Closing the gap

Delhi based writer Tridivesh Singh Maini sent this piece that was published here

The Indo-Pak relationship has been so enmeshed in political issues – mostly disputes – that often both countries tend to neglect important developments which facilitate cultural cooperation between them. Foreign ministries in both countries are engrossed in thinking of CBM’s, though if one were to look, not much progress has been made with regard to educational and cultural exchanges. Meanwhile, a Washington-based non-profit organisation named APNA, (Academy of the Punjab in North America) has taken a  significant step — publishing a quarterly Punjabi magazine by the name of Saanjh (which means commonality in this context) in both Gurmukhi, the Punjabi script used in East Punjab), and Shahmukhi, the script used in West Punjab.

The magazine (its first issue was published in May 2007) carries articles on various issues and publishes from both Lahore and Ludhiana. The thrust of all articles is on the cultural commonalities between the two Punjabs and the potential for a harmonious and mutually beneficial relationship between the divided province and the two countries. This thrust is quite evident from the line inscribed on the cover of the magazine: “Bulle Shah asaan marna naheen (Bulle Shah, we are not destined to die.”) This development may not be earth shattering for many. But for those who understand the indelible loss to Punjabi culture and literature as a result of the division of Punjab and the use of different scripts in the two provinces, it comes as a breath of fresh air.

APNA’s project actually reiterates two facts: first, the contribution of the diaspora to the improvement of relations between the two countries and, second, the need for non-government actors to think out of the box on issues related to culture, education and sports.

The saanjh may or may not increase, but more people on both sides will get access to the works of Baba Farid, Bulle Shah and other legends.

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