Multiple award-winning author Stephen Gill was born in Pakistan, grew in India and has settled in Canada after staying in Ethiopia and England for a while. He has authored more than twenty books, including books of fiction, collections of poems and literary criticism. His poetry and prose have appeared in more than five hundred publications. He often receives doctoral dissertations from different universities to examine.. He writes mostly about peace and social concerns.
Q.Wordsworth defined poetry as spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings. Whereas T.S.Eliot went against the emotions and exclaimed:"Poetry is not a turning loose of emotions,but an escape from emotions".What is the best way? Should a poet be subjective or objective? Or there should be a perfect balance between the two? Which path do you prefer in you poetry? Please communicate.
A: Poetry is a spiritual and psychic experience. To give shape to this experience, poets need special knowledge in order to use images, tone, economy of words and other techniques. To weave a rainbow of beauty poets select and adjust words in different combinations.
Poetry is neither Ã¢â‚¬Å“emotions recollected in tranquility,Ã¢â‚¬Â nor is it Ã¢â‚¬Å“turning loose of emotions.Ã¢â‚¬Â Poetry is experience that can happen any time with or without reason. One element that is common in both definitions, and in most others, is the presence of emotions. I will call these emotions airy beings. With their tools poets catch the airy beings in the net of their words. It is like catching fish in a sea. Painter catch them in the net of their colours with the hands of their brushes. Dancers catch them in the net of the movements with their hands, eyes, brows and other body parts. These are different techniques that do the same work.
Poets train themselves to catch airy beings. I call these airy beings the robins of my art in my preface to The Flame. There I say that these robins are not meant to be caged. They are the birds of freedom. They enjoy their freedom when poets send them to publications or present them in a book for the enjoyment of the reader.
In my poem Oars, I call them Ã¢â‚¬Å“naked creatures of waves.Ã¢â‚¬Â A poet, Ã¢â‚¬Å“clothes them with images /stitched with wordsÃ¢â‚¬Â (p. 32, Songs Before Shrine). Poets are wordsmiths, who have knowledge and education about the tools that are used to cloth these airy beings in a graceful way. This is an art. A person may be born with a propensity to be a poet, but that is not enough. Propensity or talent is like a raw diamond that has to be chiseled and polished into a beautiful form. In order to acquire the knowledge of chiseling and polishing a poet needs work that I call perspiration. To me poetry is seventy-five percent perspiration and twenty-five percent inspiration or talent. Perspiration needs struggle to know how to use the tools of a poet effectively.
Q.What are the major themes of your poetry?
A: The major theme of my poetry is peace. Peace is the absence of war or fear of war and bloodshed. My poems about peace are about the definition of peace, in favour of harmony, against war and bloodshed, and to condemn terrorisms. I believe that peace is the legitimate child of peaceful means. I deal with subjects such as war, bloodshed, harmony, human rights, and democracy. Some poems about peace from my collection Shrine, include, Ã¢â‚¬Å“To BeÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Peace of MindÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“To a DoveÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Flight of a DoveÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“My House of PeaceÃ¢â‚¬Â, and Ã¢â‚¬Å“My DoveÃ¢â‚¬Â. From Songs Before Shrine, I would like to include Ã¢â‚¬Å“PeaceÃ¢â‚¬Â , Ã¢â‚¬Å“Dove of Peace,Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“My Name is PeaceÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Seeking the Dove of PeaceÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Harmony and PeaceÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Evening of HarmonyÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Rays of HarmonyÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“WhenÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“HarmonyÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Muse of PeaceÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Where are TheyÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Prince of Peace,Ã¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“Domain of PeaceÃ¢â‚¬Â. These poems are directly related to my major theme. The poems that condemn terrorism, include Ã¢â‚¬Å“Religious FanaticismÃ¢â‚¬Â, and Ã¢â‚¬Å“TerroristsÃ¢â‚¬Â, from Shrine. My long poem, The Flame, that is of 145 pages and divided into sixty-three cantos, is about terrorism and peace. In addition to these poems, there are references to terrorism in other poems.
I have written and published poems also in Urdu and Panjabi against terrorism. I have a number of poems on other social concerns, including Aids, children and discriminations. Notable poems to condemn war include, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Talking of Peace,Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“War FeverÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Arms TraderÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Hounds of WarÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“My Beliefs,Ã¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“Last DanceÃ¢â‚¬Â from Shrine. Ã¢â‚¬Å“If There Be a Third World WarÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“A QuestionÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“To War-MongersÃ¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“War is FraudÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, Ã¢â‚¬Å“About WarÃ¢â‚¬Â, are a few notable poems from Songs Before Shrine.
There is a complete section to condemn war in Flashes, a collection of my haiku. In addition, I have edited two anthologies of poems, titled Anti-War Poems, volume one and volume two. Volume one was released in 1984. It has one hundred and twenty contributors from seven nations. Volume Two was released in 1986. It has over one hundred poets from seventeen nations. In both anthologies poets condemn war.
We are breathing in an exceedingly perilous atmosphere that is deteriorating at an alarming speed. One single factor that is responsible for this impending peril is nuclear warfare, hanging over our heads like the sword of Damocles to destroy us all. Scientists so far have not been able to discover any other civilization anywhere else in the universe. If by any chance the nuclear giant is out, even this single civilization of ours will be wiped out, leaving the sun, the moon and the stars to appear and disappear without any being to enjoy their sight. It has taken centuries to build our civilization and it will take minutes to annihilate. Obviously, it would be an inexpressible tragedy.
The poems of antiwar anthologies are related directly to war and peace. In addition to these poems, there are several more that have references to war and bloodshed. I have also written several poems condemning war and bloodshed in Urdu and Panjabi languages.
I have also tackled the problem of war and peace in my prose. There are several articles to condemn war and bloodshed. I have given talks and interviews on radio and television. Some of these interviews have been collected in a DVD, titled Interviews of Stephen Gill.
Writers and poets are involved with every aspect of life, including news media, and creative arts. The heart is the seat for peace. If the heart is at peace, the world around can also be impacted with the radiance of peace emitted by eyes, tongue and actions. .
Poets are involved with many aspects of life, like writing lyrics for songs and speeches for politicians and business executives. Lorca and Byron gave their lives for the cause of liberation. Among the written documents, the Vedas, the Bible, and the Koran have a great impact on the minds of people. Lately, Pentagon papers concerning the Vietnam War have changed the thinking of several Americans, and a book titled Uncle TomÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stow was partly responsible for the liberation of the slaves in the USA. I hope that my writings about peace will cause change in the thinking of my readers.
There are different aspects of peace, including terrorism, human rights, bloodshed, and poverty. I deal with them in an art form. This art form is as important to me as is the theme. To write a good poem on peace, I concentrate deeply to select the right words and tone, and to weed out excessive fat.
Writing is also therapeutic to me. In order to give light, a candle burns itself. That is what a poet does. I write to disseminate my message in an art form. This is a process of burning oneself or going through the pains of a pregnant mother.
A poem should not be predictable, and it should not be constructed on the trodden path. In other words, the emotions should be caught in the meshes of a style that is devoid of emotional clichÃƒÂ©s and redundancies. The word clichÃƒÂ©s refers to expressions that have been used excessively and become stale. In other words, a clichÃƒÂ© is an idea, a metaphor or an expression that has lost its freshness because it has been used frequently. Such expression are often heard and read and a poet is likely to lose admirers.
I try to use fresh language and images, cautious to use allusions that are hackneyed. Trite expressions are often used in Indian English Literature, such as Ram Rajya, appleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s eyes, at a stone throw, a faithful friend, Mother Nature, leave no stone unturned, wear and tear , axe to grind, nip in the bud and many more. These are worn out phrases. Sometimes, original expressions may be obscure to the reader and may prove enigmatic. It is sometimes baffling for me to choose between a private image that is original and trite expressions that are over familiar. However, there are times when it becomes important to use a clichÃƒÂ© for brevity or clarity. Such incidents may be rare. It is not easy to put emotions into words and images that are imaginative and inventive. All these requirements need revisions.
I also pay a special attention to tone. Tone is the voice of a speaker that tells if the speaker is angry, preachy, scornful, and so on. Just a simple sentence "I need you," may have different meaning to different listeners, depending on the tone of the voice and if the speaker has a smile or any other expression on his voice. The tone can be understood but difficult to interpret. It can be soft, loud, whispering and even scornful.
Tone is the prevailing spirit, or the moral attitude, of the poet towards his reader. A poet conveys the tone in his poems through words and expressions. It is difficult to express it in a poem. In order to convey the right tone, a poet needs revision to select the right expressions.
Poems that are preachy are not admired much. One can be preachy without being obvious. If I have to preach something, I use prose. Poetry is an aesthetic art and I want to keep it that way. I use peace as a subject matter and toil to handle it as a piece of art. Art is beauty. When I read a poem, I look for aesthetic qualities, not for information and knowledge. For knowledge or information, I will read books in prose. This is what readers expect. Therefore I avoid being preachy in my poetry. I believe that to achieve peace, the best means are the peaceful means. If I have to preach, I will use the media of prose, where I can use logic and reasoning to get my message across.
Art is a way of expression that can assume the shape of visual, performing or literary art. All these arts express culture that can be personal or collective. Expression is lifeÃ¢â‚¬"breathÃ¢â‚¬"the palpitation of a nation or an individual. Poetry is an art of expression and expression differs as does the appearance of individuals.
When a person perceives an objectÃ¢â‚¬"beautiful or uglyÃ¢â‚¬"it produces a reaction or feelings. Those feelings, reactions or sentiments, are formless. A poet expresses those formless objects in a sensible form. One can use a clichÃƒÂ© that is easy and needs no effort, but there is no inventiveness in its use. One can find new ways and modes to express the object. That needs real effort. That is called individual approachÃ¢â‚¬"a distinctive elementÃ¢â‚¬"fresh memorable piece of art. Such a treatment needs intellectual exercise. A poet has to manage an unmanageable horse of emotions that needs skills, guidance and control to be able to achieve smooth efficient operation of a poem. In order to achieve this object, a poet needs time to work in different ways to bring those feelings out. In other words, it needs revisions. Let me also emphasize that poetry as demanding as any art is. It demands devotion, skill and professionalism.
Q.You have authored a haiku collection entitled Flashes. What are your views about this type of poetry?
A: I became interested in haiku in 1988, when I began to study poets from the point of their form and style. Some of them had been haiku writers. Haiku enamored me as I went deeper in its study, savoring its delightful simple presence though its simplicity is deceptive.
By its very nature a haiku is an unfinished poem, written in telegraphic language. A traditional haiku is of three lines, and has definite syllables of five, seven and five respectively. It also suggests a season. All that I can say is that haiku is mostly the bones of an experience or revelation.
Haiku was born in Japan and is still admired there. Several new trends, particularly in English haiku, have been introduced over the years. Haiku also strengthened the symbolist movement in France and Imagists in English literature between 1912 and 1918. Notable imagists were F.S. Flint, Kara Pound, Amy Lowell and John Gould Fletcher. They attacked the emotional and excessive use of the metric verse of the time.
Because of its brevity, a haiku can be jot down in short intervals. Moreover, haiku poets do not have to be tied to set rules. They can write on highly unusual as well as on ordinary aspects of life. A haiku does not have to be about special moments. What can be more joyful than to be able to find beauty in everything around without waiting for something rare to happen. This element turns haiku into daily bread, not a feast to be enjoyed on specific occasions. For the writers of haiku, the well of imagination never goes dry. They do not have to go to a library in search of material, nor do they have to shut themselves in their rooms to explore the chambers of their minds. This is because the material is right in front of them, even when they look into the mirror. To illustrate how easy it is to catch these ideas from daily life, I will quote my two haiku:
Dishes clutter the table light smiles from above house is silent (Stephen Gill)
The above three lines sketch an ordinary scene from ordinary life. This scene from a kitchen suggests a family get-together, when all the guests have gone, leaving the dishes on the table to be picked up for washing. It is late evening, suggested by a light, and the silence indicates that the hosts have gone to bed because they may be tired. They may do the dishes the next day.
Here is another haiku of mine:
Without you I am a leafless tree love is the sap. (Stephen Gill)
For haiku writers material is everywhere. They find material even in the most mundane situations. To them style is a dress as it is for humans. A poet may say that he or she has no problem finding material; it is the choice of words or diction they have to struggle with. For haiku poets such distinctions do not exist.
They use ordinary language to present their ordinary life. Many haiku appear primarily prosaic, like Basho`s diaries.
Several English haiku writers have used rhyme successfully, but its use is not essential. Over the years, a vast body of haiku has been produced, and still is being produced, in which rhyme has been used rarely. This choice makes the job of haiku poets easier.
Haiku has been free enough to adjust itself to the needs of poets of every succeeding age under different circumstances. For instance, in Japan, Yosa Buson (1716--1783) introduced a more personal style. Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827) introduced a popular note, using haiku to portray human misery and absurdity and to evoke compassion for man`s weaknesses. In modern times, haiku has received fresh waters from Masaoka Shiki and Takayama Kyoshi. In the West, haiku has influenced poets in different ways. As the Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics states, Western poets interested in it knew no Japanese, and therefore produced results which often had little to do with haiku.
Haiku entices the poets who dislike original limitations, particularly concerning the use of syllabic versification, reference to season, and terse language. Temperamentally, I cannot develop a love for something that is chained. I like to be free like nature itself. That may be why the wind and dove in various shapes appear in my poetry. Moreover, I do not perceive much creativity in work in which a poet has to struggle to conform to the established norms. Haiku offers freedom to freedom-loving poets. For them, there are vast possibilities for adopting new techniques.
I am not among those poets who finish off several pieces in a single sitting. Rather I am a slow but steady producer. My first draft is a diamond in a rough shape. I polish and chisel, a practice that is against the teachings of Basho.
Bashu Matsuo, the first great master of haiku, was born in Japan in 1644 and died in 1694. He was influenced by a 4th century B.C. philosopher, Tchouang-tsen, who believed that the real value lies in useless things and the right way of life is to accept and follow the laws of nature.
Distractions do not pose serious problems for haiku poets, though all writers hate them no matter how deeply they are in love with writing. Interruptions are unable to irritate haiku poets because they only need a few minutes to jot down three lines, anywhere, any time. The novelists and poets of other genres may envy haiku writers for this very reason. Even if writers inform the other members of their families not to interrupt them at certain hours, the family may not know what this means because distraction or interruption has different connotations for different people. When a writer goes to the washroom or to the kitchen for a glass of water, the spouse and children may think that the writer is now open for conversation. This sort of problem does not bother a haiku writer.
One way for a poet to make the best possible use of any available time is to get hold of a pocket- sized tape recorder. Inspiration comes as a flash, a revelation. A poet should put it
into words immediately. Otherwise, it will fade or evaporate sooner than water does in a tropical country. Such flashes happen seldom. They seem to be a result of the poet`s unconscious acts. Priceless gems, which are the works of this unconscious mind, may be
lost by procrastination. I have lost many gems. In my long drives, I keep a tape recorder within reach to pick up for recording. It is small enough to fit in any coat pocket, and is easy to operate, without even looking at it. Anything recorded can be revised and polished later. What can be more fun than catching daily scenes and random thoughts in three lines. It is a different matter if a poet happens to be too lazy to pick up a note-book and a pen. If this seems to be a problem, I would advise such a poet to keep a mini tape recorder all the time in his or her pocket. If they cannot even do this, then, I would ask them to look within, to know if they are eligible suitors for the muse. Maybe, they will do better as plumbers, or at the grocery store, than as priests in the temple of haiku.
Everyone likes short cuts, no matter where he or she goes. So do writers, to save time. Fortunately, haiku poets do not need these short cuts. Haiku itself is a short cut to writing full poems of several lines. Haiku is one of the oldest forms of poetry and therefore it has had a long time to mature, going through several stages of experimentation not only in Japan, where it was born, but also in the West. Haiku has become flexible enough for new temperaments, modes of thought and expressions. A poet can adapt it to suit his or her personality and philosophy. Haiku has become a hat which has lost its original shape because it has been worn on heads of different sizes. Yet it looks new and attractive. With a few adjustments, this hat can be worn by any poet.
To study my views about haiku further and from another angle, I would suggest reading my introduction to Flashes, a collection of my haiku. This introduction is also on my web site: www.stephengill.ca
Q.A number of Indian students, pursuing even post-graduation in English fail to comprehend English language properly. This proliferation of ignorance about English language is creating a sort of digital divide, as most of the researches in the field of Information Technology are done in Inglis language.The gulf between the computer literates and computer illiterates is widening because of this ignorance about the intricacies of language. So,should not we fill this gap by teaching the students the minutest details of English language in place of lecturing on a number of irrelevant colonial texts of England? Please make you illuminating comments.
A: Answer to this relevant question is easy, but the czars in India will not like to solve it. They are likely to agree with it. The answer would slip their power into the hands of millions of others who aspire to touch the pinnacle of progress. These czars have studied in English-speaking schools and have the means to send their children to these schools. These schools provide an environment to children in which they can develop self-confidence in early years. They fare much better in universities because of their early education and also compete easily at the examinations for top positions. Because these czars do not want those positions to be made available to everyone, they will not do anything to improve the situation. They may come up with theories. For example, they may say that the economically backward classes have sinned in their previous lives and therefore are being punished. I have discussed the question of English in my introduction to The Flame. I am from the government run schools where English is touched at the minimum level. Such schools are useless for India if she wants to compete in the global village of today.
Let me bring out a recent incident. I had a problem with my computer here in Canada. When I phoned Microsoft, I was connected with an assistant in Banglore, India. When he was not able to solve the problem, he gave me Wednesday to discuss the problem further. I told the assistant that the coming Wednesday was a bad day for me. He could not understand why that day was bad for me. He thought that I was superstitious. It is a North American expression that meant I was busy that Wednesday. But he took it in a different sense. I have discussed such problems in my novel Immigrant. I am sure researchers would find this novel useful.
I have the following suggestions:
1. The government run schools should have one or two periods exclusively devoted to the speaking of the English language. This should be right from the early years. Students should be encouraged to listen to speeches by English-speaking foreigners, and teachers should ask students questions based on those speeches. It should be all oral. Language comes by listening and speaking.
2. At the university level, there should be fifty percent marks set aside for participation in seminar classes. Students should write term papers and present them to the class for discussion. Based on those discussions, students should be evaluated. To evaluate just on the basis of examinations that are held once a year is not a balanced approach.
3. I would suggest that every university should hire at least one foreign teacher for the subject of English.
4. The concept of hiring a poet or writer from an English-speaking nation every year for at least a few months should be encouraged. These writers are available for the students and professors for consultation for their writing and publishing problems. Colleges and universities in Canada, the USA and UK have such programs. These programs not only help students and teachers, but also bring name to the institutions. When a prominent writer or poet is invited for even six months at a time, the students flock to that university or college. At the same time, that writer will have time to do some of his research work or creative writing while at the campus. Such positions are called poet in residence, or writers in residence. There is almost nothing like this in Indian universities.
Q.What are the psychological problems of Indian diaspora in Canada? Like Ruth in Keats` `Ode to a Nightingale`, Indian diaspora must be "in tears amid the alien corn", as they harbour the memories of Indian past and are not completely acclimatized to
new culture.What are your ideas about this traumatic experience of Indian diaspora in Canada?
A: The story of Ruth that John Keats mentions is from the Old Testament in the Bible. Ruth married a man from Judea , more or less Israel now, in her homeland Moab where he moved when his country was attacked by a famine. After the death of her husband, Ruth, still childless, moved to Judea with her mother-in-law Noami. The days of famine were over. The story of Ruth has been recorded in the Bible because of her unsurpassed loyalty to her mother-in-law who was Jewish. Ruth told her mother-in-law , Ã¢â‚¬Å“I want to go where you go and live where you live. I want your people to be my people and your God to be my God.Ã¢â‚¬Â
In Judea, while gleaning the barley harvest, Ruth met a man named Boaz, a relative of Noami, who owned that field. He was captivated by the beauty, modesty and piety of Ruth. They fell in love and in due course of time got married. She bore a son that Noami took care of. That child was the progenitor of Christ and great grandfather of King David. This happened about three thousand years ago. In that field Ruth thought of Moab, her homeland. It is notable that it was her devotion to her mother-in law that was the ruling factor in her decision to migrate to Judea.
There was another diaspora before Ruth and that was soon after God created the world. That was the first Diaspora in the recorded history of the Bible. In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve and gave them a beautiful place to live, called the Garden of Eden. He allowed them sovereignty over everything, except over a particular tree. They violated the commandment of God and tasted the forbidden fruit of that tree. As a result, they were forced out of that garden to work hard for their living.
Adam and Eve must have repented for violating the law of God. In the second life of hard work, they must have remembered the good old days when life was pleasing amidst trees, flowers and animals without day to day worries about food and shelter.
In the story of Ruth, diaspora was due to devotion and loyalty. Ruth must have been caught between her love for her homeland and her love for her mother-in-law. She must have suffered because she was torn between two passions. Ruth as well as Adam and Eve are diasporans.
Diaspora in Hebrew means exile (Jeremiah: 24:5) that is Ã¢â‚¬Å“expulsion of a national from his country by the government or voluntary removal of a citizen, usually in order to escape punishment.Ã¢â‚¬Â (The Columbia Encyclopedia). Diaspora has been mentioned in the Old Testament also as punishment. In Deutteronomy Xxviii; xxx11, dispersion of the Jews among nations is foretold as punishment for their apostasy. In the book of Deutteronomy (28:25) it is written: Ã¢â‚¬Å“thou shall be a diaspora in all kingdoms of the earth.Ã¢â‚¬Â The Jews were exiled from Judea in 586 BCE by Babylonians and Jerusalem in 135 CE by the Roman Empire. They travelled with their own luggage. Their dislocation,
homelessness and memories of their homeland were part of the Diasporic sensibility. Sufferings in a new land under a new rule and geographical conditions and inability to go back were the important features of the Diaspora of the Jews.
Jews suffered in the 20th century when the Nazis came to power in Germany and set up concentration camps for their torture. Around seven million Jews were killed. Even after their homeland was formed, their sufferings did not come to an end. It is estimated that
around 90, 0000 Jews from Arab countries dispersed to different parts of the world, mostly to Europe and North America.
In all these stories exile was under compulsion. In the story of Ruth, it was the compulsion by the devotion that she had for her mother-in law. Later this compulsion became a bond when she married a local man in her adopted land, Judea. This bond became much stronger when a son was born. Due to these powerful bonds she was not free to go back to the land of her birth. Her inability to go back to her land of birth, Moab, was complicated by the distance. For a woman to cover a journey of two or three days alone with luggage about three thousand years ago was beset with unimaginable hazards. She must have become nostalgic now and then because she was among foreigners.
The present use of the word Diaspora about Canadian writers who were not born in India is loaded with confusions. Its overuse or loose use conflicts with words like immigrant, refugee, visitor, racial minorities, ethnic groups and so on. Some writers include nearly every one who was born outside the country and talks about the country of origin. If diaspora is analyzed in the light of its original use that was for the Jews and even the major diasporas of non-Jews, it becomes necessary to include the elements of alienation, loss, forced migration, memories of the past and a dream to return to the land of birth. It may include also the unwilling acceptance of the host country.
Academic studies of diaspora began to be popular in the late twentieth century. Diaspora happened in several nations and ethnic groups throughout the history of humankind. In addition to the Jewish Diaspora, other major diasporas are from Africa and Armenia. The Indian Diaspora started mainly after the British made her a part of the empire. Indians were moved as forced labour in the nineteenth century to other parts of the empire, including Fiji, Maritius, Guyana, Trinidad, Serinam, and Malasia. Canada has a sizeable number of immigrants of Indian origin from African and Caribbean nations. Neither they nor their parents were born in India. In some cases even their grandparents were not born in India. Except their appearance and in some instances their first or last names, they have nothing to do with India.
Diasporans maintain continuous contact with their homeland and with other dispersed segments of the same group. There is no such thing on an organized basis in Canada. Ethnic writers do not have an organization of their own to remain in touch with one another.
An important factor has been brought out by Food and Culture Encyclopaedia that says, Ã¢â‚¬Å“A key characteristic of diaspora is that a strong sense of connection to a homeland is maintained through cultural practices and ways of life. Among these culinary culture has an important part to play in diasporic identifications.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Any immigrant group from any nation who uses neither Indian dresses nor enjoy any Indian food on a routine basis should not be identified as Indian diaspora. Food habit and language are the key constituents of diaspora. Not only that, the culture of several immigrants who were not born in India is a mixture of identities. They can hardly understand any Indian language and hardly prepare any Indian food at home. It is the culture that bonds a group and culture includes language and food habits. Religion has never been a unifying force in the history of humankind nor the last or the first name of a person.
Some immigrant writers cry over discrimination in Canada, whereas the fact is that there was no discrimination in the country of their birth that forced them to settle abroad. They had no problem as forced exiled people have. Their tears in Canada are of a political nature. They enjoy shedding tears because there are sympathetic ears to listen to them. Sometimes, it helps to receive awards from governments on the basis of sympathy.
Book publishers are in business to make money. They look for sensational material that is available in India at every corner. They also guide their authors how to sensationalize particular stories. The authors of such books are not there as prophets or on any mercy or peace mission. They also want to exploit situations. The result is exaggeration in the novels of such fiction writers to make them interesting. Such descriptions should not be confused with memories of their past in India.
Diaspora and nostalgic memories are inseparable. Ruth in Keats Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ode to NightingaleÃ¢â‚¬Â must have thought of her land of birth nostalgically. It was natural for Ruth to be nostalgic about the country where her sister and parents lived and where she passed her childhood and a part of her youth. There was no exoticism or marketing involved. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Exoticism, by definition, is the charm of the unfamiliar.Ã¢â‚¬Â (Wikipedia) How can these immigrant writers think of India when they never lived there, except for their occasional literary trips. There is almost nothing in their writing about India or even about the land of their birth that can be constituted as nostalgic. Their description of India is to exoticize for marketing purpose. To group them under Indian Dispora is going too far. It is better to call them immigrants or ethnic or AfroAsian or AfroIndian writers.
Diasporans in history had diaries in which they recorded the hard life in the lands of their birth. They often talked and wrote against the laws and prejudices in the land of their birth. Because those factors were responsible for their exile, they attacked them. Being from the majority or financially and educationally stronger groups in the countries of their birth, these Canadian ethnic groups did not experience discrimination in their homelands. That is why there is nothing worth noting about discrimination in the writings of these Canadian immigrant writers. They hardly know India and therefore cannot write, except about the caste system and things like that in general.
Discrimination is an important part of Diaspora, because it is largely the discrimination in the country of birth that forces them to seek refuge abroad. In the country of birth, this discrimination becomes life threatening or intolerable. In the host country it is not life-threatening and obvious. If they find discrimination in Canada, they can easily go back. Several immigrants hold dual citizenships. They come and go to the countries of their birth, not India.
Second generation children should not be included in the category of diaspora. The new generation cannot be nostalgic about the country they only hear, read or see on the tv screens like any other country and any person. If their children are the outcome of mixed marriages between different ethnic groups, they should not be called diasporans. Such children cannot stay in the country of their parents more than a couple of weeks. Ruth was a diasporan also because of her affectionate memories. But her son who was born and brought up in Jedea was not a diasporan. He had nothing to be nostalgic about. He may have had soft corner for the country of his mother, and nothing more than that.
The immigrants who go abroad in search of green pastures cannot be Diasporans, because they are free to go back. Their migration is not a Diaspora, because skilled and professional immigrants, including medical doctors, engineers, nurses and investors are under no compulsion to leave their country. Most newcomers in the nations of greener pastures bid farewell to their lands of birth because of their loyalty to the god of gold. Suffering from the mania of petrodollars, they search for an El Dorado of prosperity for themselves and their children in Europe and North America. They keep sending their dollars back home where they buy land or invest in business. Most of them cannot adjust to the life back home. They come and go whenever they want and eventually settle in Canada, enjoying the best of both worlds. Inability to go back and unwilling acceptance of the new country were also important factors that constituted the original diaspora in the history of humankind. The diaspora of the Jews, Armenians and African slaves have set criterion that these ethnic newcomers to Canada do not meet.
Under a close examination of the definition and origin of Diaspora, most ethnic writers of Canada are not diasporans, because their knowledge of India is based on the movies and news items from the media. Their knowledge is not better than the knowledge of several whites who for one reason or the other are interested in India. Those who were not born in India, not even their parents, should not be called Indian Diasporans, because they are not in touch with India; they keep their contacts with the country of their birth that may be a Caribbean or an African nation.
These economic refugees carry their luggage of colour and habits that are peculiar to the nations where they were born. They buy lands in the land of their origin, visit them periodically, have their children married there and want the best of both worlds. They have nothing to do with India, except their appearance, or their first or last name. Their women do not have any idea of Sarees, and Indian food, except chicken curry and ladoos In some cases, the whites have more knowledge about India than they have.
Considering the barometer that is used here, most immigrant writers of Canada should not be classified as diasporans and their literary output as diaspora. Moreover, they are notÃ¢â‚¬Â in tears amid alien cornÃ¢â‚¬Â. Modern India is an awakening giant after a long slumber. Some AfroAsian or AfroIndian writers of Canada want to be associated with India that has a long tradition to welcome everyone. Association is one thing and to be diaspora or a diasporan another.
Dr.N.K.Agarwal, an Eliot scholar, is a Senior Lecturer in English at F.G.College,Rae Bareli, U.P.,India. He has written research papers that have appeared in prominent journals.