My friend Norbert is a thoughtful sort of person. The type who when asked a question will pause for a moment before answering. So when I asked him what he thought about the first issue of Rungh, paused of course, before answering. He told me that the interviews didn't really 'work' and then he told me his theory about magazines. He likened a magazine to an on-going conversation among a group of people who form a community. The community has writers who 'speak' and readers who "listen". If the conversation is good (pleasurable, sensual), then the community of speakers and listeners will grow. They will continue to share in a type of sacred trust. As for the interviews, they didn't 'work' because they seemed to valorize the spoken word in a glossy, art magazine format. Fair enough.
I thought about my conversation with Norbert as I travelled with Sherazad to Toronto and Montreal to launch Rungh. I quietly watched the people who attended the launches and I listened to their comments. They, the amorphous 'they', loved the design and, for the most part, liked the contents. I recognized, as I had believed, that the Rungh 'community' consists of many speakers and listeners from different communities. The speakers are clamouring and insisting upon being heard (having had little or no voice) and the listeners (given the choices of voice available) are tuning in and out at will. I realized that establishing the sacred trust, of which Norbert spoke, between writer and reader would be difficult and I wondered why.
My answer to myself, in part, is that Rungh is groaning under the weight of the burden of representation. It is not a load that Rungh wants to either jettison or cavalierly side- step. It is a load which represents a trust that must be dealt with responsibly. Does that responsibility mean running two articles, one for and one against a topic? Does it mean that only people of South Asian origin should write for Rungh given the shortage of 'space' available to South Asian artists and writers in the dominant culture? Does Rungh have a perspective from which it projects itself into the on-going cultural debates? For me the answers are 'no: 'no' and 'in part'.
I do not think that only people of South Asian origin should write for Rungh. Essentialism, while engendering solidarity and strength, also engenders prejudice and exclusion. A progressive politic should be inclusive in order to be meaningful. Such inclusion, however, must respect that there has to be a need for forums, such as Rungh, where certain communities can engage in dialogues and define themselves as opposed to being defined.
If Rungh has a perspective it is that Rungh's speakers engage in a process of 'othering' the 'dominant' and de-centering the centred. It is a forum in which South Asian writers and artists are not perceived as being exotic but rather as cultural workers engaged in the process of self-definition.
I stated earlier that Rungh's listeners are tuning in and out at will and I believe that this is related to Rungh's perspective. Whenever the perspective and the listeners' interests intersect, there is a tuning in. How to foster the intersection is a part of Rungh's challenge.
In a sense my conversation with Norbert (and with other listeners) was an intersection. He had listened to the first issue of Rungh and his interests in the art of writing led him to talk to me. It is these sorts of intersections which Rungh invites. Rungh has a community which is slowly declaring itself ("I read Rungh;' "I write for Rungh'.') and Rungh is a part of the South Asian communities (cultural and otherwise) which are defining themselves. Rungh looks forward to hearing from you and seeks your input in both defining the magazine and ourselves.