40 Pieces For Frontier
I Met Samar Sen Only Once
This is an autobiographical account about Filhaal and
how it was influenced by Samar Sen and Frontier and how I began to write-first in Hindi and then when I came to South India in English and how I ended up writing nearly 40 pieces for Frontier! I never wrote for any other magazine! This is my humble tribute to Samar Sen.
I did not know Samar Sen well. In fact I met him only once and it was just a visit to the Frontier office. But indirectly he had a profound influence on me.
I was in Calcutta, at the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics from April 1967 to March 1968. The Institute was located in the Calcutta University's Science College campus on A P C Road. As such it was influenced by anything that happened in the University. As we all know, that was the year when the Naxalbari incident occurred and the University was in turmoil. I was swept by it and became part of the movement ever since.
I was an outsider, non-Bengali and as such English and Hindi were my main languages, though I learned Bengali also. Coming from a small town, Indore, I had no background in the communist movement. For people like me Frontier was very important. I got my first lessons in Marxism through a series of articles which were published in the early issues of the magazine. It was also a source of news of the movement for us.
Because of my language I mainly worked in the Jharkhand regions of Bihar. In 1972 our group decided to publish a Hindi journal called Filhaal from Patna. The editor was Vir Bharat Talwar. We were very influenced by Frontier and Filhaal looked like a Hindi edition of Frontier.
At first I was at Bokaro and formed Workers' writing group and we sent reports to Filhaal in a series of articles with a title, "Bokaro : A showcase of government socialism". At that time I also read Gramsci and was very influenced by his ideas of left wing journalism : the working class has a right to know the critic of every aspect of the bourgeois society and we should provide it.
I moved to Patna to help Talwar to run Filhaal, so that he could travel and report directly from the field. I began with proofreading and imperceptibly I began to write also. It began with rewriting some contributions so that the type setters made fewer mistakes. Later, I had to do 'fillers' and I began to write small pieces. We used to get Frontier and I am sure we translated pieces from it. I learned to translate from English and Bengali at dictation speed. So I became a left-wing journalist.
Like Frontier, we covered the news of the movement and working class struggles. We also covered news of the atrocities committed against dalits in rural India all over the country. We covered the famous coke oven strike at Durgapur, trade union movement in Dhanbad coalfields, and rural struggles. We also carried articles on the theoretical debates going on in the communist movement.
Unlike Frontier, however, we also published poetry—translated from Telugu and Punjabi and some poems in Hindi too. I remember we published poems of Paash in Punjabi translated by Chaman Lal, several Telugu poets of 'Viplavi Rachayita Sangham' (Revolutionary Writers' Association) and the famous Hindi lyricist Shailendra's—'Netaon ko Nyota' (an invitation to the leaders from a working class settlement in Bombay). We published articles on Buddhism, Arya Samaj and excerpts from Kosambi's books.
In the nineties I moved to South India. Circumstances led me to work in the field of health, education and environment. It also meant a shift from a Marxist position to an Anarchist position. Today I work in the area of ecology, resource depletion and alternatives for a fossil fuel free future. I have also been spending a lot of time on organic farms and I have been writing for Frontier continuously since 1995. I have contributed nearly 40 articles and more than ten of which have been for the Annual Number. Timir Basu, the present editor of Frontier, has been very supportive in all this. By now I have published two books consisting of articles published in Frontier. I have become an author! Since then I have also written a book on resource depletion and some fiction—two slim volumes of short stories and a novella. All my writings are 'copy left' and are freely available.
Today my own brief for myself is:
1. Following Marx : Criticise all aspects of our society.
2. Following Gramsci: The entire critic should be available to the working class and layman.
3. Following Mao and Lu Hsun: Write small pieces in simple language.
Following this brief I have managed to cover a huge range of topics in my articles for Frontier : Bihar, coal fields, Naxalites, Santhali script, Buddhism, Dakhni language, language and bio-geography, environment, critic of vegetarianism, old age, Sanskrit, Hinduism, Bhimsen Joshi, Education Manifesto, Euthanasia, Small States, Population, Cities, Peak Oil, the Politics of Non-Violence and so on. There are also two small articles dealing with the Passion (Christ's suffering at the Cross) and the concept of Liberation.
I am not claiming big success in any of these fields. I have tried as they say, 'to the best of my abilities'. But it has helped me to live in peace with myself in the very distressing times that we live. To a large extent I owe all this to Frontier and to Samar Sen.
Vol. 49, No.13-16, Oct 2 - 29, 2016