How do you recognise 'peace literature'? It is the new boom in South Asia

Ever since the Nobel Peace Prize was first conferred in 1901, the list of peace prizes has only grown, with honours being instituted each year to recognise the efforts of people. That was a century that saw much war. A host of humanitarian workers, social leaders, faith actors, and human rights activists have been conferred these awards for their work. However, there is a manner of peace work that warrants more recognition — the literary kind.

Faith, form, and everything in between

A lot has changed in the political landscape of India in the last eight years, and the rising rhetoric of religious hatred and sectarianism is no secret. It is easy to give in to despair and cynicism, believing that India’s pluralistic fabric has been irrevocably damaged. But ask any historian, and they’ll tell you how eight years is nothing in the face of thousands of years of legacy. It is only as easy to destroy India’s diversity and plurality as it is to blow out the sun. Regardless of what the saffron-tinted media and their overlords project, India’s syncretic traditions are well alive and kicking. They live through her fairs and festivals, through her many tales of saints and mystics, through her foods and crafts, and in the hearts of her common citizens. They also live through her artists, who serve to remind us that India is such a tight and seamless weave of traditions that it’s impossible to separate its strands.

A New Book Celebrates Poetic Voices For Peace In Southasia

Adolescent participants at an interfaith harmony camp that I helped organise in Mumbai recently had a resounding question: “What can *I* do to make the world a better place?” At a time that seems frighteningly full of conflict, it is easy for young individuals to feel overwhelmed and helpless. I was thinking about this question, when I started reading ‘Amity’, a recently published anthology of peace poems edited by the Indian poet and peacebuilder Sahana Ahmed (Hawakal Publishers) — a collection of 95 poems by 47 writers from France, India, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and the USA.

‘In Search of the Divine’: Where Sufism’s syncretic legacy meets author Rana Safvi’s personal faith

The opening line of this ghazal by 19th century poet Asghar Gondvi is perhaps an apt encapsulation of the essence of Sufism, for this mystical path of Islam is, after all, a path of the heart. Overtly different from the jurisprudential face of Islam, which seems to be all about strict adherence to the shariah, Sufism is languid and fluid. A great stream of traditions big and small, Sufism has flowed through the Indian subcontinent for centuries, bringing all manner of people into its fold.

The Churn Within – पालकनीती परिवार

Because this article is for a parenting magazine, and because I stand far out from what may be called normative lines, perhaps it is best started with a disclaimer. Or five. I am a divorcee. I am currently in a live-in relationship. I am a mother to a 13-year-old boy, who doesn’t live with me. My teenager is not getting any formal education because his father and I have decided to ‘unschool’ him...

Indians, Pakistanis Collaborate on Films | The Peace Journalist October 2022

But as some bridges were being burnt, some others were being built. In 2021, Seeds of Peace, a US-based non-profit, with the sponsorship support of the US Consulate Karachi, launched Kitnay Duur Kitnay Paas (So Far, So Close) – an India-Pakistan film collaboration project. The inspiration for the project was to bring to light the rich legacy of shared history, culture, and traditions between the two historical adversaries that makes them starkly similar to each other despite their conflict.

Book Review | How a new book on RSS’ efforts towards ‘conflict resolution’ may not be an ideal peacemaker’s guide

RSS ideologue Ratan Sharda’s latest book, with Yashwant Pathak, is devoted to explaining the RSS’ approach towards resolving some of the most critical internal conflict situations India has faced since Independence Author and columnist Ratan Sharda is so committed to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — better known as the RSS — that seven out of nine of his books happen to be on the subject. His latest work, Conflict Resolution: The RSS Way, which he has co-authored with Yashwant Pathak, is devoted to explaining the social organisation’s approach to resolving some of the most critical internal conflict situations India has faced since Independence.

The golden mean: How Girl Power Talk is empowering employees and communities

Ludhiana-based Karan Jain has a unique workplace ‘problem’; not so much a problem as an aberration: reverse gender imbalance. The 24-year-old web developer is outnumbered by his female colleagues, but then, when one signs up to work for an organisation called Girl Power Talk, that’s par for the course. However, Jain isn’t complaining, because, at Girl Power Talk, he has not only found an opportunity to realise his artistic aspirations as a branding associate, but also a lifetime’s worth of lessons in gender sensitivity.

Pablo Bartholomew’s photographs of the Naga people are a crash course in anthropology

The Naga people in photographer Pablo Bartholomew’s stunning images are as exotic as they are real To the unsuspecting eye, five little brass ‘faces’ fashioned into a pendant, held together with colourful beads and strings, would probably be just a fascinating necklace. But photographer Pablo Bartholomew says that those brass faces might represent the number of human heads taken by the Naga warriors.

How the Mahabharata rules the national imagination through a mix of fact and fantasy

In his latest book, Devy examines the intense relationship India has with one of its two principal epics – the Mahabharata. As much as the current dispensation in New Delhi uses and centralises the Ramayana to further its political motives, it is the Mahabharata that drives the national imagination. The Indian people’s obsession with Vyasa’s epic perhaps lies in its classification as itihasa (a record of things as they happened), whereas Valmiki’s epic poem is thought of falling more into the category of (maha)kavya (poetry). In Devy’s view, there is an essentialism to the Indian identity that draws from the Mahabharata, because it is not just an epic, it is also the nation’s “way of remembering”.

Faisal Khan’s fast & his pursuit of peace through Khudai Khidmatgar

Usually dressed in a Pathani suit, a skull cap, and sometimes, a jacket, Faisal Khan cuts an ordinary figure. His manner, like his speech, is simple but scratch the surface, and you realise that there is nothing ordinary about this man. The 46-year-old leader of the Khudai Khidmatgar [Pashto for Servants of God] movement has just ended a six-day fast against violence and hatred, but that hasn’t dulled his compassionate spark even a little. In fact, he glows with even more conviction in his belief that mohabbat [love] is the way out of this communal mire we find ourselves in.

“In dialogue, the intention is not to argue but explore; not to convince but discover”

In her opening keynote address, Dr. Kaushikee, honorary director and professor of the Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Jamia Millia Islamia University, noted how setting the right intention and norms of dialogue was an important step in the peace process. She was speaking at The Samvaad National Interfaith Summit, held virtually on December 11, 2021, organized by Seeds of Peace India as a conclusive step of their year-long Samvaad Project.

The Drama School Mumbai’s pivot into virtual theatre training during the pandemic is here to stay

‘Learning has to be self-driven,’ says founder Jehan Manekshaw, pointing out that the e-learning initiative is named after Eklavya from the Mahabharata, known for his passion for learning When the pandemic threw the world into a tizzy early last year, the Drama School Mumbai (DSM) found itself struck by uncertainty. Stuck midway with a student batch, the initial months were tough and confusing to both founders and faculty. In fact, the physical nature of theatre made it one of the worst-hit among cultural practices. But when one of DSM’s founders, Jehan Manekshaw, describes these times, there is no anxiety in his voice. There is, in fact, a rare surefootedness: the kind one has around a familiar room even when the lights are out.

Educators, peace activists, faith leaders and citizens to convene for first Samvaad National Interfaith Summit

The Indian arm of the global peacebuilding organization, Seeds of Peace, is organizing this virtual interfaith summit on December 11, 2021 In India, the problem of communal strife and religion-based conflicts has been steadily rising over the past decade. Religious identity and difference have played a large role in the nation’s political and social dynamics, at times fueling communal conflict that has periodically disrupted the peace, stability, and growth of the country.

A little short on magic: Review of ‘Khwabnama’ by Akhtaruzzaman Elias, trs Arunava Sinha

With a vast scope, the book seems obscure at times but is redeemed by the translation Arunava Sinha’s 64th published translation, Khwabnama (Book of Dreams), has much less to do with dreams than with the cold, hard truths of life. The original Bengali novel of the same name is considered to be the magnum opus of the famous Bangladeshi author, Akhtaruzzaman Elias (1943-1997). Khwabnama is a deeply political novel, presenting a series of vignettes from undivided Bengal/ India of the 1940s...

Nithya Subramanian’s ‘Debris’ draws attention to alarming pollution facts

The alarming numbers on plastic pollution in the world’s oceans are translated into gentle embroidery in this novel art project If you understood the facts, they needed no embroidery: all the wonder was already there, the more spellbinding because it was true. This line from the 2003 novel Blind Lake by American-Canadian author Robert Charles Wilson, was written for metaphoric effect, but it may well have been the literal inspiration for illustrator and data designer Nithya Subramanian.

Why Kumbh in times of corona is reasonable for some, baffling for others

With thousands of people still congregating for religious festivals and political rallies in the middle of a raging pandemic, the question one feels compelled to ask is: Are the faithful stupid? It may be a tempting conclusion to draw that all those who have congregated at the bathing ghats of Haridwar or the pre-election rallies in West Bengal have lost their minds. That anyone practicing a ritual or showing up in support of a leader is ignorant, if not dumb or plain evil. But investiture of faith - whether in God or a leader, in a system or a philosophy - is a complex matter with several layers of meaning...

The Discordant Notes of Caste Lines in the Classical Arts

Bhatkhande was not alone in his conception and more than a hundred years after his not-so-pleasant discovery, this narrative of the ‘pure South’ continues to drive the scholarship and public consumption of its classical arts. According to Davesh Soneji, Associate Professor, Department of South Asia Studies, University of Pennsylvania, this notion has resulted in the erasure of a rich tradition of Tamil Muslim and Christian music and many other art forms practised by non-Brahmin or Hindu artist communities.

Fashion & Faith: Here’s How Religion Influences How We Dress

When hundreds of Trump supporters marched upon the US Capitol in Washington DC, tearing down the greatest symbol of modern democracy — will decidedly go down in history as the day of great American shame. And yet, it is possible that in the funny, unpredictable ways that the Internet functions, the most potent public memory of that day might be that of Jake Angeli, or rather his fashion choices of that day...
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