Saturday, July 15, 2017



The Editorial Committee would like to welcome all of you to share the very first version of Songsoptok Quarterly. A brief explanation of this change is in order. The monthly version of our magazine ran for three years – an honorable score for any Webzine. But the members of the editorial committee are full time professionals as well and we realized that continuing the monthly format would seriously compromise the quality of the magazine. Hence the decision to change it to a quarterly. This, we think, will give us more time to improve the quality of the magazine even more. We have also made some changes in our editorial policy – Songsoptok will once again be published both in English and in Bengali. We firmly believe that this will increase the readership and the quality of our magazine and motivate a larger number of writers to contribute to our blog.

The theme for the first issue of Songsoptok is perhaps the reflection of the state of mind of its editors, a journey back to the roots of this endeavor. Songsoptok started as a blog in two languages with the objective of creating a permanent bridge between the readers and contributors in both English and Bengali. At one point it became an all-English blog. Over the last three years we came to realize that we were losing touch with an important section of our followers who prefer to write in their mother tongue. Hence our journey back to the roots. We want to give equal importance to both the languages. Songsoptok is like no other webzine because it is not a bilingual blog where everything is translated in another language. It is a blog that publishes original creations in two languages.

And then I started thinking about the theme. What exactly are our roots? Are our roots hereditary or environmental? Are my roots in the country and the culture where I was born or are they where I actually live? In today’s modern society driven by the need to move, both literally and figuratively, do we even have roots? If we do have roots, do we actually want to think about them or want to go back?

We live in a strange world today. The boundaries of countries are constantly being redefined – in a constant state of flux due to revolutions, civil wars and external aggression. Large sections of the population in these countries are displaced across their borders every day, trying to find a safe haven for their families and children. Urban-rural migration is spurred by economic disasters within the countries themselves, uprooting people almost overnight. Religious fanaticism and intolerance have also contributed to widespread dislocation. All this in addition to those who have chosen to make their lives in different countries, far from the place they were actually born in. In such a shifting, dynamic world, can anyone actually grow roots, leave alone wanting to go back to them?

The concept of roots is often related to a certain nostalgia for the past, for a life and an environment that disappear due to different reasons. We hardly think of our roots when we are young – the challenge and the excitement of the present take up all our energy and imagination. There are points to be proved, conquests to be made, territories to acquire and defend. We exalt in constant movement, in new discoveries and ideas. But just like a tree that spreads its branches to reach out to the sky while firmly rooted in the ground, I think our hereditary roots play the same role for some of us. Once the urge for moving ahead becomes less important, we again feel the pull of our roots. We tend to become nostalgic then, not necessarily for our religion or culture, but more for our childhood and young adulthood and everything associated with that. There is nothing wrong in that. What is wrong, though, is the forceful imposition of values that have evolved over years and are no longer relevant. By force, if necessary. What is happening in India today in the name of religion is a case in point.

Some of us are like transplanted trees, nurtured carefully to take root in a different soil. Children born or growing up in a different country naturally relate to their immediate environment. Their roots are and always will be there, whatever their parents may do to inculcate their own values and beliefs. Children of adoptive parents often have no idea of their origin till they become adults. I have seen some of them going back to rediscover their roots in the country they were born. I have seen others who don’t feel the need. Are they rootless? No. Their roots are where they grow up.

While writing this editorial I remembered the poem by Sir Walter Scott – I think it was part of our school curriculum:

‘Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!’
And today I read another poem by Eric Gamalinda – titled ‘the opposite of nostalgia) and was struck by these lines that would conclude this editorial:
‘There is a realm in which
—no, forget it,
it’s still too early to make anyone understand.
A man drives a stake
through his own heart
and afterwards the opposite of nostalgia
begins to make sense: he stops raking the leaves
and the leaves take over
and again he has learned
to let go.’

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