Monday, 29 August 2011

Re-Markings Celebrates Ten Years, 20th issue



Re-Markings, an international refereed biannual journal of research in English, celebrates Ten Years of its publication with the Twentieth Issue,  Vol. X No. 2, September 2011

Excerpts from writeups in the issue 


The Life of the Mind Knows No Geographic Boundaries
Charles Johnson
As the former fiction editor of a literary journal, The Seattle Review, a publication I served for 20 years, I can say without any hesitation whatsoever that Re-Markings is a simply remarkable (pun intended) contribution to our literary and cultural experience. During its first decade of existence, the breadth of its content - spanning fiction, poetry, literary scholarship, reviews, and special features on cultural questions of perennial interest - has been nothing short of breathtaking, thereby fulfilling its ambitious mission statement. What strikes me most about that mission is that from the beginning chief editor Nibir K. Ghosh has maintained a vision inspirited with a sense that the life of the mind (and heart) knows no geographic boundaries.
On the pages of this publication, East and West are constantly in conversation, offering readers the opportunity to reflect upon the works of Samuel Beckett, Thomas Pynchon, Jhumpa Lahiri, W.H. Auden, Henry David Thoreau, Jainendra Kumar, and many others. And for that reason we can say that Re-Markings is a bellwether publication for this new century and millennium in which the old tribal, nationalistic, ideological and provincial approaches to literary culture are destined to give way  to a robust, multi-cultural appreciation of humankind’s global achievements in general. True enough, as I write these words in July, 2011, the world is wracked by conflicts based on race, ethnicity, and religion. But these, I suspect, are the last death twitches of a limited, tribal way of thinking at the dawn of the  21st century, a new era in which science, technology, advances in communication that obliterate isolationism and insularity, and a “global economy” made possible the recent “Arab spring,” i.e., young people demanding democracy, transparency in government, and prosperity for all. In both its spirit and practice, Re-Markings significantly nurtures these profound, evolu-tionary changes remaking (pun also intended) the world in which we live.
Like President Barack Obama, I see myself as both an American and a citizen of the world. And, as a Buddhist, I have a life-long appreciation for the great spiritual contributions that India has given to the world. I feel honored that my humble literary efforts were selected to appear on the pages of Re-Markings, first because all of its contributors exhibit a high degree of professional excellence. One only needs to glance at the publication’s handsome website to see that the works it generously gives us are both innovative and cutting-edge. And, secondly, I sense in Re-Markings the expansive spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of modern India, one of the most important spiritual figures in the 20th century, and an inspiration for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who I have written much about. With its 20th issue and tenth birthday imminent, we should all congratulate and thank Nibir K. Ghosh and his dedicated team for their decades-long labor that has fostered cross-cultural understanding and opened doors for new, exciting scholarship that will prove to be seminal for the future. And yes, I eagerly look forward to many more years of literary and scholarly gems from Re-Markings.
  • Dr. Charles Johnson is novelist, essayist, literary critic, short story writer, cartoonist, screenwriter and Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington. He is a 1998 MacArthur fellow, author of Middle Passage, which received the 1990 National Book Award for fiction, and a 2002 recipient of an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is the author of 18 books, among them Turning the Wheel: Essays on Buddhism and Writing, and has published numerous essays, drawings and works of criticism. His fiction includes the novels Faith and the Good Thing, Oxherding Tale, and Dreamer, and three story collections, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Soulcatcher and Other Stories, and Dr. King's Refrigerator and Other Bedtime Stories.
***
 10th Anniversary Reflections
Jonah Raskin
I deem it a pleasure to offer my impression of Re-Markings on the cusp of its 10th-anniversary. The fact that the publication has survived a stormy decade is a real achievement and cause for celebration.  Over the past 10-years Re-Markings has evolved and continues to mature. There is no other publication like it that I know of and it occupies a unique place in the world of global journals. I feel really honored to be connected to it, and to contribute to it and I have found a real sense of satisfaction as a writer and a thinker because of my links to Re-Markings. If I may say this, I believe that much of the success of Re-Markings is due to the vision, dedication and courage shown by its Chief Editor, Nibir. He has played a major part in making the journal what it is today. Re-Markings has a global perspective and it's also interdisciplinary. It aims to synthesize and to see the big picture as well as to look at and celebrate the local. The fact that it's both global and local makes it an extraordinary publication. I have written about films, fiction, theater, autobiographical pieces and traditional literary criticism and it is important to have a magazine that originates in India and that goes out and around the world to have a diversity of views and approaches. India itself as a country has made important strides in the past decade and it deserves a journal such as Re-Markings that looks critically at Indian society and culture. The world is a place of conflicts and clashes, but it is also a place of confluences and Re-Markings helps to furture the dialogue between different cultures around the world. It aids communication around the world and it has moved with the times and with the technological changes in the past decade as evidenced by the website which is impressive and professional. I hope to continue to work with Nibir and with Re-Markings and I hope that the journal has been shaped in beneficial ways by my contributions just as I have been shaped and influenced in beneficial ways by my association with the journal. Nibir has given birth to and nurtured a publication of which he and his contributors and his advisory board ought to be proud. So, congratulations Nibir and keep up the excellent work.
·        Jonah Raskin is a Professor at Sonoma State University, California where he teaches courses in American literature, media law, and an interdisciplinary program for entering college students. From 1967-1972 he taught English and American literature at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. During that period, he wrote for underground newspapers, and was active in the movement against the war in Vietnam. Since 1975, he has lived and worked in northern California - with the exception of one year as a Fulbright Professor in Belgium where he taught American literature at the University of Antwerp and the University of Ghent. He is the author of 12 books and several volumes of poetry. His work has been translated into French and Spanish.
***
 Revisiting ‘Fires’
Ajay Singh
I first met Editor Nibir Ghosh at a debate competition organised by Agra’s popular newspaper DLA at St Peter’s College on October 11, 2008. The subject, if I remember correctly, was “whether politicians should also retire at age sixty.” I, as the ex-Member of Parliament from Agra rushing towards my sixties was soon joined by Raj Babbar, the sitting MP (age wise in somewhat the same category (!). It was a fun event with young talent from the city’s best schools debating on both sides of the issue.
As we were leaving, Nibir gave me a copy of Re-Markings, the journal that he edits and publishes. I lazily opened it on the train journey back to Delhi and soon was mesmerised. Here was Anna Akhmatova, Frantz Fanon and so much more. I could not believe it. I called a friend next day to go and pay for my subscription so that I could have regular supply of the journal.
The journal excited me for it was a continuation, it seemed to me, of the great literary traditions of Agra, of debate and discourse in all our diversities.
Our country has one of the biggest publishing industries in the world. In all our many languages are journals dealing with a myriad of issues. I too once, decades ago, edited and published a monthly journal Asli Bharat that took up the issue of public interest and got prominent people to write for us giving their views. It was based somewhat along the lines of Seminar, Economic and Political Weekly, The Other Side and so many others. So I know the difficulties that alternative media have with producing their journals. Newsprint, printing, distribution, staff and above all lack of advertising support on which all mainstream media survive.
It is one reason why I respect and admire Editor Nibir Ghosh for his devotion and dedication to his journal. He, and through him, Re-Markings took me back to my youth when we thought we could, as Frantz Fanon said, “It is also the consciousness of collaborating in the immense work of destroying the world of oppression.” Most importantly, it is a journal that makes you think and in my case, as I hope in many others, revisit those fires that once existed.
We all too often, in pursuit of our professional success, tend to lose sight of the beauty surrounding us, particularly of literary discourse. As Eldridge Cleaver says in his Soul on Ice:
…and why does it make you so sad to see how everything hangs by such thin and whimsical threads? Because you are an incredible dreamer, with a tiny spark hidden somewhere inside you which cannot die, which even you cannot kill or quench and which tortures you horribly because all the odds are against its continually burning. In the midst of the foulest decay and putrid savagery, this spark speaks to you of beauty, of human warmth and kindness, of goodness, of greatness, of heroism, and of love.
That is also why I thank Prof. Nibir for Re-Markings and wish him all strength in his efforts.
  • Mr. Ajay Singh is a noted journalist. A former MP from Agra, he was Minister of State for Railways in the Indian government during 1989-1990. He has also had an eventful tenure as the Indian High Commissioner in Fiji.
***
A Decade of Excellence
Shanker A. Dutt
English Studies is and should be in a state of flux, always questioning, constantly debating and importantly, highlighting creative excellence. Skepticism, which lies at the core of this process, was described by Thomas Sprat, the Historian of the Royal Society, as not giving assent to any proposition until proven conclusively. Conclusive proof in texts is rarely possible and a man called Derrida ushered in the hypothesis of its improbability. Good research is a process of discovery through informed assessment leading to an opinion worthy of comment, debate and future inquiry. While it reviews existing knowledge which requires to be acknowledged, it says something that is different from what has been said before.
A number of literary and cultural journals have, over the years, provided space for the publication of scholarship in India. However, many of these have often struggled against the vagaries of quality and in trying to find an appropriate balance between the excellence of established names and the need to create space for the young researchers. Other qualities appreciated in a good literary journal are the value of the editorials and the punctuality of its publication. These are three areas where Re-Markings has scripted its success.            Re-Markings is an international refereed biannual journal of English Studies that aims at providing a healthy forum for scholarly interpretations of multiple cultural texts as evidenced in literature, art, television, cinema and journalism with substantial focus on Contemporary Studies in English including translations and creativity. Its Chief Editor Nibir K. Ghosh, a Fulbright scholar and the Head of English Studies at Agra College, wrote rather poetically in the 10th issue:
It is perhaps a happy coincidence that Re-Markings, like the equinoxes, appears in March and September each year. The vernal and the autumnal equinoxes set the globe in perfect gravitational balance and become the harbingers of the Spring of life and the fruits of its Autumn. I am optimistic that Re-Markings will continue to offer, through a clockwork precision of the biannual event, the hope and cheer that one finds in the songs of Spring and the music of Autumn.
It is with this exacting precision of nature’s laws that one has to expect the arrival of Re-Markings and I cannot recollect an occasion to be disappointed.
In many ways, Ghosh has accepted a new mantle, bequeathed without conscious design, of being a rare crusader for literary scholarship as his illustrious predecessor, Professor Puroshottama Lal the primogenitor of Writer’s Workshop in Calcutta to whom Ghosh scripted a fine tribute this spring. In the manner in which Lal had challenged the overwhelming anonymity of his early days to launch the creative careers of India’s now famous poets and writers, so too Ghosh has provided space for discussion and interrogation of cultural productions in English and brought together a band of critics and commentators from different parts of the world on a truly globalised forum for expression and exchange. In the inaugural editorial, Ghosh had stated that “a good work of art invariably leaves its indelible markings on the shifting pages of time. It may or may not offer solutions to the problems that beset mankind but its sublimity lies in the way it contributes not only to the profound understanding of the age in which we live but also in making us aware of our private fears and insecurities, our joys and hopes.” In an age of considerable bitterness and despair, when the world seems to be ideologically partitioned, when development and progress have many, often contradictory definitions and core human needs are subservient to lifestyle choices, it compels us to engage with the narrativised world in search of understanding:
The sublimity of such time-honoured imprints is further affirmed through subsequent revaluations and reconsiderations by succeeding generations who visualise and discover in these paradigms of the essential human condition, the relevance of every living idea that is dynamic, and the significance of every precise emotion which tends towards intellectual formulation. What is, therefore, needed is an effective forum which can function as a repository for a coherent system of thoughts and ideas. I strongly believe that in addressing specific issues and concerns central to the human predicament, Re-Markings will play a seminal role” (Ghosh, 2002).
And indeed the prophecies of ten years ago have manifested over time in meaningful dialogue with texts. It was Umberto Eco who spoke of the written texts as being machines to generate interpretations. Readers from different cultural contexts and personal backgrounds engage with texts in different internal dialogues revealing multiple meanings. The author thus is relegated to being a controlling devise as readers vie for space to interpret and explain. It is this valued space that Re-Markings provides.
The canvas of Re-Markings is varied and vast comprising articles on mainstream and marginal representations of human experience. Each issue has a fair bit for differently interested readers. Women’s writings, for instance has been given substantial space and this may be divided socially, culturally, ethnically, racially, geographically and politically. An article named “Feminism in India: Challenges and Obstacles” by Mohammed Asim Siddiqui offers a synchronic analysis of the state of Indian feminism, discusses its fractured history, explores female subjectivities in colonial and post-independent India and the challenges in a globalised world order. Switching to the Black woman’s experience in the American continent, Pratima’s “Alienation and Affirmation in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye” looks at the quest of self-identity amidst racial discrimination and white dominance. The colonizing effects on the Black psyche makes Pecola long for blue eyes, a distinguishing characteristic primarily of the whites. Morrison believed that authenticity emerges from self-affirmation and making choices that leads to self-ownership. Dalit Feminism in which B.K. Sharma discusses the triple marginalization of Dalit woman with reference to Tagore’s dance-drama Chandalika offers another perspective on woman’s subjectivity living on the edge.
Over the years a number of articles have been published covering every genre on Diaspora experience, Popular fiction, Ecological concerns, Globalised experience, Identity, Subaltern subjectivities, Multiculturalism, Migration and Nationalism, Alienation and Assimilation from perspectives that span the entire critical matrix from liberal humanism to contemporary theory and beyond. Aside of explorations into multiple texts, the journal includes stimulating interviews, informed book reviews and an unusual repertoire of exciting poetry from diverse global locations.
Re-Markings has an impressive list of advisors: Charles Johnson, Jayanta Mahapatra, Amritjit Singh, Ruediger Kunow, S. Ramaswamy, Jonah Raskin and C.R. Visveswara Rao. The editorial collaborators along with Ghosh, A. Karunaker, Sundeep Arora and Katy Whipple ensure production-quality and punctuality. These eminent personages contribute to the authenticity of the journal’s distinction and encourage qualities of scholarship, good writing and some remarkable creativity that one has come to associate with Re-Markings. Some years ago, commenting on Re-Markings, I had written:
it must be a daunting task to publish a journal having to undertake the editor's onus of sorting out variable quality and the publisher's jugglery to balance finance and production. I really liked the honesty with which you have written the editorial in the March 2006 edition of  Re-Markings. Often we do not problematise, question or challenge concepts because we are daunted by the reputations and the linguistic magic of what we read. You have taken the lid off manufactured mysteries in a short but telling editorial. Many congratulations for the excellent work you are doing.
Today, as the ten year milestone is crossed, it is a pleasure to reiterate what I had written and state that it is getting better with each passing equinox.
  • Dr. Shanker A. Dutt is Professor of English in Patna University. He is associated with a number of Indian and off-shores educational institutions in different advisory, publication and resource capacities. He is currently the Chairman of Bihar Sangeet Natak Academy, Patna.
 ***
Remarkable Re-Markings
S. Ramaswamy
Re-Markings now has a decade of remarkable achievement. The ‘leanings literary’ and ‘critical sensibility’ have not only continued since the journal began its eventful journey in March 2002 but have established themselves in a marked pattern, all its own, under the dynamic editorship of Dr. Ghosh. What sets the mood and method of each issue is the EDITORIAL. His forceful presentation can be seen time and again. For example in the 2002 September issue, his comment on 11th September 2001 – “The catastrophe that reduced the mighty twin-towers of the World Trade Centre to mere fragments of etherised memory in the twinkling of an eye showed the seamy side of inhuman ingenuity to which even the sky seems no limit.” Quite an indictment. With the support of scholars like Charles Johnson and Jonah Raskin on the Advisory Board, Re-Markings has taken marked strides in the last ten years to establish itself as an elitist but eclectic literary journal. From time to time ‘Special Sections’ have been published like the section on V.S. Naipaul,  Communalism, Racism, John Steinbeck, David Ray, W.H. Auden and Doris Lessing. 
What makes Re-Markings unique among Indian Academic Journals is that it holds a perfect balance between creative and critical endeavours. Readers of contemporary poetry are as much benefited as the scholars who care for ‘Re-Valuations’ as indeed there are re-valuations of a wide variety of authors – old and new, from all over the world. It is a combination of the global and the local. What more can a literary journal do?
In my experience of reading literary journals for six decades, the latest decade – I call it the decade of Re-Markings – has indeed been truly remarkable. 
·         Prof. S. Ramaswamy has been a Senior Fulbright Fellow at Yale, in their famous School of Drama. Besides the Fulbright scholarships and fellowships, he got the British Council Scholarship twice, and has been a Shastri Indo-Canadian Fellow at McGill University. In 1959, he helped found the Bangalore Little Theatre (BLT). 

How Nibir Ghosh Lost his Hair
Omkar Sane
Anniversaries are very tricky business. Firstly, you have to remember them. There is no secondly, because you forget them. And forgetting an anniversary is the biggest crime. You'll notice there are belated birthday cards, but no one has come up with a belated anniversary card. Another problem with anniversaries is you have to wait an entire year before you get a chance to remember it and undo your wrong, but since it is a year old, you forget again. Yes, it’s cyclical, just like anniversary is. The third problem with anniversaries is they are sure to come but yet you forget them. That makes the forgetting worse. It’s not a one-off incident that you are pardoned for forgetting. You know all along it is going to come, then how could you forget it? The fourth problem with anniversaries is they come with gifts. And thoughtful, useful gifts don’t count as anniversary gifts. If you do not believe that, try gifting your girlfriend sellotape the next anniversary (if you remember it, that is.) The logic is: the value of gifts reflects the investment that the couple gives of themselves to each other. Because of this logic, anniversary gifts typically are:
Candles you can’t burn.
Wastebaskets you can’t throw trash in.
Frilly pillows you must never sleep on.
A diary with scented pages you can never write in.
Stuffed, cute, furry toy animals.
So, these anniversary gifts keep piling on year after year till you do not have any more space for them. And that’s the next problem with anniversaries. You’re basically stuck with anniversary gifts till you die, because you can’t throw an anniversary gift even if you’re not celebrating the anniversary of the particular important event with that particular person anymore.
At this crucial juncture, it’s time to see where it all began. Obviously anniversaries did not exist when they couldn’t count. No wonder the men in the Stone Age cave paintings look so happy. They say, the practice of giving peculiar gifts on various wedding anniversaries originated in Central Europe. Among the medieval Germans it was customary for friends to present a wife with a wreath of silver when she had lived with her husband twenty-five years. The silver symbolized the harmony that was assumed to be necessary to make so many years of matrimony possible. On the fiftieth anniversary of a wedding the wife was presented with a wreath of gold. Hence arose 'silver wedding' and 'golden wedding.'
Maybe, it was cool back then to celebrate anniversaries, because things lasted that long. According to iMac’s dictionary, the word anniversary has its roots in Latin: anniversarius – annus (year) + versus  (turning) – which means, ‘returning yearly’. By that definition, in today’s fickle and frivolous times, anniversaries seem like a dated idea (no pun intended). It’s rare you complete a year with anything except your bed-sheet, that too because you’re too lazy to change it. Otherwise, everything pretty much fizzles out before a year completes – a job, a relationship, a resolution, a gym membership, you name it, and it ends. (In the mid 90s, in India, we followed that pattern even for governments, but thankfully, we gave it up). It’s maybe because of this that we have come up with monthly, weekly and hourly anniversaries, or maybe it has something to do with Hallmark and Archies.
Another thing we can certainly say about anniversaries is it was a woman’s idea. There is no way a man in his right or wrong mind could’ve ever come up with that. Try imagining a man saying, ‘Let’s remember a date every year to celebrate this special moment right here’. It even sounds wrong. But it totally sounds like something a woman can do. Women can have the strangest anniversaries: the fourth month of the day he first told me we might be getting serious. Or, the 6th week of the first time he held my hand. Yes, women remember all this. Why are women like this? Why is the seventh week anniversary of the first time you saw a movie together, or the one-month anniversary of the first time he left his toothbrush at her place so incredibly important to women? One of the reasons is: They see getting a guy and keeping him in an exclusive, committed relationship, the way Lance Armstrong views the Tour de France - a long, gruelling competition with worthy adversaries, bad luck lurking around every corner, and a huge champagne-fueled celebration at the end of it.
Come to think of it, all anniversaries are like that. Sure, there are simple anniversaries, like your own birthday. You seldom forget it because you always have some woman in your life who calls you on that day to remind you. But most anniversaries are tough: marriages, relationships, and jobs, to name a few.
However, the toughest one is an anniversary issue. Which is what makes this anniversary so special. It is 10 years. 10 years is no small time. And to come up with twenty issues without missing deadlines is even a bigger feat. If you have no idea what goes behind releasing an issue, here’s a quick glance. 1. You need to come up with a topic for an issue. 2. Since you can’t fill all the pages yourself, you need to convince others to fill it for you. This is where authors come in handy, because we are used to writing for little or no money. 3. Once you’ve convinced them to write for you, you have to track them like Google.  4. While tracking them, you also have to be polite at all times, since you want it and they’re the ones who are doing you a favour by writing it. 5. While being polite, you also have to be pushy. This is an art that one can master only after seven issues. 6. You need to check and edit what the person has sent. 7. If it doesn’t match the brief, you need to tell the person to rewrite it, but without telling him to rewrite it, lest you sound impolite. 8. If the person doesn’t correct it, you have to do it yourself. This makes it tricky to send the issue to the concerned person, in the fear of insulting him. Because then, the very same person who did not make changes turns around and says, “Why did you make changes to what I wrote? Why couldn’t you just ask me to do it?” 9. You have to then edit and proof-check everything. (Newspapers today generally forget this step). 10. You have to release it and remember everyone who contributed and send them a copy while thanking them deeply and sound sincere while doing it.
And Nibir Ghosh has done this year after year, issue after issue, for 10 years and counting. Yes, Re-Markings has made it. It’s completed 10 years. How Remarkable. What does this tell us about Nibir Ghosh? It tells us 10 things:
1. He is a brave man.
2. He has a great team.
3. He is a professor with a lot of time on hand.
4. He has a wife who serves him food on time.
5. He really loves Re-Markings.
6. He is a zen master but doesn’t yet know it because he is busy editing this issue.
7. He looks older than his age.
8. He is an expert at getting things out of people.
9. As an editor, he has to write this point.
10. He has lost more hair than he can count.

Because all said and done, at the end of the day (or the year), simple or tough, that’s what anniversaries do. They make you lose hair. But some of them are worth it. And this is one of them. As I try hard to come up with a witty ending, I think I may have lost a few to this anniversary.
Cheers to everyone who’s been involved with Re-Markings in any way whatsoever over the past 10 years. It couldn’t have been possible without you. Now for god’s sake, can you send your piece on time as an anniversary gift? I am sending Nibir a diamond-studded comb.
·        Omkar Sane, a product of J.J. Institute of Applied Art, Mumbai, is the author of widely acclaimed books Welcome to Advertising! Now, Get Lost and Coming Soon. The End. The March 2011 issue of Re-Markings carried an exclusive interview entitled “Creating Desires and Changing Mindsets: Conversation with Omkar Sane.”

***
In Gratitude
Nibir K. Ghosh
If our journal has been able to reach the ten-year milestone with such style and dignity, it is largely on account of the faith that all worthy members have reposed in our editorial policy that remains committed to offering nothing but the best with clockwork precision. I deeply appreciate the patience that our precious contributors have displayed in waiting for over 12-18 months to see their work in print. I am immensely thankful to the contributors who have enriched this celebratory volume with their creative rendering of universal concerns that remain central to the world we inhabit. I am no less grateful to our esteemed members on the Advisory Board who have always shown rare zeal in being an integral part of Re-Markings. I am truly humbled by the praises that have been showered on the journal by celebrities from various walks of life. I have absolutely no hesitation in giving a large measure of credit for such lavish accolades to Dr. A. Karunaker, Mr. Sundeep Arora and members of the entire Re-Markings fraternity for their constant encouragement and support.  Nibir K. Ghosh,  Chief Editor






3 comments:

  1. I am humbled to know that i have such famous man for my dear friend. I went through all the articles and was amazed by the style of writing and the praise each of these famous and learned authors have showered on you. I knew that you were a great person , but that was in more simplistic my way. But today I want to congratulate you for thsi great work you are doing fot the literary society, and commimg out with such work on time. Only you can do it.

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  2. Interesting and important information. It is really beneficial for us. Thanks
    printing services

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    Replies
    1. Many thanks for your interest in Re-Markings. Thanks too for your encouraging input.
      Best wishes,
      Nibir

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