Gill and Faiz. Dr. Stephen Gill, A poet for Peace. By: Dr. Rashid Gill.
|A few months ago, I had a chance to meet Dr. Stephen Gill, a poet and writer of international fame. What struck me the most was his easygoing, sociable, cordial and thoughtful personality. Different literary and educational institutions invite him as
|He has received many distinctions. Last year, 2002, the Board of Governors of a university decided to confer him with an honorary doctorate for his contribution to literature and global peace. The same year, a cassette of his songs/ poems on peace was released.
Dr. Stephen Gill is a bitter enemy of war. He is deadly against any kind of division and distinction made on the basis of colour, creed, religion, race and nationality. That's the reason perhaps that even being descendent of the south Asian subcontinent, he does not like to be known from any particular place. He genuinely considers himself a citizen of the global village but this does not mean that he is not proud of his heritage. He has a unique talent of writing poems in English, Urdu, and Punjabi. He is a versatile poet who has successfully written poems on various aspects of humanity and life. He has given new dimensions to old problems faced by humanity, which make him popular in masses. People can easily relate with his personality and poetry without any difficulty because whatever he says is representative of their thoughts and feelings.
Dr. Stephen Gill has written about twenty books on different topics. Any creative job is painful but he endures this pain in order to preach peace. Dr. Gill writes about peace out of dedication and conviction. His devotion, commitment and his passion for peace rightfully make him eligible for the title " An Ambassador of Peace of our Era". In 1999, he was awarded with "Sahir Ludhianvi Award" that was no surprise in the literary circles, because he well-deserved it. This prestigious award is given every year to notable poets for their outstanding creative work. It is always a great honour to win this award because Sahir himself was a great advocate of peace. His contribution to Urdu literature and Indian cinemas is well known. He wrote meaningful literature keeping in view all the intricacies of Urdu language. He is well known for writing against war and Capitalism.
Dr. Stephen Gill received Sahir award in 1999 for promoting peace through poetry. He writes poetry in three languages and does equal justice in all three of them. The most distinctive feature of his personality is that he is totally committed to peace. He considers life as a precious gift of God. He is a pro-life. He believes that man has been created to enjoy the world, not to destroy it. The primary purpose for the creation of man was to tend the garden of God by weeding out the seeds of hatred, selfishness and self-centredness. Contrary to that, man has wasted time, energy and money in the pursuit of the objects which are neither everlasting nor desirable. God created man so that He can have harmony and fellowship with him. God is love and He has infused the same spirit in man that he should share that love with others.
Peace is fundamental in every civilized society. One must be peaceful within to pass it onto others. The tragedy of the man of today is that he considers himself civilised because he has invented weapons of mass destruction. He can reach moon but cannot reach the hearts. From a scientific point of view he has made progress but keeping in view the sufferings of mankind, it will be called retrogression. However, knowing that Dr. Stephen Gill has been awarded the "Sahir Ludhianvi Award", my mind started to think about his poetry and two famous poets of our era who have extensively written on peace. Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Sahir Ludhianvi are two names in recent years that were against, capitalism, feudalism and social injustices in south Asia. Their perception about the "peace" was that poor are deprived of their rights. Depravity and sense of helplessness create tension in our lives. They urged that man must not be respected on the basis of his faith, creed, religion or race. Wealth must not be the yardstick to measure the stature of humanity. Rather the yardstick must be talent and character.
There are some basic similarities in Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sahir Ludhianvi and Dr. Stephen Gill. These three poets belong to the fertile land of Punjab. Their mother tongues are Punjabi, and inherit the same culture, traditions and values. Their poetry that is about harmony and peace has been affected greatly by the miseries of war, sickness and poverty. They believe in breaking the barriers of religion, race and creed. Any distinction that creates division among people is negative to them. To make a nice living is not a crime to them but to accumulate wealth through unfair means such as plundering, fraud and cheat is a form of evil in our society.
Faiz Ahmed Faiz wrote a special poem on the conflict of Arab and Israel:
Lightening is flashing again
Over the Valley of Sinai.
Flaming face of the truth
Glows in full glory.
Seeing the truth is inviting death
O' beholding eyes!
Faiz was very much touched by wars and other social ills that war causes. Faiz Ahmed Faiz has written vastly in Urdu. Some people have tried to translate his remarkable poetry. Below are excerpts from his famous poem:
"Mujse pehli see mohabat merey mahboob na mang".
Maney samjha tha key tou hai tou darkhshan hai Hayat
Tera ghum hai tou gham-e-dharah ka ghugra kia hai.
Teri sourat sey hai alam mein bharoun ko sabaat
Terry ankhoun key siwa dunia mein rakh kia hai.
Lout jati hei udhar ko bhi nazar kia kijeia.
Ab bhi dilkash hai tera husan
Mujhar jia keijeia ..
The literal translation of this beautiful poem would be:
Do not ask love from me like before, my beloved. I thought my life is shining because of your presence in it. Your thought and idea keeps my mind so occupied that I don not think that any worry of this world can ever replace it. The thought of your love is so intense that I think no worry of the world can ever influence my mind anymore. No worry of the world is bigger than your love. It alone is sufficient to keep me to myself and extremely busy. But now I cannot give you love like before because I feel there are many other worries of this world, which grab my attention as well. You are still very beautiful but now I cannot love you and pay much attention because the miseries of humanity have diverted my attention.
In the poetry of Faiz, we find the intensity of emotions. He loves his beloved to the extent that no worry can get his attention. His mind is always occupied with the thought of his beloved. It is common in love. It has been repeatedly said in Urdu, English and Punjabi poetry but nobody had ever dared to say that his beloved is no more important to him because the ills of our society have grabbed his attention. Faiz attaches significance to life and her perseverance. This idea that if there is no life there is no love must have lurked in his subconscious for a while. In order to love somebody one is supposed to do his best to preserve life. What he is saying is let us not kill each other. Rather, love one another. Prosperity and peace are interlinked. Both of them are vital in life.
Remarkable Urdu poet Sahar Ludhianvi has written intensively on this subject. He always fought against capitalism. According to him rich and poor must be treated equally. They must have equal chances and opportunities in life. Rich dominates poor and makes them their slave because they have wealth. They do not seem to be caring about man's dignity and are least concerned with man's pains and pleasures. They just want to use them for their purpose. Rich people are cruel and heartless. They usually mock the poor. Sahir says in his couplet:
Ye chamanazar ye jaunaa kaa kinaaraa ye mahal
Ye munaqqasah dar-o-diivaar, ye mahraab ye taaq.
Ik shahanshaah ne daulat kaa sahaaraa le kar
Ham Gariibo.n kii muhabbat kaa u.Daayaa hai mazaak.
In these lines one cannot help noticing satire in his tone. Sahir appreciates sincerity of the king that has constructed Taj Mahal- an expensive and elegant monument ever made. Sahir also thinks that by doing so the king has looked down upon poor who do not have the resources to build monuments though their love is also dear for their beloveds as was the love of the king for his queen. We can say that everybody, no matter what status one has in society, has similar kind of emotions and feelings. They react in similar way in love and hate. Sahir wants to make a point that if the king has the resource to make such an elegant monument in the memory of his queen, other lovers must also have equal opportunity to do so or nobody should have it. Otherwise, it would be an insult to the love of the poor.
This is a biting satire of Sahir on inequality, injustice and poverty. He said that if everyone has resources equal to the king, perhaps everyone would come up with a better monument to display feelings toward beloved. On the strength of money, the king has tried to belittle all other lovers. It is against the principle of justice and equality. Shair's poetry is based on his personal experience of love, hate, poverty and sufferings. Whatever he experienced in life can be seen in his poetry. It would be appropriate to say that whatever he felt, he depicted in his poetry. To evaluate his poetry, here is another couplet:
Duniyaa ne tarjarubaat-ohavadis ki shaqal me.n
Jo kuchh mujhe diyaa hai, vo lau taa rahaa huu.N mai.N
In the above lines, Sahir has stated that whatever he experienced and saw he is mentioning in his poetry. He lived a practical life and his observations are profound and mature. He does not talk about imaginary things. His poetry is based on bitter realities of life.
Dr. Gill has same traits in his poetry as Sahir and Faiz Ahmed Faiz had. Dr. Stephen Gill also talks about the harsh realities of lives. He is a poet of today. What he feels he puts on a piece of paper in a straightforward manner. He is convinced that without peace the world cannot make progress. Instead of spending money to invent weaponry to kill human beings, governments must find medicines to fight cancer, heart attacks, diabetes and other diseases. To him life is a gift from God. Life is far more precious than anything else in the world. God created man from dust so that he can look after His garden in the world. Dr. Gill thinks that everybody must enjoy equal rights because this world is a global village. Everybody is a resident of this village. Money should not be considered criteria to differentiate between rich and poor. Dr. Stephen Gill defines a poor as a person who has poor relations in society. He believes that religion should be followed to bring peace. It should not be used as a tool to divide humanity. To kill human beings in the name of religion is mockery of religion.
Dr. Stephen Gill has his own way to talk about peace. In his beautiful poem "The Dove of Peace", he uses a satirical tone:
For a long time
I have been hearing
The dove of peace will be freed,
And to awaken that dove
Progress has been made,
Our homes now better adorned
With thorns of hatred;
A few more nuclear bombs
Remain to be developed
Man is to breathe his last
Auctioning his future openly,
And the life-preserving earth
Freer now to swallow us alive,
Setting the stage
To set the dove free
Dr. Gill has unique ways to describe the ills of society. He is against the machines that kill humanity. It is retrogression to produce them. Governments must focus on poverty, disease and how best peace can be achieved. People must be given right to speak for themselves and peace must be achieved keeping in view their feelings. To eradicate poverty governments must find a solution based on equality. Governments must not bring peace by removing people from the earth. This is a mockery of peace. It is not the proper way to bring peace through wars and bloodshed. Peace must come through peaceful manners. In one of his poems on the topic of "Peace" Dr. Stephen Gill says in his own peculiar way:
You are an ocean
In your waves breathes life;
Let me clasp them.
I see hopeless crops
Wearing a winter dress.
A dry leaf I lie
Tempest tosses me around
The joyless eyes
Emitting senseless smiles
Cannot dissolve the bitterness
Plastered on the restless leaf;
Its helplessness let me squeeze out.
In another poem called "LET US BUILD BRIDGES" Dr. Stephen Gill shares his desire to have peace in the world. He says that the practice of all kind of hatred must come to a stop. He strongly believes that there must be one global government in the world to represent all countries. According to him nobody in this world can afford to live aloof. Social and economical realities demand that people must live together to survive. We cannot live without each other. We must find a way to live peacefully and that is possible if we stop hating on the basis of creed, greed, religion and richness. He wants to build bridges. He asks:
Guard our children:
The roots of the future.
The pleasing face of peace
They have yet to kiss.
Abandon growing crops
Soaked in human blood.
Let us shake hands
Bathing our lands
In new beams
Of a friendly dawn
Many minds understand now
They admire sages now.
Peace cannot swim
On the blood waves.
For a happier future
Let us build bridges now.
Dr Gill addresses the social problems in such a unique way that every poem becomes a diamond in the crown of poetry. While going over his poems, a reader feels he knew those problems intimately and he has found the appropriate words to describe them . . . Dr. Gill does this job neatly that is one of the qualities of a good poet. He brings forth the ills of the society in a way that everybody is bound to pay attention. In our society, we hardly know anybody who does not dream. Poor is the man who does not have anything to dream about. It is hidden ambition of every man to have dreams. Dreams are very dear to everyone and he likes to buy them at any cost. Dr. Stephen Gill describes the same desire in his poem "DREAMS FOR SALE":
If there were dreams for sale
I would be the first to buy
No matter how high the price.
I shall pay any price
Which lighten the burden
Brighten the day with sunrise
And make life
A time to remember.
My chase will never cease
I will ask every soul
If they sell these dreams
No matter what the price
I shall buy, I shall buy.
DR. Gill appreciates the freedom that does not terrorize others. He likes to live as a free bird in the global village. Geographical boundaries are meaningless to him. Social and economical realities are so compelling that men cannot live aloof. After all man is a social animal. He needs social interaction with people of the world. This bond can only be strengthened if people value each other's feelings.
Dr. Gill is a versatile and multi dimensional personality. It needs volumes to write on works and different aspects of his life . Considering commitments and works I can sum up that Dr. Stephen Gill is A BORN POET OF PEACE.
Something here from the website of Dr.StephenGill:www.authoursden.com/stephengill
Stephen Gill, a Canadian citizen, was born in Sialkot, Panjab, a region of India/Pakistan, and grew in India. He taught for three years in Ethiopia and then moved to England before settling in Canada. He is a former president of Vesta Publications Ltd.; the Cornwall Branch of the Canadian Authors Association; a former national vice-president of the World Federalists of Canada; Indo-Asian Association of Cornwall; The Multicultural Council of Stormont and Dundas; a representative of the City of Cornwall at the Cornwall Arts Board; a director of Indo-Canada Association of Cornwall; and a chief delegate to represent the World University for Canada. He is at present a Government certified cultural interpreter/translator for Urdu into English and vice versa, vice-president of the Christian Cultural Association of South Asians, and an honorary member of the Ansted University Board of Advisory Council. He is a member of prestigious national and international organizations, including The PEN; The Writers's Union of Canada; Amnesty International, and the Associated Church Press. In 1974 and again in 1976, he sought election as an alderman (municipal councilor) in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. His platform at both occasions was to do something solid to promote different arts. He got across his message, though he was unsuccessful. Later, he started interviewing writers on the Roger Cable Station of Cornwall. His main works are in English. Once in a while, he writes the Urdu, Hindi and Panjabi versions of his English poems. He has authored over twenty books, including novels, literary criticism, and collections of poems. His books have been published in Canada, USA, England and India, and two of them have been translated in other languages.
His poems have been translated and published in several languages. Stephen Gill has written and published book reviews, research articles on writers from the east and west, and articles on world peace. His poetry and prose have appeared in more than three hundred publications in Canada and abroad. He often receive doctoral dissertations from different universities for evaluations. He is honorary editor/advisor to several publications. Global peace and social concerns are the main areas of his interest as a writer and speaker.
* 1984 : Fellowship of the Celtic Chair of the University of Ottawa. * 1986 : Receives the Honour of Doctorate in Literature from World University (USA). * 1989, January : Feature Poet of the Month. The Plowman, Canada. * 1989 : Receives an award from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and the Ministry of Culture and Communications. * 1990 : Sohan Singh Gill Memorial Shiromani Sahitkar Purskar from Canadian International Punjabi Sahit Association (regd.). * 1990 : Receives a Doctorate in Literature from World Academy of Arts & Culture (China). * 1991 : Honourary life membership to Texas State Poetry Society. * 1991 : Fellow Membership and award of International Eminent Poet from International Poets Academy, Madras, India. * 1991 : Pegasus International Poetry for Peace Award from Poetry in the Arts, Inc., (Austin, Texas, USA). * 1992, April : Poet of the Month, featured by People Plus, USA. *1992, April : Wins the Second place for the poem "ME", and the Sixth place for "A CONVERSATION" in the Tickled By Thunder's Seventh Contest. * 1992 : A judge for the Annual Awards for The Austin Poetry Society, Texas, USA. *1992, July : Certificate of Appreciation from Asian Canada Biographical Centre, Canada. *1992, August : Certificate and a Laurel Leaf, inscribed Laureate Man of Letters at the 13th world conference of United Poets Laureate International, held at The Pointe in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, from August 5 - 9. *1993, March : Honourable mention, in the 53rd Annual International Poetry Contest in the category of haiku for "When a leaf fights the gust... * 1993 : Service Award from Ministry of Citizenship of Ontario, Canada. * 1994: Best Poet of Peace in The World for the year 1993 from Roger Cable 11, Canada. * 1994 : Pride of Muskurahat from Muskurahat International, Urdu and English monthly published from Canada and Pakistan simultaneously. * 1994 : Award of Appreciation by the Municipal Corporation of Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. * 1994 : Trophy from Al-Mohajer, Ottawa based cultural monthly review, at its annual anniversary held at Lebanese Palace on the 18th of Dec. * 1995 : Judge for The Annual Higher Goals contest, category of poetry, held by the
Evangelical Press Association of the United States. * 1995: Poet of Peace Award by Pakistan Association of Ottawa, Canada. * 1996: Global NRI Award from India-European Union Friendship Society, presented by Frank Flaubert, Mayor of Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. * 1996: Maan Pater (honour) from International Panjabi Sahit Sabha UK. * 1997:
Mawaheb Culture Friendship Medal from Mawaheb, a literary magazine, Toronto, Canada. * 1999: Sahir Award of Honour from Sahir Cultural Society in Ludhiana, Panjab, India. * 2000: Award in Literature & Journalism by World Council of Asian Churches. * 2000: Appointed as an honorary member of the Ansted University Board of Advisory Council. Stephen Gill is a former chief delegate to represent the World University for Canada. He listed in several reference books, including Who's Who in The Commonwealth, International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, England; Immigrants We Read About by George Bonavia, International Production, Ottawa ; Biography International, South Asia Pub. Co., New Delhi, India ; Who's Who In Canadian Literature, Reference Press, Toronto, Canada ; Vesta's Who's Who of North American Poets, Vesta, Canada ; Ethnic & Native Canadian Literature : A Bibliography by John Miska, University of Toronto Press ; Something About The Author, vol. 63, Gale Research, USA; and Who's Who In Canada, Toronto University Press; Who's Who in Ontario, B & C List Ltd.; and several others.
In 2002, he was honoured with the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal.