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  • Schools and colleges in Punjab to remain closed on August 25 in view of the Dera verdict
  • UT Admn orders closure of all educational institutions in Chandigarh on Aug 24, 25.


Conscience keeperPhoto by Himanshu Mahajan

Conscience keeper

…that’s exactly what Punjab’s celebrated poet Surjit Patar intends to make culture in his new role as Chairperson of Punjab Arts Council24 Aug 2017 | 12:35 AM

“I have a dream”. With these inspiring words, the master of words, rhythm and poetry, Punjab’s indomitable poet Surjit Patar begins his new journey.

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Nonika Singh

“I have a dream”. With these inspiring words, the master of words, rhythm and poetry, Punjab’s indomitable poet Surjit Patar begins his new journey. Though only a day has passed since his appointment as the new chairperson of Punjab Arts Council, he is already bubbling with ideas and the vision is crystal clear.  

“Art,” he asserts, “can play a major role in a nation/ community’s awakening. Culture shapes the conscience of its times, firms up the society’s moral fabric.” Indeed, the culture (read Punjabi music and cinema) that is percolating down to the masses today via television and other channels can’t achieve the same feat. That’s where a body like Punjab Arts Council, with its three academies, assumes significance. 

He understands too well that the reach of internet and what it offers can’t be countered either. But with him at the helm, he aspires to create a parallel stream of culture that is meaningful and impactful. 

Plan of action

To ensure that this stream runs far and wide in the remotest corners of Punjab, he is already mulling over several plans and programmes. From organising poetry competitions to roping-in educational institutions to using Internet as a platform for young talent…the idea is to create cultural nayaks.  He rues, “Today majority of literary seminars or symposiums end up as hub of likeminded people, writers listening to writers...it’s akin to raining on the sea.” To reach out to those dry parched lands, he so wants to create sabhyacharak kendras in different parts of Punjab replete with library, theatre space and more. 

Given his literary background, those who fear dominance of functions centered around literary activities, he reminds how closely he has been associated with theatre. For the uninitiated, let it be known that he has adapted many literary texts as plays for noted theatre-person Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry. Visual arts might not be strictly up his alley, but then here too he intends to have interdisciplinary workshops.  In the existing structure of akademis, he doesn’t deny that change is in the offing nor affirms it either. But yes one thing is certain. Satinder Satti, whom he replaces as the chairperson, will find a suitable new role. In fact, he intends to pay heed to every voice that matters in the state. Rest assured; it won’t be a one-man show, but a collective resurgence of thought. Too many people on board might sound an implausible and irrational idea. Conflict, anyway, is not his wont for most matters can be sorted out through consensus. That’s why he doesn’t foresee any political interference, “I don’t think they want a puppet to do things at their bidding; only expect new winds of change to blow. And I think they mean business.”

Sense & sensibility

To his Punjabi brethren, he promises a new sensitivity and sensibility on the lines of his poetic thoughts, “Mein julahan haan te bunda hann watan di aatman, aaatman jo tadap uthdi hai parai peed te.”  Determined to foreground arts, he hopes, words, which are being increasingly forsaken, will once again become the companion of Punjabis. nonikasingh@tribunemail.com

Point counterpoint  

So, what made a poet of his stature say yes to a position which is largely perceived as a political one? “I was touched by the Minister of Local Government, Tourism, Cultural Affairs, Navjot Singh Sidhu’s enthusiasm and desire to make a difference. Most ministers perceive culture ministry as some kind of a punishment. He has made it a happening affair.”

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