Growing up in India in a prominent Hindi belt, where English was a second language spoken only by the elite, and where its usages in general outside schools, colleges and universities being not very popular, I never had imagined, that one day a poet of Hindi will earn herself an opportunity to be the creator and editor of a literary magazine in English, “Life and Legends.”
But, before I take you on a small journey to share how I met this destiny of mine, which is indeed an honor and privilege, I want to thank and welcome each and everyone, who by any means have contributed in the making of “Life and Legends.” My special thanks to all contributing writers, poets, and those who are going to be our readers.
On this occasion, I also must not forget to thank a very special person, who is none other but my own grandfather, from whom I learned advanced English, and also my mother, who gave me the very first lesson of ABC. My father and eldest uncle were no less appreciative of the Western education, and they all contributed to what I learned as a child, and a student of English literature as a young adult.
Like me, you might wonder, why so much love and appreciation for English in a Hindi speaking family, and why it is important for me to mention this in my editorial? Here I want to share a story, that you may find relevant and insightful.
Once upon a time in British India, my grandfather was a police officer. Everyday, he ate an English breakfast, listened to BBC radio, read English newspapers, and played hockey and water polo with his fellow British officers. The day he went to play, the officers’ wives made sure they didn’t miss any of his games, just to see this handsome and charming man, who was equally eloquent in his conversation with them in fine English, and who could make them sigh everytime, even before his wife, my grandmother. I couldn’t resist learning English from such a man, knowing that he was the best teacher for me, and always knew the power of a language that was able to connect us with the rest of the world.
But knowing a language is one thing, and making it your own is another, and I ended up becoming a poet of Hindi, my national language; and also because, the rest of the world didn’t seem to care, if I wrote in English, or ever wanted to write in a foreign language.
This is just one chapter of the saga that I still continue to write today, even after living in the United States now for 20 years as a citizen. In these two decades, the poet in me had conflicts of its own. After being an author of three books in Hindi, winning prestigious awards, and over a decade long journey of my writings in my own language, I was desensitized to Hindi in America after a while, as no one in my new family ever spoke my language, nor did my close friends, or others in the American society that I adopted and embraced with what it had to offer me. That resulted in me being silent for almost 8 years. My poet didn’t speak a word to me, if it was not going to be in a language that was not my own, but at the same time, it was tired speaking its own language only to me, year after year, and no one else to hear…
Neither did writers and poets in American literary groups ever try to pay attention to me as a writer, as I had nothing to share with them but my works in translations, that required a certain level of expertise and sensitivity to understand them, and me as a poet and a person. Translations of my award wining poems were rejected over and over again by English literary magazines, and I was discouraged, but never turned those rejections into self-doubts. Instead, I looked at them as an opportunity to discover and learn many new things, realizing the fact, that my new world was yet very resistant and unopened to welcome me in, for many reasons. And the most important reason was its inability to see the relevance of the literature being written in other languages, and the importance of sharing them with the readers and audiences in the West.
This destiny is not something uncommon to writers and poets who migrate, and for this reason only, most of them stop writing and soon disappear from literary scene. And for this reason only, it is relevant for me to discuss here and share, that in modern time, we as a world have come together for many great reasons, but still, due to the cultural differences and language barriers, we have been unable to see and understand, what is more common in us, than our differences.
I contemplated this fact over the years only to find an answer to the question it was posing before me and many writers like me, and one day, something started to change in me. I realized that I was no longer a person who should only speak or write in English, but could also dream in it. That day, I wrote my very first English poem in USA, after a long time, since my school days in India. That day I knew, I had finally made English my own language, without ever forgetting my mother tongue, that still inspires me to write, now in both the languages. I have been like a volcano ever since; a volcano that had rested for over a decade and erupted all of a sudden by one gentle touch of time, spurting out poems one after another, like molten rock, dark ashes and diamonds, creating many fertile islands around me. And one day, standing on one of those islands, I dreamt of a magazine, that can be a platform for many writers and poets like me, called “Life and Legends.”
Some might say, this is one of a kind editorial they have ever read, but at Life and Legends, our focus is not to mimic popular models of editing and publishing; instead, we will be known for writing and publishing literature that mirrors life, and reflects core human values.
“Life and Legends” primarily a poetry magazine in English, will also be publishing other forms of literature in several different languages with their English translations, to stimulate creative conversations on what is being written in our world today; and help understand the relevance and importance of them by sharing with the readers at international level.
At Life and Legends, we are going to celebrate the works of promising new writers, who may remain undiscovered, if we are not open to look at them and their works, due to the language barriers and bias. We are also going to publish the works of established contemporary writers and poets from across the world, alongside the works of masters, who inspire us and guide our path. On this occasion, we want to remember and pay tribute to forever inspiring Maya Angelou, whom we have lost just a couple weeks before the launch of our magazine. At “Life and Legends”, we share her vision and hope in mankind.
In the end, I want to express my sincere gratitude to our wonderful editorial team, and contributing editors. Thank you Helene Cardona, Athina Merkouris, Salma Jilani, Akhtar Islam and Dean Pasch; without your contributions, we would never had looked this good.
Peace and poetry to all.
Editor-in-Chief – Life and Legends
June 12th, 2014