German President-elect Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who will be assuming office on Sunday, has an Indian connection -- not a political but an intellectual one!
He enjoys an intense literary relationship with Indian-origin poet, Rajvinder Singh, who has been living in Berlin since January 1981, and has repeatedly quoted from his work in his speeches the world over.
Steinmeier has now dedicated a chapter to Rajvinder Singh's essay "Seeing with Six Eyes" in his recently published memoir in German titled "Flugschreiber" (Aero-writer), a pun on his many air journeys that provide him time to write.
Steinmeier, 61, assumes office on March 19. He has twice served as the Foreign Minister for a total of eight years.
"Gone are the days when the moment one thought of Germany, Nazi names like Hitler, Goebbels or Himmler and their awful inhuman deeds would instantly appear in our minds. Today, Germany is a world leader in economy, technology, democracy, human rights, diplomacy, literature and philosophy," Rajvinder Singh told IANS in an interview while on a visit here.
This three-time German poet laureate, whose writings are known to contain delightfully philosophical and intellectually motivating ideas, believes literature crosses boundaries of culture and language.
"Of all the books published around the world every year, about a tenth are essays, and we ask ourselves whether these intellectual assertions against an increasingly hostile atmosphere are also read. Steinmeier's example is living proof that they are read and quoted, even by busy politicians who are open to the world," he said.
Though free from any constraints of leading the reader towards a specific moral path, Rajvinder Singh's occasional essays showcase his intellectualism, prudence and courage as he ventures into new vistas. Be it "Culture is: Self-Culture", "Trans-Cultural Identities", "Dialogue of Cultures" or his recent essay "Seeing with Six Eyes", the one Steinmeier quoted from.
These essays tend to offer solutions to the predicaments faced by a free mind in enjoying the rightful freedom of being, of faith, of thought and of speech. They urge readers to know the world as it truly is, and help them promote in their actions a sense of accountability and reconciliation.
Rajvinder Singh, who was born in Punjab's Kapurthala town and spent his initial years in Chandigarh and in Jammu, occupies a pretty prominent place in German literary circles.
His poems are inscribed in stone and are displayed at four public places, which include the city park and three senior schools in Trier, the oldest German city where Karl Marx was born and brought up.
He was twice invited by Steinmeier, as the Foreign Minister during 2005-09 and 2013-17, to join him on his official visit to India and he did accompany him.
Acknowledging the contribution of Rajvinder Singh to German literature and culture, Steinmeier had remarked in his opening speech at the Frankfurt Book Fair: "I have already mentioned Rajvinder Singh as an example of someone who enriches and refines our German culture through his writings."
Reciprocating the camaraderie, Rajvinder Singh believes: "Steinmeier wants to turn to the youth in direct communication as he believes that for the preservation of the democratic foundation, a different and more intensive approach would be helpful to the younger generation."
For this goal, he definitely has an intellectual partner in this poet, who had launched a "Nobel for India 2013" campaign and was declared the poet laureate of Trier in 2007, besides 1997 in Rheinsberg and 2004 in Remscheid.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at email@example.com)