I met with Sukhwant Hundal on my trip to Vancouver. It was very kind of him to give me time and patiently listen to what I had to say. At the same time he gave some good ideas about our magazine and website project. As it is, it was very encouraging to meet someone who was keeping the lights on for the sake of Punjabi language.
I am writing to you about this because there are some clear next steps that have emerged from our conversation that I wanted to share. We talked about following things.
Static website to document recent political history of Punjab as well as information on governance and ideas on social and political reforms.
This is what I have already started doing with www.punjabrajneeti.com. Sukhwant told me that he also wanted to create a similar website sometime back. So I am hoping that going forward I can collaborate with him for help and suggestions. The onus for this is on me. I need to start building this website a bit more aggressively.
As far as getting the right information in concerned, we both agreed that we should involve political science and sociology students and teachers in Punjab universities. We will have to sponsor research projects to get this information. But that can be done. What is most important is to get support from some faculty members in Punjab Universities. Once we have their consent, we can start thinking about the projects. They can be as simple as political biographies of important leaders or documenting social development of a MP MLA constituency in last 20-30 years, or government functioning etc.
Web Magazine – Panj Darya
I told Sukhwant about our ideas to revive Panj Darya. He told me from his experience that the most challenging things in running the magazine are:
– getting enough right material to publish
– reaching out to lots of audience
We discussed these points in detail. According to Sukhwant, most of Punjabi writes still don’t think highly of internet media. They are just not keen enough to give their articles for an online magazine (At least not as their first options. They still want to see their writings in print first before publishing them online). The other problem is that most of the older generation writers are not computer savvy. Some even write in English and would rather have the editor translate their stuff in Punjabi. The younger generation is much more comfortable with computers, but they are mostly writing poetry and songs. There are not many serious Punjabi writers to contribute to online Punjabi literature at this moment.
What is relevant for a political magazine here is that we don’t need many literature writers. We only need journalists and field experts to share their opinion on relevant issues. Of course we have to make sure that stuff is produced, or translated to Punjabi. But I will touch upon that later.
We both agreed that internet penetration is very limited among Punjabis. Even the ones who use internet, a fraction of them use it for reading news and even a fewer for magazines. But we all know that future of media is internet. There are alternative channels like facebook, youtube, wikipedia etc. that can be used to reach out to audience. I am personally not too concerned about this. I am sure the things are going to improve with time. Moreover online information and articles will increasingly become a source for print media news/articles as well.
Sukhwant also gave a great idea about getting articles form some other good magazines and publish translations of the stuff relevant to Punjab (e.g. Seminar, Monthly Review etc.) Not only Punjab, but we should look at rest of the world for examples on policy issues. But all this material will need translation and we will need a dedicated resource just for translation. I am sure we can find a part time resource for this in Punjab.
I share my concern that I do not want our magazine to look like a left wing or a right wing magazine. We have to keep it neutral from as many angles as possible. I want to talk about Punjab, its problems, its future. I am convinced that there are so many intelligent ways to keep away from unnecessary debates about communism vs capitalism, religion vs science etc. In fact I want to make sure that I have some religious people to be very active on my magazine (someone who believes in his/her God but wants to talk about Punjab rather than their Gurus and scriptures)
Of course we talked about a few other things along with Watan Punjabi. (www.watanpunjabi.com). Check out the latest issue. I enjoyed reading it.