Jan 2010, Vol: 3, Issue: 1

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- by Goutam Datta

Urhalpool just had its first anniversary.  Within this past year, like many mammals, it started to run at birth. So many visions to see, so many missions to fulfill, so many goals to reach.

The Urhalpool inaugural ceremony took place at the 2009 Kolkata Book Fair, the largest open air book fair in the world with 2-3 million footfalls during the 10 days of the fair.  Mexico, our neighboring nation, is the theme nation for the year 2010.  Urhalpool’s January 2010 issue is also focused on Mexican poets/writers. We also have been able to translate a few works into Bengali. Thanks to the Mexican writers for their contributions to our cross-cultural efforts. Urhalpool has now reached readers from 91 countries.

Last year, the United States elected its first African-American President.  Thirty years of Left Front rule in West Bengal are falling like a house of cards, and Sheikh Mujibar Rahman’s party Awami League came back to the power through a peaceful democratic election in Bangladesh. The American Democratic President Johnson got America involved in the Vietnam War.  I fear that another Democratic President, Barack Obama, may be getting involved in Afghanistan the same way and that there will be no way out!  We do not learn from history!  Afghanistan cannot be conquered!  The British tried and failed, the mighty Soviet Union tried and failed miserably, causing its collapse. We Bengalis are very familiar with Afghani people. They are called affectionately Kabulee-Wallah in Bengal.  They came to sell spices and loan money. They are tall, well-built, strong men with matching big hearts. Rabindranath Tagore immortalized them in his story “Kabulee-Wallah.”  These strong, fearless, freedom-loving people are not orthodox Talibanis.  They are not terrorists or extremists, unless our actions turn them!   The Taliban won’t rule them. If they are left alone, they will kick out the Taliban themselves and will go back to their feudal lifestyle that they preserved for centuries.  An American war will only push them more toward the Taliban!  Was America able to change the fate of Vietnam?  No.  Thousands of Vietnamese and Americans died for an evil war that President Johnson started.  As a President he lacked vision. History may laugh at us again in three or four years, when the war in Afghanistan will take a toll on America. History will say, President Obama, you had the opportunity to guide and you failed!  I hope that I am wrong.

Poets Anne Waldman, Meena Alexander, Usha Akella are going to attend the Kolkata Book Fair 2010. Thanks to the American Consulate, India for helping us to organize Anne’s readings in Kolkata and Kerala. Urhalpool envisions a rigorous exchange of literary visions among cultures and is working towards it. We thank all American writers and writers from many countries for their enormous contributions and for making Urhalpool possible.

Happy New Year 2010 and best wishes to you all for happy holidays!