Eminent Indian journalist Kuldip Nayar yesterday urged the South Asians to cultivate cooperation among their countries for their progress.
"Yes, we are Hindus, we are Muslims, we are Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, but, above all, we are South Asians and there is something about us -- our values, traditions and history -- which is definitely different from the West," he told the launching ceremony of Daily Star Books, the book publishing wing of The Daily Star, at the Bangla Academy yesterday.
"If this region is going to depend on the West and ape them, what kind of values we would have?" he questioned.
The civilisation of the West is over and now it is the turn of this region, he observed. "When I am talking about South Asia, we take pride of being in South Asia."
The Daily Star Books started its journey with publishing Nayar's memoirs -- Beyond the Lines.
He called upon the South Asians not to think of what is black or white, or of this or that country; rather to think of the progress and spirit of accommodation. "As a South Asian, I think our destination is together."
He spoke about his belief that men should never be judged by their riches or influence, but by their values.
Nayar considered partition of the subcontinent a mistake, saying if there had been no partition, religious fundamentalism would not have risen in Pakistan, India and even in Bangladesh, where it is also beginning to grow.
About his memoirs, he said it is more about India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, than it is about him.
"I have captured certain parts of the history, but I have not been able to capture the moments when I left home and my family was saying goodbye, tears in my eyes, tears in theirs as we would not know whether we would meet again or not.
"Similarly, when I came to Bangladesh for the first time, there was a small airport, lots of luggage strewn all around and still I found the people saying "J0y Bangla," "Joy Bangla," said Nayar.
Discussing the memoirs, eminent economist Rehman Sobhan said Nayar has presented a bird's eye view of the Indian history during the partition days.
"It is interesting because it gives us a perspective of a person who was not a bystander, but an active player in that particular process," he mentioned.
Nayar did something which journalists are less inclined to do, he observed, adding that the book is written by a journalist who feels that journalism is not just a vocation to communicate news and information. "He [Nayar] is a firm believer in a secular, democratic and egalitarian society."
Famed jurist Dr Kamal Hossain said it is an extraordinary book by an extraordinary person.
"Autobiography is something which you look backwards and share what you have experienced. In this case, you get the sense that this is a work in progress, of which the second volume is awaited," he added.
There are so many things (in this book) that are still forward-looking and anticipatory; there are unanswered questions, making the readers to think about it, mentioned Kamal.
The lawyer said although Nayar is formally willing to say he is a journalist, he is so much more than that. "He is a person with an extraordinary sense of mission that life has a purpose."
Matiur Rahman, editor and publisher of the Prothom Alo, presented a brief on Nayar's life and career.
"What he [Nayar] witnessed, especially during the partition of the subcontinent and the emergence of Bangladesh, he should have written all these incidents in about 5,000 pages. But he has done it in 420 pages," he said.
The book is a must read for the students of political science and journalism, and important for knowing Bangladesh's history as well, added Matiur.
Prof Rebecca Haque of English department at Dhaka University said the book portrays the images of frontline, battle line, border line, behind the lines and, of course, between the lines.
Nayar has developed a moral conscience because he was nurtured in warm and caring surroundings of his powerful grandmother in Sialkot of Pakistan, she mentioned.
Prof Mesbah Kamal of Dhaka University compared the book with an encyclopaedia.
Moderating the ceremony, Editor and Publisher of The Daily Star Mahfuz Anam said if there are some people who are truly South Asian in their commitment and outlook, Kuldip Nayar is one of them.
"Nayar is a tireless worker for the cooperation among the South Asian countries as he believes that some day the South Asian countries will be like European Union," he added.
He hoped that the Daily Star Books, under licences of international publishers, would be able to bring the readers world class books on politics, history, and the highest standard of literary works at a reasonable price.