HOW A DREAM WAS TRANSFORMED INTO REALITY
– AJEET COUR
Last month, inaugurating the 23rd Session of the SAARC Council of Ministers, the Prime Minister of Nepal, Hon’ble Mr. Sher Bahadur Deuba very rightly and brilliantly summed up the essentials that we should expect from this organisation of seven countries: eradication of poverty, formation of a free trade area, and social upliftment.
Let me very humbly add here that deciphering of our cultural roots and projecting how to intertwine, exchanging our creative ideas, and initiating dialogue among creative writers should be added to the SAARC vision of projecting and nurturing a profound South Asian identity.
The other day, the French Ambassador in India, Mr. Bernard de Montferrand was telling me that the dream that I dreamt long back, and which our Foundation is trying to transform into a reality for the last three years, is creating history. In this context, he offered an analogy from the contemporary European history to drive home the point. He recounted that the person who first floated the idea of European Union, Jean Monet, was almost on his death-bed when a friend commented, “You have spent so many years in giving shape to your idea of the European Union. Now that it has become a reality, you must be feeling very proud and very fulfilled.”
“Yes, I am,” said Monet.
“If you are given another life, will you do the same all over again?”
“Yes, of course! But now I have located a short cut, an easier way to reach my goal,” he said with a twinkle in his eyes.
“And what’s that?”
“I’ll do it through cultural connectivity. Economy and trade will automatically follow.”
That is how all great civilisations have been meeting at the crossroads of history, taking the human dream and human destiny forward.
I nostalgically remember the first boulders that blocked my path when I started dreaming this dream of cultural connectivity among creative minds of the SAARC region. Lack of resources was, of course, the biggest stumbling bock. After having initiated the process way back in 1987, with a conference of Indian and Pakistani writers, it took me twelve years to dare launch the concept of a larger conference with writers of all the seven countries.
I remember, again with nostalgia, because all memories metamorphose into nostalgic anecdotes when their painful rough edges get a smooth texture with constant struggle, that once I was even threatened by someone, who is one of my best friends and comrades today, that I could be sued for using the term SAARC.
“But I am not running away with your word SAARC. I am just innocently dreaming of bringing the writers of this region together, for dreaming a common dream of peace,” I protested.
“No,” he said. “You can’t because culture is not included in our Charter.”
“Is that so?” I really reeled under the blow. But then I remembered that mad dreamers shouldn’t be intimidated. So I said casually, “One day you will have to include culture in your Charter.”
I don’t know whether they have done that or not, but within two years of our forming the family of SAARC writers, they did give us the honour of being known as the only cultural SAARC RECOGNISED BODY in the seven countries of the region.
First I received a personal letter from the Secretary General of SAARC Secretariat saying, “Your gang of writers has been given the recognition,” and then a very proper, gilt-edged certificate.
When tensions were running at their ugliest climax between at least two neighbours, as 2002 dawned in this very Kathmandu, all the seven countries present in the SAARC Summit unanimously decided to accord recognition to our very genuine and result-oriented endeavour.
And now our former Foreign Secretary, Mr. Muchkund Dubey, has been assigned the task of getting views from a cross-section of NGOs to explore which more areas of SAARC Charter need amendment.
So I can proudly say today that even some mad dreamers are capable of creating history.
The first-ever SAARC Writers Conference was held in New Delhi in April 2000, the Second here in Kathmandu, the Third in Dhaka, the Fourth in New Delhi, and this Fifth one again in Kathmandu. This only goes to prove how close the writers of Nepal are to our hearts!
During the First Conference, eleven writers from Nepal were invited to New Delhi. The writers from Nepal have been participating in all our Conferences. And twice we have brought everybody to your home here.
With a feeling of humble pride, I see that my original dream, which seemed like an impossible illusion many years back, has blossomed into a little garden with flowers of different colours and fragrances.
My original dream has blossomed into cross-border friendships of creative minds, knowing each other intimately, profoundly and intensely, through sharing our creative works, and knowing each other’s problems through our writings. Tracing our common cultural roots in our folklore and mythology, and learning to respect the ‘otherness’ of others.
Here I would like to remember and pay my deepest respects and homage to the first SAARC dreamer Devendra Satyarthi who, more than half a century back, travelled throughout the region, the length and breadth of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, and the area which is today known as Bangladesh, and