Last weekend I was invited to attend a session organised by a writing group led by two beautiful young talents Ivana Pesko and Ksenija Soskic at the Belgrade Museum. Popular Serbian writer Vladimir Arsenijevic along with his girlfriend Milena Beric and their cute dog Laura accompanied me. I was curious to meet my Serbian brothers and sisters and at the same time was a little bit nervous because of my uneasiness with spoken English.
Before I share my feeling of the meeting, let me remind you about the conversation that took place in 1926 between the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore and the Serbian writer Stanislav Vinaver. Rabindranath was 65; Stanislav was 35. Stanislav met our poet at the Palace Hotel in the Serbian capital. The Bengali poet was happy to talk to the Serbian poet since he was always curious to know about poetry.
Rabindrnath was irritated by the political unrest centering the World War I and the pre-World War II period, the British colonial rule, European covetousness and lastly by the honour bestowed upon him by the Nobel Prize Committee as a British Laureate. Besides this last reason he did not come to accept the Nobel Award in 1913 to avoid wasting his private times. Anyway, he came to Sweden in 1921 on an invitation from the Swedish Academy to give a lecture on acceptance of the Nobel Prize. On his behalf charge de affairs at the British Embassy in Stockholm Charles accepted the prize in 1913.
Today I am in my late 30s and most of session mates from last Saturday are below 30. My Serbian colleagues threw the same questions at me that Stanislav did at Rabindranath in 1926. Let's take a look into a snippet from that shall we?
What is your mission in the world?
My mission is to survive and continue my life first. Then continue reading and writing to expose the truth. What is the truth I believe in? -- Human spirit in terms of dignity and equality. What is beauty? - That which exists in human harmony, telling your mind to be free without any fear. I am biased towards truth, the poor, the weak and the victimized. My mission is to declare my existence wherever I am like a crow which is my idol. Crows make their voices heard at dawn by chanting 'kaa kaa' and thus in the same way a poet utters the victory of life even during war and storm.
What constitutes poetical truth and what is real poetry?
What someone has written as a historian in books is not true. The truth is what one has written as a writer. Poetry is inner dialogue. It manifests your spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings. You make your poems when you are honest with yourself. It intertwines with your spiritual currents. It reminds you to favour spiritual bondage in humanity, it gives you reasons to think how to dream, it gives you the reason to regain your power of imagination. It provides rhythm to words and phrases. When read loudly, one's ears get a happy feeling and eyes see a powerful painting with life and its truths and beauties in the background. Real poetry is committed to life upholding the victory of life and humanity. Real poetry is shelter for your true feeling, hope and imagination.
What is the main quality of the East?
As Rabindranath pointed out in 1926 that the East teaches that everything has to posses some kind of human goal. However, today the East is affected by sick materialism imported from the West. The East is not free from corporate mafia and military bullying. It was good luck for both Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath as they did not witness these satanic trends in their life time. East teaches exactly what we learn from the philosophers like Lalon Shah, Gandhi and Rabindranath that the forefathers who have built the house we are living in should not be neglected, we should be happy with what we have in the spirit of sharing regardless of whether it brings pain or pleasure and not burden ourselves with unreachable dreams and smartness. The official matters of the East at present are run by mafia-powered businesses, treacherous diplomacy and military muscles. The East that Rabindranath meant can be found in its people, their culture and way of living.
How have you found Belgrade?
From my point of view Istanbul is the door to the West and Belgrade to the East. Rabindranath is my gateway to Belgrade. Our poet was very impressed by the beauty of this ancient city and so am I. The beauty of a city is not defined by its eye catching sites, roads and buildings but rather by the minds of thousands of people living there. This is how I find Belgrade.
The writer, a poet from Bangladesh, lives in Uppsala, Sweden.