Book Launch – ‘A Journey With The Endless Eye’ – Ajmer Rode & Jarnail Singh

Uddari congratulates Ajmer Rode, Jarnail Singh Artist, NAAD Foundation and Ekstasis Editions for creating this book of images and words on the historic incident of Komagata Maru.

Naad Foundation
Proudly invites you
ajmerrode-booklaunch

to the launch of
A JOURNEY WITH THE ENDLESS EYE
(stories of Komagata Maru incident)
21 February 2016, 2:00 pm
Crossroads United Church, 7655, 120 St, Delta, BC
Free Event, Refreshments

Featuring
Tabla by Amarjit Singh
Songs by Gagandeep Singh
Flute by Dr. Bruce Harding
A Play by Gurdip Arts Academy
Painting exhibition by Jarnail Singh

Written by
Ajmer Rode and Jarnail Singh Artist
Published by
Richard Olafson of Ekstasis Editions

More information
naadfoundation.ca – 778-565-4005
Ajmer Rode – 604-526-2342
Jarnail Singh Artist – 604-825-4659

Supported by: TMG Logistics, Basant Motors, Komagatamaru Foundation, RED FM, MY FM, Jassal Signs, Gurdeep Arts Academy, Jarnail Arts, Crossroads United Church.

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Ajmer Rode’s poem cast in bronze in Seattle

A Public Conversation through Art
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

At Uddari, we are happy to find a beautiful poem by BC based Indo-Canadian author Ajmer Rode inscribed in bronze in Seattle, USA. The poem, added in May 2011, appears on a wall outside the new office complex of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Rode’s poem is one of the eight international poems that form a river of poetry on the top of a seat-high wall facing Fifth Avenue North in the heart of Seattle. And here’s the poem:

Stroll In a Particle
Ajmer Rode

If you can find
a path into it
there is enough
space in this
particle
to stroll for a lifetime.

The selection was made by editor Michael Wiegers who was contracted by the Gates Foundation to make recommendations. Wiegers picked Ajmer’s poetry from the Poetry International Web site at www.poetryinternational.org where his poems are published in English and Punjabi. Ajmer’s poem was selected from an initial collection of 48 poems written by poets Eritrea, Zimbabwe, U.S., China, Czech Republic and Palestine/Israel.

Ajmer’s two poems, ‘Stroll in a Particle’ and ‘Big Numbers’ made the second round. At that point the editor had recommended ‘Big Numbers’ but because of the size constraints the Foundation approved the smaller ‘Stroll in a Particle’ for inclusion in the final eight.

Ajmer Rode is an amazing poet who has received many distinctions for his poetry in Canada and India. He is an active member of various writers groups including The Writers Union of Canada. As well, he has, with his wife Author Surjeet Kalsey, pioneered Punjabi theatre in British Columbia by writing and directing stage plays on burning societal issues; and, they are both founding members of the largest organization of Punjabi writers in BC.

View Rode’s profile here:
https://uddari.wordpress.com/punjabi-writers/#AJMERRODE
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Skeena: first novel to be launched in English and Punjabi

P R E SS R E L E A S E
LIBROS LIBERTAD ANNOUNCES THE PUBLICATION OF NEW FICTION

NEW FICTION
05-04-2011
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Fauzia Rafique
Skeena
You are invited to the launch of Skeena, a novel by Fauzia Rafique. Skeena is the first Canadian novel to be launched in English and Punjabi. The launches will take place this weekend in Surrey and Vancouver on April 9 and April 10.

The launch in Surrey on April 9 (2 – 4 PM, Newton Branch of Surrey Public Library, (604) 598-7400), presents the novel in both Gurumukhi and Shahmukhi (Perso-Arabic) scripts.
Program
Poetry Readings by Greek Canadian Surrey-based Author and Publisher Manolis to launch his 12th collection of poetry ‘Vernal Equinox’ (Ekstasis Editions, Victoria 2011). Manolis will also present a selection of his translation of Yannis Ritsos, the Star of Lenin, Poetry Prize Award winning Greek poet.
Readings from ‘Skeena’ by Fauzia Rafique
Guest Speakers on ‘Skeena’
Sadhu Binning, Bhupinder Dhaliwal, Surjeet Kalsey, Dr. Saif Khalid, Shahzad Nazir Khan, Ajmer Rode
Discussion and Refreshments
Event Host: Sana’s Janjua

The launch of English edition of Skeena will take place in Vancouver on April 10 (2 – 4 PM, Hellenic Community Center, 4500 Arbutus. Tel: 604-266-7148).
Program
Book Launch ‘Vernal Equinox’
Poetry Readings by Manolis, a Greek Canadian author who has published 12 collections of poetry, two novels and numerous pieces of prose in Greek and English, will launch his latest poetry collection ‘Vernal Equinox’, Manolis will also present a selection of his translation of Greek poet Yannis Ritsos who was unsuccessfully nominated for a Nobel Prize nine-times but was not awarded it because of his progressive views.
Book Launch ‘Skeena’
Reading by Fauzia Rafique
Guest Speakers on ‘Skeena’
Anne Murphy, Anthony Dalton, Farah Shroff, Indira Prahst and Sunera Thobani
Discussion and Refreshments
Event Host
Valerie B.-Taylor

Skeena is the story of a Muslim Canadian woman spanning thirty years of her life where she explores her changing environments, religious and cultural influences, and intimate relationships. Told by Skeena herself, it is a rare glimpse into the mind and perspectives of a Muslim woman. With the utter simplicity of style and expression, and a plot immersed in gripping realities, Fauzia has created a novel that is hard to put down even when it explodes some deep-rooted myths.

Based in the dynamics of Muslim Punjabi culture, the story begins in a village in Pakistani Punjab in 1971, takes us to Lahore in 1981, Toronto in 1991, and then brings us to Surrey in 2001. Skeena’s story involves Punjabi Canadians from both India and Pakistan.

Skeena has been published in Punjabi (Shahmukhi) from Pakistan in 2007 where it was launched in nine cities, and has received high acclaim. The Gurumukhi edition of Skeena is published by Uddari Books from Surrey this year. For information and updates on the three editions of Skeena, go to http://novelskeena.wordpress.com/

In this deeply human and heartwrenching novel, loneliness and loss are felt, but Rafique provides gentle humour and a great deal of hope. In Skeena, Rafique teaches us about life and love. You will find yourself thinking about Skeena long after you have finished reading.
Lisa Collins, Editor, Vancouver

Fauzia Rafique’s novel Skeena is written differently than the others, the author has begun and completed this work with the full witnessing of the time.
Parveen Malik, Author/Publisher, Lahore

Skeena is a novel on patriarchy that never uses this word.
Kishwar Naheed, Poet, Islamabad

Fauzia Rafique is a Vancouver-based South Asian Canadian writer of fiction and poetry. Her English and Punjabi writings have been published in Canada, Pakistan, and on the web. Print titles include the Punjabi publication of Skeena (Lahore 2007) and an anthology Aurat Durbar: The Court of Women: Writings by Women of South Asian Origin (Sumach Press, 1995). A selection of her English and Punjabi poetry, Passion-Fruit/Tahnget-Phal will be out in 2011.

Order Skeena Online: http://www.libroslibertad.ca/book.php?id=42

Contact Libros Libertad for details or to arrange appearances, events or media opportunities.
info@libroslibertad.ca
1-604-838-8796.

Check out other recent releases at www.libroslibertad.ca
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Great news for Canadian Punjabis!


Navtej Bharti [left] and Ajmer Rode, Ottawa May 2007
Photo by Manjit S Chatrik

Bhai Baldeep Singh brings us another good news. Two Punjabi Canadians poets, Navtej Bharti and Ajmer Rode, have been chosen for the Anād Kāv Sanmān 2010.

Poet Dr. Jaswant Singh Neki has been conferred the Anād Sanmān for the year 2010.

Based in India, these lifetime achievement awards were initiated by Anad Foundation in 2008 to commemorate the life and works of Punjabi poet Bibi Baljit Kaur Tulsi. The first poet honored was Surjit Patar in 2008, and last year, Uddari’s very own Amarjit Chandan received the award.

Bhai Anad has published more information about the poetry festival and the award here.

Congratulations to Dr. Jaswant Singh Neki, Navtej Bharti and Ajmer Rode, and to their families and communities in India, Canada and elsewhere.

Fauzia Rafique
gandholi.wordpress.com
frafique@gmail.com

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Punjabi Writers Page at Uddari

View the new Punjabi Writers page that aspires to compile a database of Punjabi writers and artists anywhere in the world.

It is a matter of pride for Uddari that our first entry is Punjabi Canadian Poet/Playwright/Cultural Activist Ajmer Rode of Vancouver who has contributed much to the development of Punjabi literature and Punjabi literary community in Canada.

If you are writing in Punjabi please be supportive of this effort, and enter your information in the text box at the end of Punjabi Writers page.

You can also paste text in an email message, attach photos as .gif or .jpeg files, and send it to Fauzia Rafiq at frafique@gmail.com

Punjabi Literature

2. Royalties for Punjabi Language Authors

After the first post, i received some feedback questioning the need to raise the issue of royalties for authors of MaaNboli mothertongue languages, and asking why even after getting royalty on my novel Skeena, i am still keeping on about it.

It is the historic discrimination faced by MaaNboli languages in Pakistan where most of the meager resources earmarked for the development of languages, art and literature are awarded to the ‘national’ language Urdu at the expense of all local languages. So now the MaaNboli literary organizations, authors and publishers of Punjab (Punjabi, Seraiki, Potohari), Sind (Sindhi, Behari), Balochistan (Balochi, Brahvi) and the NWFP (Pushto, Pukhto) face depreciation due to the persistent non-recognition of native languages by national and provincial cultural agencies. It is a miracle performed by writers, intellectuals and publishers of maaNboli literature that any of our languages have survived the last sixty one years of Pakistani politics.

Punjabi writers and publishers, artists and patrons, musicians/dancers and producers are facing decreasing markets and lesser value for their creative work and hardship because of the ever-increasing conservatism of the political environment that does not encourage or allow creativity in art and literature. Nahid Siddiqui, a master of Kathak classical dance, and i assure you there aren’t many left in the country, does not get a chance to perform on stage or on television very often; and so, she sustains herself with a percentage of student fees from her dance classes with a community-based non-profit cultural organization that struggles each month to pay its own bills in the absence of any core funding or structural support.

The perpetual lack of government funding and public resources has pushed Punjabi cultural communities to operate at ‘charitable’ levels from before the Partition of 1947; and, now the defensive strategy once adopted to help the ailing art and literary institutions recover, has become the only ‘possible’ way to continue. This has flung most Punjabi literary organizations into an overall low-lying introvert stance where work is valiantly carried on even in the absence of ‘basic necessities’ such as scanners and printers. A living example of it appeared in my inbox yesterday in the form of a general request to help fundraise for Publisher/Distributor Kitab Trinjan to get a UPS, a printer and a scanner (For more information and to extend your support, email Zubair Ahmed at kitab.trinjan@gmail.com).

I had the unique opportunity to travel within Pakistan from May to August last year to launch my novel Skeena; and, it was most rejuvenating to meet poets, fiction writers, prose writers, publishers, musicians and cultural/social activists in nine different places including my own city of Lahore. This was made possible by many individuals and organizations but most of all by Amjad Salim of Sanjh Publications who took a big step forward by launching what may well be the first actual promotion campaign for a Punjabi book in the Punjab; Columnist Hasan Nisar who gave the campaign his unconditional support by dropping the first cash donation; Mohammad Tahseen of South Asia Partnership (SAP) who supported the Campaign by approving funds for it. I am most grateful to the cultural communities of Gujranwala, Kot Adu, Multan, Sargodha, Islamabad, Jhung, Karachi, Hyderabad and Lahore who supported this action by organizing the events to launch ‘Skeena’ in their cities.

My gains are unlimited. Just getting the feel of different places and meeting some of the most inspiring people there would have been enough for me but i got luckier than ever; great exchange of ideas, strong cultural impacts, heated discussions, hot and cold weathers, home-cooked foods, great Hasheesh, and no kidding. On the question of royalties, most authors and publishers said that since Punjabi books do not sell it will be meaningless to ask for or grant royalties to authors; some reject the very idea of running a self-sustained Punjabi publishing business as being a ‘commercial’ and so negative activity while others feel it will be impossible to make a Punjabi literary publishing business a commercial success in a market catering to Urdu and English.

The most important factor in resolving this situation is to push for language reforms as has been suggested by Shahid Mirza in his comment on Uddari-Home: “It is so unfortunate that in the new provincial assembly there is no party/individual/group to voice the right of children to study in the mother tongue. maybe we need to start a signature campaign to promote the cause”; and, the comments made by Shumita Madan Didi here, and there. As well, this is the reason for Publisher Amjad Salim and I to launch an extended promotion campaign for Skeena that included discussion on language rights, and for Mohammad Tahseen, and others to support it. I believe that winning author royalties for Punjabi writers is an important part of developing Punjabi language and literature.

The sentiment behind rejecting the concept of author royalties is well expressed by Author Amarjit Chandan in his comment on the previous post: “…In principle there can’t be any debate about royalty rights for Punjabi writers. A Punjabi writer should assert his/her rights while dealing with big publishers, but sadly we don not have any in Punjabi book industry.” I understand this view but do not share it; to me, its not a question of whether a publisher is big or not, an author is ‘successful’ or not, a publisher is ‘commercial’ or not. “Everyone has the right to the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which (s)he is the author.” (UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 27). It is a matter of human rights; of how creative work is used and valued in a society; of how creators of art and literature are recognized for their work. To me, it is important to see that a system contains at least a semblance of the ‘possibility’ for writers and artists to sustain ourselves through our creative work; and, may also improve the quality of our work as suggested by Jatinder in her comment.

Amarjit Jee further says, “I belong to the old tribe of writers who wrote and published for the love of it without asking for any reward.” Yes, in South Asia as elsewhere, writing has been a noble profession and the profession of the nobility as it required not just intellect but also education, a commodity still inaccessible to a large majority of people. I shirk from it also because it reminds me of all those other ‘recommended’ and ‘favored’ roles that are created to dupe people into feeling good about themselves while they are made to serve larger vested interests; for example, the ‘sublime motherhood’ concept for women where a woman is prompted to negate all other aspects of her person to fulfill that one role.

In the absence of royalties, what do writers do? Depend on local monarchs where available, find affluent patrons and befriend wealthy printers; Have dual careers, self-publish through an established publisher, and stay in a position of acute valuelessness for being an author who is often reminded that her/his creative work is not read by many; few want to buy it; and, the publisher is taking a loss by printing it. That reminds me of Poet Arshad Malik in Sargodha who would not publish his collection of poetry because “Ke faida? whats the use?” he said; Mushtaq Sufi, a poet of unique sensibilities who has stopped writing poetry; Painter Shahid Mirza who may have canvases ready for six exhibitions but has not exhibited his work in years outside of his own Lahore Chitrkar, “ke faida?” he says.

In every city, i met some creative artists, poets, writers, singers, dancers who are working on their art day and night without hope to publish, perform or exhibit their creations. I am clear that this situation is caused by larger political realities where literary and cultural communities suffer as a whole regardless of their role in it. But the publishers and producers of Punjabi art and literature in Pakistani Punjab though miraculous in sustaining maaNboli languages, can not continue to overlook the negative impacts on their communities of their non-recognition of creative and intellectual rights. Seen from my perspective, this non-recognition mirrors the same model of projected valuelessness to authors of native languages and literature that is projected by the larger mainstream society in relation to native languages and cultural communities; the model that we are all fighting against.

Meanwhile, we are all in a bind and at this end, even authors who are not dependent on Punjabi publishers feel slighted by them, “Lugda ai Punjab de publishraaN agay sadee koi value nahiN” (It seems punjabi publishers do not value us) says Poet/Playwright Ajmer Rode of Vancouver who has worked with publishers both in India and Canada.

Punjabi Authors and Publishers Page brings this discussion together.
books on Punjab

Modern Punjabi Literature at UBC: A glass half full!

Yes, a glass half filled with an invigorating and inspiring drink when it could as easily be brimming with it; despite falling short on the representation of over one half of Punjabis, and Punjabi women, it was still an important landmark in the development of Punjabi literary community.

The UBC Conference on Modern Punjabi Literature this past weekend was a powerful mix of literary criticisms, academic observations, poetic expressions and cultural activisms. So when the next morning, i was still grappling with the overwhelmingness of this pleasant experience, Amardeep Singh of Lehigh University had already written and published his Notes From a Punjabi Conference in Vancouver. And so, soon after meeting Amardeep at the Conference, i was happy to again experience his crisp, observant and ‘positive-interventionist’ presence through his blog, and it did bring things in perspective for me.

The discussions at the Conference were initiated by Sabina Sawhney of Hofstra University with her paper on Punjabi/Sikh identities where some of the points made by her led to issues put forward by Sadhu Binning about Canadian Punjabi literature . Though each paper presented and every thought expressed was valuable to me, I am most appreciative of ideas that tackled the work of individual writers because though we may find a sizeable body of work on Punjabi classical writers, there is a dearth of criticism on modern Punjabi writing. In that, we had Amritjit Singh of Ohio State University on “The Generational Challenges of Progressivism in the Poetry of Gurcharan Rampuri and Sadhu Binning“; Rana Nayar from the Punjab University on “Narratives of Dispersal: Stories of Raghbir Dhand” and “The Novel as a Site of Cultural Memory: Gurdial Singh’s PARSA“; and, the views expressed by UBC students of Punjabi on Ajith Kaur.

The organizers had created a safe environment where giving and taking criticism was the way to find solutions to various problems faced by Punjabi cultural and literary communities in Canada and elsewhere. “The Uncomfortable Residue of Dis-location: Fragment, Hybridity, and Panjabi Literature(s) in Canada” by Harjeet Grewal (University of Michigan), “The Cultural Politics of Crossing Boundaries” by Anne Murphy (University of British Columbia), and “Secular Sikh Writers” by Amardeep Singh pointed to some groups and individuals that are attempting to extend existing cultural, social or religious boundaries.

The Student Panel, Writers Panel, and Punjabi Poetry Readings were the highlights of this weekend of inspiration and togetherness.

Though Pakistani side of the Punjab, and the literature created by Pakistani Punjabi writers did not feature in any area of this conference on modern Punjabi literature yet the problems, needs and barriers faced by us are the same. The sad truth of the current state of Punjabi literary communities in India and Pakistan, in Canada, and in United States is apparent where we are swamped by the challenges of our immediate situations while our totality is being annihilated by our ignorance, and sometimes, our denial of each other. Let us see who we are then. We are Nanak, Farid and Kabir; Madhulal Hussain, Waris and Bullah; Amrita Pritam, Najm Hosain Syed and Ashu Lal Fakir; We are Ustad Daman, Gurdiyal Singh and Pash, Amarjit Chandan, Baba Najmi and Ajmer Rode; Mushtaq Sufi, Amarjit Pannu and Neesha Dosanjh Meminger; Nilambri Singh Ghai, Ahmad Salim and Sadhu Binning; We are Parveen Malik, Surjeet Kalsi and Baljinder Dhillon; more, and many more.

As was pointed out by presenters and participants from time to time, modern or classical Punjabi Literature is not limited to the writings of Sikh writers of Punjabi language; rather, it includes works of writers of all religions who write Punjabi maaNboli whether in Gurumukhi, Shahmukhi and Roman scripts; who live in India, Pakistan, Canada and elsewhere. As well, it must include works of writers of Punjabi origin using languages other than Punjabi because a literature is not just the keeper of a language but also of the culture and diversity of its people.

In other words, Punjabi literary community must be represented in its wholeness in Punjabi departments, language courses, educational seminars and conferences, and in text books. I was happy to note that the structure put in place by Sadhu Binning, Anne Murphy and others here at UBC already contains this capacity. The faculty members seemed proficient in both scripts; most students were aware that Punjabi uses two scripts; some senior students were able to read books in both scripts. That in itself is gratifying and encouraging; so, i came away from the Conference with the hope that steps will be taken to bring a sense of balance to our persepectives on and appreciation of Punjabi literature by assuring full representation at various levels of cultural and educational activity at UBC and in Canada.

Taking my own advice, i would like to express gratitude to Anne Murphy for the wonderful work she has accomplished for Punjabi in Vancouver by adding a title to an existing name given to her by Punjabi Sikh community so that it reads ‘Bibi Anna Kaur Murphy’ instead of ‘Anna Kaur Murphy’. The imperceptible change from ‘e’ to ‘a’ in the first name is optional but highly recommended as it will help create a beat that may appease all the diverse communities of Punjabi-rhythm freaks.

Another post will soon follow on the development ideas and strategies put forward by Sukhwant Hundal, Ajmer Rode, Darshan Gill, Baljinder Dhillon, and the Student Panel.

Fauzia Rafiq

(Update: Second Post:
“UBC Students of Punjabi Literature, Delightful Performers”

Punjabi Literature