Something I cannot see

Under the hoarding of

“Blue Sky” developers

A sign on the cart reads

“Blueberry Hotel”

 

 

 

 

Culture, religion, and nation

 

Culture Supersedes Religion in  Establishing  National     Identity

By Promod Puri

Culture is a distinctive feature of one group of people comprising of several aspects. One of them is religion, and the others are language, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. Obviously, one aspect of a culture does not represent the totality of it.

The expression “Hindu culture” is as vague as saying Hindu cuisine (except by airlines referring to “Hindu meal”). And it is as much blurred as trying to contrive a language, music, arts, customs, etc with suffix of Hindu. This applies to all other religions as well who try to create a culture exclusively linked to their faiths.

Culture in most cases is secular in nature.

When we talk about a cultural community, we mean an all inclusive explicit way of life. It represents all the group of people sharing common identities despite belonging to different religious denominations. But all speaking same language and sharing same social and cultural traits.

Often people of one cultural community have several religions. These sub differentiations are covered by conventions and customs. Together these are represented by the sanctified rituals on which Hindu tradition, Sikh, Muslim or Christian traditions establish their respective identities.

The unity of India lies in its cultural plurality. This factor was the basis of states’ reorganization at the time of India’s independence in 1947. Each state was constituted representing the cultural homogeneity of that region. And wherever there were more than one homogeneity states split respectively. Thus the cultural aspirations of people have been adequately addressed.

“India is a colorful country” mainly because of the exuberant nature of its diverse cultures. The cultural sameness in each Indian state along with the religious diversity is the accepted model for both political and administrative purposes.

Whereas each Indian state mostly represent one single cultural distinctiveness, it is the state of Jammu and Kashmir which within itself does carry more than one identity. The state has three regions, namely Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. And each one of them is culturally, religiously, geographically and even climatically different. Azad Kashmir under Pakistan domain has its own identity which is again quiet varied from rest of Jammu and Kashmir state.

The Kashmir problem has never been examined and tackled from its diversity aspect. The politics of the state has always been dominated, controlled and represented by the Muslim leadership of the Valley from the Kashmir region. The multi-facet and heterogeneous character of the state is the undetermined reality which otherwise can play a dominant role in resolving the Kashmir problem. Aligning the issue only on religious basis because about 64 percent of the state’s population is Muslim is a futile exercise to determine its fate. By not allowing the diversity factor in the Kashmir debate is suppression of its other identities as well.

In a democratic setup regions or nations which play only the religious factor in politics and governance, always have cultural identity crisis.

That has been the fate of Pakistan. It does not recognize and accept that the country’s cultural affinity lies with India which it can’t shake off. Both the political and military leaderships of the country in their hatred toward India try to establish a religious-based Arabic identity. Naturally, this is not working.

Pakistan must realize that cultural-based identities cut across religious-based identities. And the former can play more decisive and healthier roles in determining a cohesive and stable future for the country.

Pakistan may find some motivation from the Canadian society, not from its mostly racist governments, as how this multi- ethnic nation is establishing its national identity.

In a diverse Canadian society there are a multitude of cultures, traditions and religions, with lot more sub banners within each group. It is a myriad with a diversified web which gives Canada an image of acceptance and tolerance.

This evolutionary trend is being established despite the known retrogressive and discriminatory policies embraced by most Canadian governments over the years particularly toward the First Nation and visible minorities.

The Canadian cultural plurality is a unique experience in human social history which is trying to weave a frictionless social fabric from its distinct and assorted fibers. This multi-facet aspect gives Canada the color and character of being ever involving and exciting.

 

( Promod Puri is a former editor and publisher of South Asian Canadian weekly newspaper, The Link, retired and resides in Vancouver, Canada). The views expressed are those of the author.

 

The partitioned home of Manto

From: Daily Times, Sunday, January 20, 2012

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\01\22\story_22-1-2012_pg3_3

  Saadat Hassan Manto and the partition of India

By Ishtiaq Ahmed



This year marks the centenary of one of the most remarkable Urdu short-story writers of the Indian subcontinent: Saadat Hassan Manto (May 11, 1912-January 18, 1955). His contemporary, Krishan Chander (1914-1977), himself a literary icon who some critics have described as the “the imam of the Urdu short-story” graciously wrote in his obituary on Manto that indeed he was the greatest short-story writer of his generation.

Manto had wanted inscribed on his gravestone that he wondered who the greater story-teller was: he or God. His sister was prescient enough to sense that in Pakistan it would sooner or later invite vandalism and much worse. So it was supplanted by a more modest claim: that Manto was aware of the fact that his was not the last word in this world.

Like many other youngsters initially I read Manto’s so-called sex stories primarily in search of salacious excitement, but sensed immediately that far from providing entertainment he was exposing in a shocking manner the misogynist culture and hypocrisy that pervaded South Asia. Some of his stories,  set in the background of the partition, on sexual violence against women are masterpieces.

Some biographical data is in order — Manto was born at Samrala in eastern Punjab in 1912 in a Muslim family of Kashmiri-Brahmin extraction. He grew up in Amritsar. He started his literary journey by translating Russian and French literature. According to some experts, the influence of Russian writers such as Chekov and the Frenchman Maupassant were the profoundest on his writings. He worked as a script, dialogue and story writer in Bombay, then joined All-India Radio, Delhi, but returned to Bombay some years before partition. He was well received and earned a good living. 

Manto penned sketches of Bombay film personalities in his usual irreverent and caustic style. The kindest words were reserved for legendary actor Ashok Kumar whom he described as a kind and caring friend, and a fellow Punjabi Shyam (died 1951), one of the handsomest actors in Bombay, who became his closest chum. The two were inseparable, but then the dagger and torch of mob fury unleashed during the partition riots in Bombay scared the life out of him. One day Ashok Kumar drove him to his home but they were caught up in the midst of a Muslim wedding procession. Manto was terrified. The people recognised Ashok Kumar but let them pass. At Bombay Talkies where Manto worked, the staff had changed and those Hindus who took over were hostile to his and other Muslims’ presence. His wife and daughter had already moved to Lahore.

He left for Lahore in January 1948.

It must be soon after he arrived in Pakistan that Manto composed an open letter to Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, reminding him that he too was a Kashmiri pandit, highborn and thus his equal. Therefore, since he, a Muslim, had left India, Nehru must vacate Muslim-majority Kashmir, asserted Manto. That was perhaps the only time he bluntly subscribed to the underlying logic of the Two-Nation Theory. 



Returning to Lahore, being among relatives and becoming a part of the Muslim nation understandably heightened his sense of physical security. His family were regular Sunnis, who had — along with thousands of other Muslims — shifted from nearby Amritsar to Lahore, spoke Punjabi — all the ethnic factors were positive. 

However, Manto was more than just a living entity of flesh and blood. His was a restless spirit. He would perish without the freedom of expression — a freedom he was in the habit of exercising without recourse to circumlocution, hitting the nail hard on its head. 

Such an attitude was not going to be treated kindly in Pakistan. Neither he nor the orthodox Communists had anticipated that far from becoming a welfare state based on Islamic social justice or a bourgeois democracy, the deep and virulent fundamentalist dimension in the Pakistani state project would cast a long shadow on the intellectual landscape. Manto came under that cloud rather quickly. He was put on trial for preaching obscenity in his short stories. The case went through different levels. Finally the Lahore High Court confirmed his guilt and fined him, but did not send him to prison. 

Such experience combined with difficulties in earning a decent living from his writing and a personal tragedy — his only son died in infancy leaving him traumatised. As the head of an impoverished family that included his wife and three small daughters, he found himself hopelessly in dire straits. Relatives and friends helped, but he could not cope with the cumulative pressures of poverty and sorrows. He began to drink more heavily, was sent to the mental asylum and on January 18, 1955 — when only 42 — he died a broken man.



Manto’s indictment of the senseless partition violence is proverbial. One can easily put together a long list of select short stories. His ‘Toba Tek Singh’ has been recognised as the most powerful satire of those events. The story is set some years after partition. The governments of India and Pakistan decide to exchange the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu mentally-challenged people who were still in the various mental asylums. Bishan Singh is an inmate of the Lahore mental hospital and part of the exchange programme. When he is told that his hometown, Toba Tek Singh, will remain in Pakistan, he refuses to go. The staff promise to send Toba Tek Singh to wherever he goes but fail to deceive him. The story ends with Bishan Singh lying down between the barbed wire that separates the two countries created through a bloody severance of a territory on which had evolved and flourished a composite culture hundreds of years old. He thus occupies a space with no name.



I will end by narrating one of my other favourites. In his, ‘Siyah Hashiye’ (Black Borders), Manto depicts an excited pro-Pakistan mob that attacks the statue on the Lahore Mall Road of the great Hindu philanthropist of Punjab, Sir Ganga Ram. One of them blackens its face with tar. Another collects old shoes, strung into a garland, and is about to put it around the statue’s neck, when the police shows up and begins firing. The man who is about to put the garland of shoes around the statue’s neck is injured. He is sent to the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital for treatment!



The writer has a PhD from Stockholm University. He is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University. He is also Honorary Senior Fellow of the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He can be reached at billumian@gmail.com