I recently spoke with inspirational poet Ashok K. Bhargava, the president of the Writers International Network (WIN) about the upcoming annual UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) event that WIN hosts annually in Vancouver, which will take place at Moberly Arts Centre on March 21, 2019 at 6 PM.
Cynthia: Peace is at the heart of any multicultural WIN event and the upcoming UNESCO gathering is clear evidence of that unique flavour, weaving communities together into harmony and common purpose. What does peace mean to you?
Ashok: What you see depends upon what you’re looking for.
Wherever it is we are going and however we choose to get there, we are in this together. Therefore, to me, peace is ACCEPTANCE of our differences. We live in a multicultural, multilingual and multi-religious society – togetherness is peace, living in harmony in our diversity is peace. Harmony within and with our friends is peace.
Cynthia: You’re someone who embodies peace in all the ways you live and work as a writer, performer, emcee, mentor and organizer behind the scenes. How do you achieve that way of being in daily interactions? It seems like it’s coming from deep within and I wonder how you bring forth and embody peace in all that you do?
Ashok: There is no single way to embody peace because it is a multi-layered entity. We have to be creative in empowering people and poetry is the best way to achieve peace.
I see myself as a rational person, yet also a dreamer and an optimist who admires friendship, acceptance and adaptability. My philosophy of life is to live in peace, harmony and love, to inspire and be inspired and to cultivate positive values such as helping, caring and sharing. My childhood journey of self-discovery may have influenced who I am today – always a champion of the underdog, a defender of those less privileged and a fierce and resounding voice in support of equality and human rights.
Cynthia: The WIN website explains that:
WIN will strive to unite the hearts and souls of writers, to bring creativity, knowledge and joy to them.
“An artist’s gift to the world is a poem, story, painting, sculpture or dance.” WIN will seek, nourish and recognize all sorts of artists so that together they can make this world a better place to live.
Writing is an art that is deeply rooted in self-reflection. Self-reflection is the human capacity to exercise introspection and the willingness to learn more about our fundamental nature, purpose and essence. In other words, self-reflection is who we see when we look in the mirror. Self reflection is also about taking the time to figure out who we are, both as individuals and as leaders.
WIN was created to fulfil the need of an environment where the work of an artist is appreciated and recognized no matter what background, what language or what cultural heritage that artist belongs to.
Cynthia: Writers International Network has done an exemplary job of finding and showcasing the gold within each person who attends and presents at monthly gatherings. It’s an enriching experience for all involved. I’m wondering how you came up with the mandate for WIN?
Ashok: The most powerful thing that you can do to change the world is to change your own beliefs about the nature of life, people, and reality to something more positive … and begin to act accordingly.
To paraphrase from Senator Robert F. Kennedy, there are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why … I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?
Cynthia: What philosophy or philosophies guide WIN?
Ashok: We are guided by Vasudeva Katumbham’s view, WE ARE ONE FAMILY. One Humanity. No color, no barriers.
Cynthia: You recognize the contributions of writers internationally and cross pollinate communities that may not have otherwise taken notice of each other. What have been some of the highlights of WIN award ceremonies and celebrations?
Ashok: WIN was founded in 2011 as a non-profit organization in British Columbia to promote creativity, peace, harmony, human rights and awareness of the environment. Since its inception, WIN has recognized many Canadian and international writers and community leaders at its annual literary festivals. It has also participated in literary symposiums at the University of Sabanchi, Turkey and the University of Bari, Italy.
In addition, it has collaborated with writers and activists in the province of Pangasinan, Philippines, to sustain and promote a dying language through recognition and protection of old growth trees.
WIN has also successfully collaborated with Ghana to promote literary arts in that country.
WIN is planning to bring our international community of writers and artists to New Delhi to focus on “Unity in Diversity” in 2017 – a global movement for literary and cultural exchange. WIN knows that unity in the arts and writing needs no justification beyond the sheer splendour of its own existence and that without aesthetic pleasures, life would not be worth living. WIN believes that poetry is universal. There is no human society, however isolated, that has not developed poetry as a form of cultural practice.
Cynthia: With the big UNESCO celebration coming up on March 21, I’m wondering what is at the heart of the event for you? How did you go about bringing so many communities and poetic styles together across languages and borders?
Ashok: World Poetry Day was declared by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1999. The purpose of the day is to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world, and as the UNESCO session declaring the day explains, to “give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements.”
Poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals everywhere in the world share the same questions and feelings.
Poetry is the mainstay of oral tradition and, over centuries, can communicate the innermost values of diverse cultures. In celebrating World Poetry Day, UNESCO recognizes the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind. Even today, many people in India recite the poems of Kabir, Nanak, Meera Bai, Bulleh Shah and Tulsi Das regularly.
For Writers International Network (WIN), celebrating Poetry Day is to reaffirm our faith in the oneness of humankind. WIN believes that our differences are superficial. Although we have different languages, cultures and colors, these differences add to the beauty of the human mosaic. Poetry makes us realize that a common thread of sublime creativity binds us together.
Cynthia: One of the things I’ve really noticed about you as an organizer is that you work from a sense of service rather than a sense of ego. What goes on behind the scenes to provide WIN gatherings, honorariums for writers and award ceremonies and gatherings?
Ashok: WIN is a non-profit organization based in BC to inspire, encourage and promote creative writing in a multicultural and multilingual environment. WIN celebrates the literary arts with song, dance, readings and the rewarding of prizes.
Among previous recipients of WIN awards are Bonnie Nish, Candice James, Dennis E. Bolen and Ujjal Dosanjh.
Cynthia: WIN events often have shared food from a multitude of cultures and cultural blends and an overall sense of respectfulness between poets, writers, photographers and artists of many ethnicities and styles. What helps to create that atmosphere?
Ashok: It is my desire to bring out the best in creativity, cuisines, emotions and ideas that guides me to create an all-inclusive environment. I like to fashion our gatherings after how our neighbourhoods sound, taste and look.
Cynthia: In a practical sense, what guidelines would you suggest for creating an energy of peaceful interactions? What strategies have helped WIN hold true to its vision of respectfulness?
Ashok: Acceptance of our differences. Take a little extra time to discover those who are different, show respect and follow your heart.
Cynthia: What advice do you have for writers and organizers in other parts of the province wanting to follow in WIN’s footsteps?
Ashok: First, please feel free to join us. Everyone is welcome at WIN events.
In terms of setting up similar communities, I would start with conversations and chart new strategies. We live in very dynamic times. Rather than looking for templates, I would encourage people to collectively create new approaches, being true to their inner wisdom and hearts.
Cynthia: You’re a strong poet yourself. Where can our readers and members find your books and poetry?
Ashok: I have books on Amazon and in libraries. You may also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also find some of my work here: https://ashokbhargava.wordpress.com/page/1/
Cynthia: Could you share some of your poems with our audience?
you and me
on a long and winding road
in a hilly city.
Quietly, uttering no words
naïve and carefree
hand in hand we walk
counting power poles.
When tired to move
even a single step
you would say
just one more pole.
I have returned to our past
The poles look at me
as if asking about
Exhausted from walking
I exert to the next pole
you were a fast walker.
you are waiting
at the next pole.
Water we Are
Rushing rivers of dreams
desires and hopes from
depths of the heart
wish to meet ocean
merge, submerge and
vanish as one tide
on a silent night
water we are.
Spilled secrets and
footprints on the shores
rise as vapours
fall as raindrops
turn into runaway streams
rush to the ocean
holding back misty tears
water we are.
Dewdrops on grass and
bubbles on a surface
water we are.
Every flower withers
every leaf falls
Wind just blows
water just flows
there is no
Holding every hope firmly
leafing through every possibility
nothing stays as it is.
Then why worry?
Sometimes we just aren’t
given a choice.
There is profound sadness
in full moon’s blue cast.
It brings me joy
I never thought possible.
I seek from that joy
a direction to follow.
“Some words are never meant to be spoken.”
I wake up in my body and
it wasn’t that body anymore.
There are days I give up on my body.
I think the life I want was the life
I have had. I want to be the water clinging to your roots.
With both hands in the soil
I feel modesty of a new beginning
splendour of a tiny sprout
kneeling to the glory of God.
I hold it and wander
into the surge of forever
the unbroken time of infinity.