An Interview with Stephen Gill
Sapna Parihar is a scholar at IKS University in Chattisgarh, India. She asks these questions, some probing,
about the writing and beliefs of Dr. Stephen Gill, who has written extensively about peace in his poetry and
prose. She says that she has read Stephen Gill’s writing religiously. He visited India in 2012 and stayed at the
University Campus of IKS University for almost a month. He was the guest of honor at the International
Conference on Indian Art Form from 26th to 28rth February 2012. The conference was organized by the same
university. She had the honor of being in the company of the writer most of time in the Department of English
of I.K.S. University. He cleared many of her doubts about his persona and writings with his lectures and
interactions. The following questions came to the mind of Sapna Parihar after his departure from India.
She thanks him for his magnanimity and humility that facilitated this literary interaction. Sapna Parihar is
working on a Ph.D. dissertation on the works of Stephen Gill under Professor Dr. ID. Tiwari, head of the
Department of English. Professor Dr. Tiwari is a prominent literary critic.
1. You spent your childhood in India and Pakistan. Is there, anything special in your motherland that attracts you because we believe that - tuuh tUeHkqafEk”p LOkxZknfIk Xkfj;Lkh -mother and the motherland are supreme to Heaven?
My attraction to India has nothing to do with my childhood. When I visit India I feel cultural shocks just as newcomers do when they come to Canada. Culturally, I am neither entirely a Canadian nor entirely an Indian. I have my own values. The shocks are there, because I have been away from India for decades. After two or three visits to India in the last three years, these shocks have been reduced. Before 2010 my visits used to be after ten years or more.
Focusing on your words “anything special”, I can say there is certainly something special in the bond among the followers of the same tribe. Even civilized people are tribal, and their tribal bond is strong. Writers are also tribal. I have friends of my tribe in several parts of the world. I have a special bond with IKS University because I have friends who are writers or have literary tendencies. To start with, there is Vice Chancellor Professor Dr. Mandvi Singh, who is an artist as well. The entire English Department consists of writers, including its scholars, and Head, Professor ID Tiwari, and Dr. Manoj Kumar. Then there are scholars, including Sapna Parihar, Rekha and Rupal Farista.
I can add with my unflinching faith that it is the love that has the mystical energy to bind everything together. I have defined the varied manifestations of this energy in my poems, prefaces to the collections of my poems, and also in my novel The Coexistence. I believe mother is the embodiment of love. I have been visiting India once in a year in the last three years because of this love. I do not find life comfortable in India. There is also fear at every step in different forms. I do not want to point out these discomforts and fears, though they are present at every corner of my every visit to India. In spite of these inconveniences my visits are frequent now, because I love to see the mother who birthed me.
2. What is peace according to you? Do you think that peace is the new weapon that can fight back terrorism and setup harmony and humanity?
People often talk of peace in diverse connotations. I have stated also elsewhere that peace is the absence of bloodshed and brutality. To me peace is not the absence of conflicts and problems neither in personal nor in political life. Most of my works revolve around peace and love. To me both are the two sides of the same coin. I have discussed this question in detail in my novel the Coexistence, in my interviews, and the prefaces of my collections of poems. In my epical poem The Amputee I discuss it from a different angle. I have pointed out that peace is multidimensional and needs to be tackled multi dimensionally. The important aspect is awareness or enlightenment. Some schools of terrorism also want peace. They have been brain washed to believe that the easiest way to enter the kingdom of peace is to get a quick passport by killing even wives who have nothing to do with politics, the people who work for day-to-day bread, and innocent children.
I have pointed it out again and again that for a lasting world peace, there is a need for a parliament of nations. The UN is a sort of parliament of nations, but it needs to be reformed along the lines of democratic principls.
To shape the nest of peace for a better future, it is important to educate children right from the day they enter the world. One step is to change the ways to educate children and adults. Instead of making the system of education competitive, it should be cooperative. I have deliberated on this issue extensively in my paper on internationalism in universities.
The plant to nourish the growth of peace is the family, and parents should assume responsibilities to water it with enlightened care. I have discussed this aspect in detail in my preface to the Amputee. I have pointed out that parenting should be legislated for the sake of peace. Those who think that procreation is everyone’s birth right are wrong. As a result of this thinking, human population is growing much faster than the population of animals. In this age when crime is on the increase, along with poverty and population, it is necessary for the states to force citizens to be licensed to be knowledgeable parents. Any activity that can harm others is regulated. By controlling undesirable parenting, the state will be able to control the mushrooming of sociopathic sharks that disrupt the calm waters of peace.
The tactics to wear out terrorism have to be changed as the world has drastically changed. Terrorism is the result of clashes of ideas. So, terrorism has to be challenged on the front of ideas with ideas, not with bombs and guns.
3. What is important for peace first? Should we crush terrorism first or to spread the peace first to achieve peace? How can it be done?
I write mostly about religious terrorism. Followers of this type of terrorism are misguided individuals. They receive the food of wrong information either in their family environment or from the schools they attend. The poison of terrorism is also injected in them by the persons who want to use youth for political purposes. The area that is affected by this poison is the mind, and this is the area that has to be detoxified by educating parents, and introducing a healthy school curriculum. Democratic governments should be careful in their selection of the material to use in schools and colleges. Also parenting should be legislated, as I have mentioned before.
Religious terrorists do not love this world. They look for the world of peace after death. The march of their journey to another world is on the corpses of innocent men, women and children.
4. How can we define spiritual peace and mental peace and what is difference between them?
To me both are interrelated as roots are related to the tree and the tree is related to its fruits. Spiritual peace is the energy that vibrates in life. Spirit is God in action. God is the energy of love that connects humans with Him and the world around. This energy manifests in thoughts, actions and everything. Spiritual peace is the fountain that gives a dynamic feel from its dream-like sound. Spiritual peace is not associated with any religion. Its development brings awareness of our being.
5. How can we feel peace in ourselves and help others to achieve this peace? Is there any way?
Spiritual peace gives mental peace and mental peace depends on the time-tested principal of giving, because whatever we give comes back in manifold forms. In order to be blessed with peace, we have to find ways to give peace to others. This is what Jesus meant when he said give and it shall be given to you. This is the centre of Indian thought also when it is said to serve others without expectations. This means love for the sake of loving without any motive. Unforgiveness, jealousy, greed and lies are the assassins of peace.
The way to enjoy the banquet of peace is not to judge others because this opens the door to expose ourselves to judgment; the way to breathe the air of peace is not to condemn others because this opens the door to expose ourselves for our condemnation; the way to smell the fragrance of peace is to forgive our trespasses because this leads to our freedom from the self-dug graves of pains. One cannot wash a blood-stained towel with blood. To be able to grow the lotus of peace it is indispensable to water the earth with forgiveness because the parched earth of unforgiveness grows no flowers. This lotus of peace is nourished with the deliberate choice of the will. Jesus instructs us to forgive as God forgives us. This is also the way to remove the tumor from the inner life.
The steep and narrow path that goes to the abode of peace is through the jungle, where the gleam from greed, jealousy and lies mislead the traveler. Selfless service to society is the shield that protects a traveler from such gleams. Every individual has something to give back. A medical doctor can serve society through his or her medical knowledge, a poet through his creations, a mother through her skills to shape the character of her children, and the list can go on. Every person has received a donation from divinity to share.
Giving is an integral ingredient to mix into the bread for sharing to enjoy the ambrosia of peace. This is also tapping into the fountain that is inside as the repository of mystical energy. Its water flows outward from inside. Peace is exhaling, not inhaling. To be peaceful, one should serve others for their peace according to one’s ability. Everyone is unique in the garden of humans and can contribute to beautify it in his or her own unique way. The outcome of this process is peace. The energy produced by peace transforms into health, happiness, beauty and prosperity.
6. Do you think that the social infrastructure is main cause of increased terrorism?
The standing waters of some inane social infrastructures breed the reptiles of terrorism.
7. According to you what are the hurdles in the way of progress of countries, especially of India?
To me time is Laxshmi. To honor time is to honor Lakshmi, and to honor Lakshmi it is important to honor commitments that include to stand in lines at banks and railway stations to buy tickets. Assistants should keep their eyes to see who is in line and who is not. Waste of time and lack of honesty in personal and business dealings are the major hurdles in the way of progress.
8. What is the relation between a creator and Theatre? As a writer you are a creator which type of theatre you want for yourself?
A creator creates for sharing, and for sharing creator needs a theatre or a platform. There are different forms of creators, including dancers, painters, poets and musicians. They all need theatres to share their individual creations. The relation between a creator and theatre is an intimate candlelit dinner for two. The supreme creator is God, and the world is His theatre.
Every human has inherited the quality of creation from the Supreme Creator. Next to the Supreme Creator is the mother, because she shapes living beings. I want to share my poetic creations with others and for sharing I need books and digital media. My theatre or platform is the living world.
9. What is the place of truth and peace in the modern time?
Truth and peace are the soul of living. Without truth there is no peace. Truth is sincerity in action, and also the womb of wisdom.
10. The second coming” of W.B. yeast found then post war Europe ripe for second coming of the Christ. He envisaged that the world would eventually meet the doomsday. Modern world faces the same situations. Have you too envisaged the same in the ‘The Flame’. How do you compare ‘Flame’ with the ‘Second Coming.’?
Before putting this question on the surgical table for a minute examination, it is important to be clear about certain concepts related to the second coming of Jesus, and the doomsday because they mean differently to different Biblical scholars. We will also consider the Europe of W.B. Yeats’s times and conclude by comparing the Flame, and “The Second Coming”.
The first coming refers to the birth of Jesus roughly two thousand and twelve years ago in Bethlehem, a historically rich town in the West Bank. It is in the section of the Israel Occupied Territorial Area (IOTA) generally known as Occupied Territories. It is about six miles from Jerusalem.
Christian use also the word Messiah for Jesus and in Judaism he is referred only as Messiah. Whereas Christians wait for his second coming, in Judaism it will be his first coming. It is a Jewish belief that the coming of Messiah will usher in the age of peace and unity of all people under one God. Almost same is the conviction of Christians when Christ will return. Judaism does not believe in the first coming of Messiah.
There are several doomsday theories according to several calendars and beliefs. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says about the doomsday: “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified, for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” In his Gospel, Matthew also records the direct words of Jesus (24: 27): “For as the lightening comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Jesus calls himself Son of Man.
Jesus makes it clear that no one knows when the world will end. But he gives some signs, which include wars among nations, tribulations, pestilence and so on. He says when these things happen, the end is near, but still the end will come as a thief in the night. He urges his followers to remain vigilant because no one knows when the thief will come. It is recorded also in the Gospel of Mark (13: 30-33.), where Jesus makes it absolutely clear, “But that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.” Most Christians, particularly Catholics, do not set dates of the doomsday, though that day is inevitable. The faithful are urged to carry on their routine as usual.
In addition to the Gospel where Jesus talks of his returning to judge and to rule, there are prophesies in other books of the Bible which are in forms of visions, or waking dreams. Jesus talks in a straightforward and simple language. But the writers of others books of the Bible talk in symbols that make it difficult to understand. Biblical scholars interpret them in their own ways. Among these books which present a picture of the doomsday and return of Christ is the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible written by John.
W.B Yeats lived when Europe after the First World War was going through untold sufferings. He was born in 1865, and died in 1939. “The Second Coming” was written in 1919, and appeared for the first time in 1920. Yeats revised it several times. The First World War ended on November 11, 1918. Several old nations disappeared and empires collapsed. Several new countries were born. Around 50 million people died from the influenza outbreak in the world. There was inflation and starvation everywhere. 10 million people perished in the war itself. Almost one generation of young people was lost in war. There was poverty and starvation all over Europe. The demons of enormous number of economic problems wandered everywhere. The social economy was in shambles. Inside Russia, a bloody revolution was going on.
It is wrong to imagine that because of the suffering, W.B. Yeats thought that the Europe after the war was the scene of the doomsday and the second coming of Jesus was imminent to restore order and peace. Keeping close to the Gospels, he does not pinpoint dates and time, although he refers to some signs which would indicate the coming of Christ is near.
Though “the Second Coming” of W.B. Yeats is widely anthologized, it still needs revisions if the poem is read strictly in the Biblical sense of the second coming of Jesus. All the different versions become questionable from the point of cohesion and logical development. The lines where he talks of lion with the head of a man would not make any sense. It also does not make any sense when he says, “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,/ Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” Readers can interpret anything in any way he or she likes. The poem begins to appear in a rough form, though the poem would still possess the qualities of beauty because of its vagueness, savage imagery and passionate language.
It is worth-noting that Yeats is known for employing myths to convey his personal messages. He twisted original myths to serve his purpose that has disturbed his critics. As a result his symbolism grows obscure. This practice of Yeats is clear as a writer of Cuchulain plays. He distorts the legend of Cuchulain so that he can employ him for his symbolic purpose. He was not a Christian to talk about the second coming of Jesus. He was a theosophist. He also used to keep in touch with spirits through mediums for advice. This practice is against Christian beliefs.
The poem becomes understandable if the second coming is taken not in the literal or historical sense of Christianity. Yeats is using it in a symbolic sense of rebirth like a phoenix. He talks of rebirth in the last lines of this poem to convey that Europe which is a wasteland will be born again as a lion with the intellect of human. The entire poem becomes meaningful after reading it in this symbolic sense.
I noted in 1978 in my introduction to my book Six Symbolist Plays of Yeats that Yeats was a most conscious craftsman. He never let his work suffer for want of time. He is well-known for his obsessive desire to revise his works constantly. Therefore it would be wrong to say that “the Second Coming” is a sort of rough draft. It is to be kept in mind that Yeats was influenced by the symbolist who gave art the status of religion. Artists became completely isolated from the general public and their art also became more vague. They revised their works repeatedly and thoughtfully which made them more difficult for an average reader to understand.
Keeping these observations in view, I am convinced that the poet has not used the words “The Second Coming” literally in the Biblical sense. He has not used various Irish mythologies literally either. He has given them his own meanings and significance. “The Second Coming” should be taken as the change from diseased to the most healthy and robust Europe. After using these lenses, the imagery of lion with the head of a man and the last lines of the poem start making better sense. The poem becomes prophetic and this prophesy of WB Yeats is fulfilled the Europe becomes one nation and its currency Euro a symbol of pride.
As far as comparison with the Flame, I would leave this to scholars. I may add that the Flame is epical, and “the Second Coming” has twenty-two lines. Yeats’s poem is available in different versions. On the other hand, I never felt any necessity to revise The Flame. The common thread in both is passion and hope. I feel that in the last lines Yeats imagines that Europe will be transformed. In other words, he believes that Europe will rise out of its ashes as a phoenix does. In my poem there is hope for the return of the Flame to restore sanity.
11.” How have you dealt with myths, particularly Indian myths in your works?
Myths refer to the stories about supernatural events that are associated usually with religion. In a wider sense, myths are of a symbolical nature to represent a cosmic process. For an individual a myth may represent also a psychological state. I believe that wise men invented myths to teach a truth, but later they were taken literally.
Myths have been constantly used to enrich literature. Milton, Shelley and Keats used myths for the enrichment of their works. Among the recent writers, I can include the names of James Joyce, Franz Kafka, W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot who have created personal myths, or their personal symbols. Mythology is the study of myths. A myth represents a truth and truth is cosmopolitan and eternal. I write about truth. I have used Indian myths more frequently and directly in my latest epical poem the Amputee than elsewhere.
Mythology has always been dear to me. Critics have traced a strong impact of mythology in my works, particularly in my epical poem The Flame. Dr. Sudhir Arora has discussed the impact of mythologies in my works in his book The Poetic Corpus of Stephen Gill, published by Sarup Book Publishers. Dr. Arora has edited The Flame Unmasked, which is a collection of research papers by scholars, published by Prakash Book Depot. In this collection of research papers, some scholars have traced mythological influences in my works. There are obvious references to Indian mythology in my works also in Dr. Nilanshu Kumar Agarwal’s book Discovering Stephen Gill. Dr. Anuradha Sharma has done extensive work in this field. In her edited book, An Interpretation of the Mind and Art of Stephen Gill, there is a scholarly paper, titled “Hindu Mythology and the Flame by Stephen Gill”.
I have authored Six Symbolist Plays of Yeats to evaluate the Cuchulain plays of W.B. Yeats. Cuchulain is a mythological super hero of Ireland with incredible talent and strength. He always finds women to fall in love, ending in tragedy. Unknowingly, he kills his own son in a fight. Yeats uses this mythological hero to feed his own sense of nationalism. Some critics compare Cuchulain with Krishna.
Canada, which is my adopted country, is not as rich in mythology as India is. Canadian history starts usually with the French who came as explorers in the sixteenth century and stayed to settle, although Aboriginals, including First Nations Peoples (Inuit and Métis) have been in Canada for centuries. Canada’s total population is about thirty-five million, and Aboriginal are roughly 3.8 per cent of the national population. Roughly, Aboriginals are a little over one million. Aboriginals have oral traditions which are mostly about their origin, history, spirituality, and morality. They believe that life began on the continent of North America. I have discussed the Aboriginals in my novel The Coexistence. Aboriginals came to Canada presumably from the East during the Ice Age.
One of these First Nations is the Ojibway people who are scattered across Canada and the United States. They have developed their own mythologies and culture. Lino Leitao, a Canadian novelist and short story writer, compares messages in my poetry with the mythological interpretation of the Ojibways in “The Concept of Harmony in the Ojibways of Canada and the Poetry of Stephen Gill.” This paper has appeared in several publications and is available online.
Borrowing some material from Lino Leitao’s paper, I would say that the Ojibway people believe that everything on earth is connected. In one of their mythologies, their elders had a good life when they lived in harmony with the plants, animals and all living beings. Bad days followed when they began to fight due to jealousy, hatred, fear and anger. They believe that all humans are one and they are separated only by tongues. In their prayer, Ojibway people ask: Sacred One/Teach love, compassion, and honor/That we may heal the earth/And heal each other..
Leitao says that this is a view that Stephen Gill explores in his poetry as well as in prose. The Ojibways call the earth mother because she gives birth to all living beings. Leitao states that Stephen Gill, like the Ojibway people, sees a close connection between the earth and its inhabitants. This thought is present also in the culture of India. The development of the thought of the Ojibway nation may have been the result of their close observations and proximity to nature. They must have understood the tongue of the rocks, melodies in the waterfalls and grace in nature’s calm and furious moods.
What Stephen Gill visions in poetry, the Ojibways chant in their prayers that are based on their centuries-old stories about the creation of the universe. Mishomis, an Ojibway Indian, believes that the way to be happy is to be in harmony with every object in the universe. The Ojibways asks the Sacred one to teach love and compassion. In one of the hymns of the Ojibways, titled “Grandfather Story” , this harmony has been broken. It asks Grandfather to look at our brokenness. We know that in all creators only the human family has strayed from the Sacred Way. We know that we are the only ones who are divided. The Ojibway nation throws the entire responsibility on humans for tearing apart harmony. They lament that humans “are the only/Who are divided.” Leitao says that the message in the poetry of Stephen Gill is harmony. This is the message in the mythologies of the Ojibway people.
Let us not forget that there are also modern myths that are not just pure fantasy as classical myths are. Modern myths, or living myths, are about today that keeps changing. Their point of origin is good and bad about the predicament of life. One example is the creation of the jungle hero, called Tarzan. There are more of a different nature.
As far as I know there is no living Canadian myth in line with the myth of Tarzan, but there are some about the country. For example there is a myth that all Canadians live in snow houses called Igloos. Another myth is that there is snow everywhere all year around in Canada; everyone in the province of Quebec speaks French; sex is freely available; and a lot about alcohol consumption. I have discussed all these and several more myths about Canada in my lnovel The Coexistence.
12. Sir according to you both the countries India and Canada have certain similarities. What are your views?
1. Both are democratic nations, and have written well-defined constitutions to run their governments.
2. Both are multicultural, and therefore largely tolerant to the culture and religious practices of others.
3. Both believe in peaceful ways to solve their national and international problems. India is influenced by Karamchand Gandhi and Canada by Lester Bowles Pearson. Both these leaders believed in non-violence in domestic and foreign affairs.
4. Both were colonies of the British Empire, though India is now only a member of the British Commonwealth and Canada is headed by the Queen of England.
5. Both have Aboriginal population that are not fully recognized.
I have discussed similarities and dissimilarities between India and Canada in detail in my novel The Coexistence.
13. Give your account on the proverb whole world is a family?
The idea of one family, VASUDAIV KUTUMBAKAM, was envisioned by holy people centuries ago when travels even within a city was not free from risks. Among the oldest scriptures, the Vedas hold a respectable position. This concept of VASUDAIV KUTUMBAKAM, mentioned in the Vedas, can be translated as the whole world is one family. This concept is proving true in the laboratory of the social, political and financial globe of today. There are holy persons and intellectuals who do not wear any masks, because their physical, mental and spiritual eyes are wide open. Those holy people centuries ago knew that there cannot be peace anywhere unless the citizens of the globe realize that the world is one family, and this concept of oneness will fall apart if the values that keep the members of the family united are not honored.
In a family there are brothers and sisters of every belief and shape, even color. One member of the same family can be hard working and another member may be lazy. One member may believe in one God and another in something else. In spite of the variations in their beliefs, they are concerned about one another. The structure of one family is based on coexistence and tolerance, which is the main theme of my novel The Coexistence. Without coexistence the whole family suffers.
My studies have convinced me that the concept of one family or the concept of coexistence is basically Indian. India has given several other concepts to the world, including the science of Yoga and meditation. There are several gurus in the West who mint money by teaching the techniques of yoga to relax. Their students are rich individuals, who are eager to know how to relax while at the same time be able to make more money. My focus is not on those gurus that are using this science to be rich. My focus is on the wonderful Indian contributions of yoga and meditation and several other contributions in the field of health. Even the concept of the zero in arithmetic is from India that has been hijacked by other cultures.
One meaningful contribution of India to world civilization is the ideology of coexistence. This concept is the result of observation of natural phenomena. Mahavira and Buddha have preached and practiced coexistence. Their followers practice it even today. Their love for humans is so intense that some of them have extended it to include animals. Several Indians believe in coexisting with nature as well as with the animal kingdom. This is the extension of their love to every being in this world. The whole universe is their family. This concept is also being practiced in some form in the West.
The concept of coexistence was preached by great masters. In olden days, missionaries for peace went from India to foreign nations. Lately, another great master of India, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, followed the same footsteps. By following the footsteps of Gandhi, persons like Martin Luther King from the USA and Nelson Mandela from Africa have been honored with Nobel Prizes.
This concept of non-violence or coexistence was originated in India, but it is being practiced more meaningfully in the West, as are the techniques of yoga and meditation. Western democracies are based on the concept of live and let live. In other words, the concept of coexistence. By following this ideology, Western democracies have brought economic prosperities to their nations. If there is no peace in a nation, no one would like to invest capital in that nation. Investors want to know if their capital will be safe. In order to have the blessings of prosperity, there has to be the blessings of a sound structure of peace first. In order to have the blessings of peace, there has to be the blessings of a sound structure of coexistence or live and let live. This is the message of VASUDAIV KUTUMBAKAM.
It is logical to conclude that bloodshed brings more bloodshed and terrorism brings more terrorism. In the same way, love leads to love and peaceful means to peace. If a person sows the seeds of apples, only the trees of apple will grow. If the seeds of poison are planted, plants of poison will grow. It is just not possible to have peace by killing children, women and putting the houses of citizens to fire. In order to have peace, there has to be peaceful means, including dialogue and discussions. This is the way of civilized humans, and this is what the world of today needs.
It is not possible for all the members of a family to follow uniformity in their thoughts. It is even more impossible in the world of today. Expectations of homogeneity in political, social and religious spheres are utopian expectations. Tolerance, understanding and coexistence are the ways to peace and progress. The persons who try to have uniformity of population or religious beliefs are running after their illusions. History is full of these chasers of their own illusions. They achieved nothing but destruction.
There is another illustration to explain this scenario. A garden with only one kind of fruit or flower is not as attractive as is the garden with flowers of different kinds and colors. It is fun—it is more enjoyable-- to have flowers and fruits of different shades and kinds in the same orchard. This is what two prime ministers of Canada say in their own ways: Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker said in 1961:
“It is rather a garden into which have been transplanted the hardiest and brightest flowers from many kinds, each retaining in its own environment the best qualities for which it was loved and prized in its native land.”
Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier said in a more poetic way:
“I have visited in England one of those models of Gothic architecture which the hand of genius, guided by an unerring faith, has molded into a harmonious whole. This cathedral is made of marble, oak and granite. It is the image of the nation I would like to see Canada become. For here, I want the marble to remain the marble; the granite to remain granite; the oak to remain oak; and out of all these elements I would build a nation great among the nations of the world.”
The ideology of one family living peacefully is not possible without accepting the ideology of live and let live. This ideology is based on the rock of multiculturalism—also called pluralism. The message that I want to convey is not new for India. This message is to let the flower of multiculturalism grow and let it give its fragrance to every member of the world family, no matter where he or she lives.
India is blessed with nearly everything that is needed to be more prosperous in the terrain of life. However more prosperity is not possible unless there are pleasant rays from the sun of peace. Peace and prosperity go together. Peace is the legitimate and blissful child of VASUDAIV KUTUMBAKAM.
The beauty of coexistence has now spread to every corner of the globe. Western democracies have come to this understanding through their own studies and experiences. The corners that have come to this understanding are shinning and are on the way to shine more. It is not the philosophy of weak people. Rather it is the philosophy of brave persons. With this philosophy Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was able to free India from the clutches of a mighty empire.
The concept of coexistence is largely based on the realization that the world is one family. The whole family cannot stay together as one unit without practicing the principles of love and compassion that lay the foundation for peace. Hindu culture has made another valuable contribution in the realm of peace. This contribution refers to God as nothing but peace, Om shanti shanti shanti Om. This means God is peace. One word that has been used for God in Christian theology is Omega. Omega is a Latin word that means the same as OM in Sanskrit. Both great religions, Hindu and Christianity, believe that God is peace. Jesus Christ says that “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Peace is the base of the entire ministry of Jesus Christ. This is the base of VASUDAIV KUTUMBAKAM that was prophesized and pointed out centuries ago in India. Now is the time for India to go back to its meaningful roots in order to have more peace, and more prosperity. This is what Mahatma Gandhi taught and practiced—this is what the Vedas teach and this is what the twentieth-century expects from India. This is the Gandhian way to produce a symphony of human hearts and this is the way to survive and prosper in the complex world of today.
14. What according to you is the future of India?
India can boast of having the richest persons of the world and be ashamed to have the poorest on earth. India has the most luxurious buildings that one can think of and also the most pathetic shanties. It is a country of contrasts, steeped in superstitions. India can boast of having produced the most advanced scientists and scholars, and at the same time has allowed a majority of the population to remain illiterate. India is a tale of two cousins coexisting for generations who will continue coexisting for generations to come. Their visibility and impact are everywhere.
The illiterate children of one cousin want more hands to help them because of their job situation. They want more hands also because their life span is short. Therefore they have many children. There are laws against child labor and for compulsory education. But no one cares for these laws in any corner of India. Their children attend places of worship faithfully, and celebrate festivals with open hearts. They are convinced that their present life is the outcome of their previous sins. They accept the other cousin, because he provides jobs for them.
Another cousin is rolling in wealth. This cousin has an array of servants and sends his children to receive education in the best schools of India and also in the West, particularly in England, the USA and Canada. He needs cheap labor and a multitude to vote during elections to come to power. He does not want to upset the equilibrium.
This state of coexistence between the cousins was in India for centuries and will remain in India for centuries. The best medical doctors, scientists, spices, wearing material and food will continue going out. India has and will always have every modern technology even in the future, but their full benefit will remain largely restricted to one cousin as it is under the present situation.
15. You are very popular in India and there are many doing research on your books. What kind of response do you get in European countries?
The response from Europe is encouraging. I appreciate your words about my popularity in India, particularly among scholars who are doing their doctorates on my works and university teachers who are writing books. However, I feel that Indian scholars can do better in certain areas concerning peace which have not been properly explored. One of them is a parliament of nations. I have written extensively about it in my interviews, preface and my novel the Coexistence. Dr. George Hines has also written about it in his book Stephen Gill and His Works.
I have used the phrase the Republic of Reptiles in my novel The Coexistence several times because it is one of its themes. Professor Dr. Daniel Bratton has also mentioned it in his paper. He mentions also about the agents of Lucifer-- a phrase that I use several times because of its importance in the novel. With the exception of Professor Daniel Bratton from Canada, no one from India has noticed these important phrases and wrote about it. Another subject is the theosophist philosophy that took root in India and touched the pens of Irish poets and playwrights. Hope is another topic and foregrounding has been touched by a couple of scholars though it is dominant in my poetry.
16. It is said that east and west can never meet but in your writings they often meet. What are the meeting points in the two civilizations?
There is only one meeting point for the East and the West in my writing and that is peace. Everyone wants peace although the ways to achieve it are different. Most cultures believe in achieving peace through peaceful means. I discuss the values of peace and how to obtain it in a peaceful way. Everyone accepts this approach.
Let me share that people are people everywhere. They all have the same dreams. They all want to lead a peaceful life. This is the core of life and this is the core of my writing.
17. Who is your ideal poet?
18. I have read your writings religiously and can say with certainty that peace and coexistence are the focal points in them. How can this world be made better mere with words where only violence rules and might is still considered right.
This question has always fascinated me and fascinates me even today. When I look around, I find that words are suffused with energy. According to Christianity and Judaism, God created the world with His words, and Christ revived dead and healed the blind and lepers with only words.
Written words are also suffused with energy. This is the reason why books are banned and the writers imprisoned. Take the cases of Saman Rushdie and Tasleema Nasrin. I will say that writing is the embodiment of the power of soul that magnifies every time someone reads a book. A mystical power flows from the tip of a poet’s pen. The ancient sacred books of the Vedas, Upanishads, the five volumes of the Hebrew Old Testament and the Koran are mostly in verse. They have and are still influencing people.
I can say that poetry is the language of soul. The word that Inuit use for poetry is akin to the word for soul. With the invention of writing, prose began to be used more because it was easier to record and express. The Pentagon papers concerning the Vietnam War changed the way of thinking of several Americans. More than 100 years earlier, the American civil war for the liberation of the slaves was partly caused by a book titled Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, and Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 have caused storms. In the social and political fields, the writers who reflect the spirit of their ages are still read. The French and Russian revolutions were largely due to their writers. Maxim Gorki is known today for his social realism.
Writers and poets have been behind many world revolutions. Their help has been sought in every era in every corner of the globe. They are not silent even today; they are promoting world peace in their own way. Writers and poets can influence people because they are involved with every aspect of life these days. They are involved with newspapers, radio and TV; they write novels, stories and articles, and even speeches for business executives and politicians. It is hard to think of even a single corner of modern life where they are not involved in one way or another. Consequently, they are in a strong position to educate their readers, although this may be a slow process. However, it is a lasting and a quiet way to influence the thinking of the reader.
Shakespeare was right when he said the pen is mightier than the sword, and so was Shelley who said poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. The energy in written words is incontrovertibly awe-inspiring. Words have helped in preserving customs, and historical facts. In 1215, King John of England signed the Magna Carta which is the base of modern democratic constitutions. Its influence on the democratic laws of today cannot be denied. Without written words laws become vague.
Poetry and fiction are also to convey knowledge, but this type of knowledge may not be in parallel to what is conveyed by chemistry and physics. My novel The Coexistence does convey the knowledge about nuclear weapons and fear. My epical poem The Flame creates a parallel world to convey the brutality and futility of killing. The knowledge received through poetry and fiction is sometimes more reliable and convincing than the knowledge received in a straightforward way. Words are to communicate and communication is sharing, a word from the Latin communis. Sharing includes conveying information. Words whether spoken or written have the energy to change the world. A word can inspire love and laughter as well as negative aspects like fear and hatred. In the book of Proverbs (Old Testament of the Bible), !8:21, it is written: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Words cause emotions and emotion cause actions. Rhetoric demonstrates its power often during elections.
19. As you have written in the preface of the Flame, the flame symbolizes many things. Does it also stand for uncontrolled violence?
20. What are your academic plans for the next decade?
I am listing below my academic and non-academic plans:
1. My epical poem The Amputee needs a few master strokes for its refinement. It will be released in 2013. The epic is about a sexually abused child.
2. I plan to complete the manuscript of a collection of my short stories. I need to add four to six more stories.
3. I am serious about completing my novel to trace the influences of King Solomon particularly in Ethiopia and the area in the Middle East where he ruled, discussing the present situation. I believe that the Garden of Eden existed somewhere in the Middle East which is a dangerous spot for world peace. This spot disturbed the peace of Adam and Eve, and is disturbing the peace of the world even today. It seems that the world civilization started somewhere from there and will end from there.
4. I also want to write a novel based on the royal family of Khairagarh, but there are no encouraging signs from anywhere to sponsor this project.
5. I want to inject life into the IKSU Centre for Stephen Gill Studies. I want this centre to be vibrant.
6. I am anxious to complete a non-fiction manuscript of a book on Pakistan. I have written most of its chapters.
7. Also I want to complete the manuscript of a book on contemporary Indian English writers.
8. I am also working on a manuscript to record what has appeared in the written news media of the West about my literary activities.
9. I am also preparing a manuscript for a book about my convictions on love, peace and poetry.
10. I will continue writing timely articles and introductions for deserving collections of poems and suggesting ways to their authors to improve creative and critical works.
Among the non-academic projects, I want to set up:
1. An English media high school, preferably in the province of Chhattisgarh for poor communities.
2. Also I plan to set up a modern hospital.
To set up an English media high school and a modern hospital, I will not be able to go ahead alone. These projects will succeed or fail, or meet partial success depending on the sources I will be able to tap. A modern hospital is a must between Khairagarh and Rajnandgaon. So is an English media school for the children from the communities who cannot otherwise dream of obtaining these facilities.
The above listed projects are possible to complete within four years. I will use my contacts in the West to get donations in the form of labor to set up a school and hospital.
You asked my plans for the next decade. I keep only two plans. One is for my whole life and that is to write about peace and love. I divide this plan usually into one and two years. My yearly plans are further divided into months and then monthly plans into weeks and daily. That is how I work with my limited time and assistance. I am positive that I will be able to accomplish my plans within my set schedule. My life is a web of miracles, and I find that behind each miracle there was obviously a divine plan. I am certain that with the help of the Almighty and my friends, I will be able to achieve my dream within the time frame of four years.