This is a map of South Asia, the sub-region where I live — along with over 1.5 billion other people, a quarter of humanity.
For sure it’s different: things look as if they have been turned upside down. But are they?
This map was published by Himal Southasian, our region’s one and only publication that really thinks and acts in genuinely South Asian terms.
Himal is celebrating 20 years of publication this month, and I join its many friends worldwide in congratulating and saluting this courageous, persistent citizen effort to evolve a regional mentality and identity for the currently divided and fragmented South Asia.
A note on their website reads:
“A friend just told us we had turned twenty. And so we counted the years and indeed it has been two decades since Himal began in 1987. That was the start of our Himalayan phase, and it has been ten years since Himal went Southasian. During the period, some of us have gone from black to grey, others grey to silver.”
That sounds characteristic of Himal’s founder, editor in chief and publisher, Kanak Mani Dixit — one of the most senior journalists in South Asia. He and his journalist brother Kunda Dixit have kept Himal going for two decades.
As with the map, Himal has offered a different, sometimes defiant, perspective on issues of public and topical interest. Staying within the basic principles of journalism, it has challenged assorted tyrants and monopolies; questioned middle class complacency and lampooned South Asian idiosyncrasies.
Except for a short period when its soul was (temporarily) possessed by crusty intellectuals (my favourite definition: people educated beyond their intelligence), Himal has remained readable, passionate and credible — virtues that are not that common in a region that has an abundance of periodicals in English and many other local languages.
Before I get carried away, let me declare that:
1. I’m privileged to count Kanak and Kunda among my friends
2. I occasionally contribute articles to Himal that they are kind enough to print. In that respect, I’m part of the ‘Himal mafia’ and my praise is anything but objective!
But hey, who wants to peddle that cold and clinically detached objectivity that journalism schools continue to advocate? Himal is living proof that one can take a stand, vehemently if needed, and still do good journalism.
As Himal comes of age, I hope it will continue to kick ass, puncture inflated egos and remain outside the ‘mainstream’ for a long time to come. Never give up, guys — too much is at stake!
PS: On the ‘right side map’ itself, Himal explained:
This map of South Asia may seem upside down to some, but that is because we are programmed to think of north as top of page. This rotation is an attempt by the editors of Himal (the only South Asian magazine) to reconceptualise ‘regionalism’ in a way that the focus is on the people rather than the nation-states. This requires nothing less than turning our minds downside-up.
Read greetings to Himal from friends and fans all over the world!