Memory pulls us all in strange directions. Sometimes, it has to be pushed away, constantly, to ensure that it does not come back and haunt the present; most of the times it has to be buried, deep within the tentacles of our emotions so that it never peeps its ugly head out; but sometimes it has to be confronted, exploited even in order for us- as individuals and individuals that form the human race- to accept what is the past and what has been forming our present.

The only source of doing so, perhaps, is through memory and the study of it. Indeed, it isn't as easy as it sounds (perhaps it doesn't sound easy, either), because for starters, what we are trying to do is to address that part of our life which has been left behind for quite a while, on its own accord and never to be touched- or so we thought. I have always believed, and continue to believe, that unless the past has been confronted and sorted out, it continues casting its shadow over the present. Which brings us to the simple, and yet traumatizing conclusion that we should remember- remember and contemplate upon the deeds that we are proud and no-so-proud of; for it is only then that we learn to live a faithful, just present, and hopefully a desirable future.

Remembering and contemplating, as it happens, is exactly what the Chinese have been doing lately. Or not so lately, because they have been at it for the past six years, writing in an unofficial journal named Remembrance, seeking to display the stories from China's history- perhaps the Communist nation's most intimidating and penetrating subjects that is best avoided. I came across the journal, like, I assume, most of the readers out there through Ian Johnson's fascinating two-part essay in The New York Review of Books on the journal and the importance of it in the Chinese social, political and, of course, literary circles. Curious, I clicked on the link the magazine provided that brought me straight to the site where the magazine and all of its past issues have been archived- in Chinese, unfortunately, which ensures that non-Chinese speaking readers cannot grasp the enormity of the confessions and memoirs that are spread out over the course of past hundred odd issues.

These confessions form a sort of autobiographical monologues, personal histories that seek to look into the eye of either the writers' past, or that of his friends' and families'. What the journal is trying to do, essentially, is to confront the memory of China's brutal- to put it mildly- and colourful history through the writings of those who have gone through it, experienced it. The magazine seeks to create of memory an art that brings about at least partial reconciliation in the hearts of the Chinese people. This is essential, not to mention a brave step that the editors of the journal- included among whom is the film historian Wu Di- have put forth before souls that have, it can be assumed, been tortured by years of guilt and unspeakable secrets and the truths that emerge out of them. These buried truths, or the stories that relate half-truths to the people of China, has what brought contributors to the magazine together in an united attempt to look at China's history through a larger, more persuasive perspective in the hope that it will be accepted and eventually help them to move on, release the burden. Whether this has happened or not is arguable, but one has to agree that the journal has become for writers and contributors scarred by China's abstract notions of the past, a vital organ that has been helping China's factual history to survive, or to reorganize and thrust itself into the landscape of the Chinese intellectual mind as well as the common public thinking, paving way to an all-round discourse. Its as if a different set of truth is being offered up on a platter, or, in this case, paper- and it seems to be working.

According to Johnson's own account of his visit to the apartment that houses the journal's editorial offices, and his conversations with Wu and some of the regular writers that have been writing for the journal and which gathered around for some tea, those involved within the magazine's functioning and its pretty smooth running involve, among others, one of the editors of People's Daily, the official Communist Party newspaper; a professor and a technician. The magazine, he seems to be suggesting, is a glue that sticks people of all professions together with the sole purpose of hammering out the shadowed past for everyone to view. “I simply write true things,” Wu tells Johnson, in process summing up what the journal is all about.

The journal, or rather the writers that contribute to the journal, have been writing about the past in a manner that touches upon aspects of everyday life and go on to evoke those memories that need to be written about and spoken about, but have been and are being sidelined, ignored- more often than not from political pressure that the Chinese government puts on those writers, journalists and artists that try and address such issues of immense historical importance. The Cultural Revolution and the mostly brutal events that make up that period is one such topic that gathers dust. Of course, as Johnson notes, many a Chinese scholars and intellectuals have sought to present before the world the atrocities of Mao's rule by publishing studies, books and memoirs in the West, but they do not seem to have created an effect in mainland China itself, except maybe the exile or, worst, imprisonment of the writer or artist concerned. Freedom of thought and expression is accessible only so long as one steers way clear of topics that would end up hurting the Chinese government and its global image. Such is the illusion that China presents, and such is the illusion that the Chinese public has to accept. But not anymore, as the magazine has gone on to show. As Dai Weiwei tells Johnson, the magazine has been and continues to be a chance for the people of China to look down at their collective History without the usual tampering of the state involved.

History has often showed that such experiments with truth help- if not to accept the truth completely and move on, then at least to seek a closure to the past that we have been hiding behind. It also serves to be a challenge to the official accounts, condensed within false and threaded reports. Apart from China, Spain, where a well-known radio journalist called for stories from those who survived or were affected in any way by the Spanish Civil War, is also a nation that sought an experiment with truth in order to challenge the propaganda that their government was spreading into the minds of the modern generation. It was triggered by the publication of Javier Cercas' novel, Soldiers of Salamis, which had sought to challenge the stereotypical perception that the people of Spain tend to have regarding the Civil War and its aftermath. Its not just about the heroes that emerge from the ruins of History, the novel seems to be saying, but also about the society that makes these heroes heroes, and the individuals and their deeds that are lost in process.

If China could do it, and so could Spain, I thought, India might at least try. Its not as if the Republic doesn't have any stories buried or hidden- there are more than enough, only if they are told, and only if they find the tellers to tell them in a manner required. The atrocities, to cite only an example, of AFSPA in Kashmir and the Northeast makes for brutal stories and anecdotes that the state would rather have us forget or not know at all. So is the case with the war that the paramilitary forces have launched against the villagers inside the jungles of central India as a pretext to counter the Maoist insurgency. There are literally countless incidences, anecdotes and stories on the lines of Bastar, Malom and Kunanposhpora that can be related and repeated to the general public that is and will be unaware of them unless someone promises to reveal them out for everybody to read and perhaps listen to. It needs to be understood that not everything that the State or the “official” media tells us is the truth. Through stories that a common man living in a region where reporters don't reach relates would the general metropolitan man understand the draconian laws and rules that their government has placed upon people of their own under the pretext of safety and peace. Perhaps, it wouldn't change much, or nothing, except that what such stories would go on to do, over the course of continuing years, is to bring to fore the lies that we have been fed for decades together- about the Maoist movement, about Kashmir and about the Northeast. These are the lies that the state doesn't own up- cannot own up- but these are also the lies that need to be pulled out from the shadows; there are certain myths within the Indian society- myths that are placed by the government itself- that need to be debunked, falsifications of democracy that need to be told and discussed. And, perhaps, such a journal could help- to place these lies on a larger, more accessible social stage and, hopefully, to create a discourse out of it. Its an optimistic proposition, but its worth it when one goes on to look at all the censoring of journalism that is being done directly or indirectly in India.

“I earn around Rs. 5000 every month by not writing,” a reporter with a Hindi daily working in Chhattisgarh tells Subhranshu Choudhary (as quoted by Robin Jeffrey in his essay, 'Media and Maoism,' More than Maoism), “Journalism here is the art of not writing.” Conditions such as these are rampant, in Chhattisgarh, yes, but also in Kashmir and the Northeast, where stories of violence, repression and unlawful, rampant suppression are plainly ignored by the national media while the local media is forced, intimidated and sometimes even bribed to let such stories alone. It is precisely this that a journal (or journals) such as Remembrance would help countering and it is precisely this that a journal formed by both the stories of the local people assisted by the local agents of media would help in catapulting onto the social stage. The state of journalism in conflicted areas is mediocre, to say the least, and reportage from such places stands more often than not ignored, neglected and invisibly censored. Perhaps, the talent in journalism is not lacking, and there are, without a doubt, more than just a handful of dedicated and equally gifted reporters working inside conflicted zones to bring to the common public harrowing stories of a helpless public barricaded within a troubled land for no sin of their own- but the question that remains of importance is this: are these reporters allowed to report on such stories and, in fortunate times where they are, are they able to report on all such stories of brutal oppression? The answer remains arguable and open for debate.

In this age of the internet and, more precisely, in this age of online news magazines and portals, establishing such a magazine(s) won't be far difficult a task. It might, of course, even be a blog, or a series of articles or stories that relate to the reader troubles of a man living in a land that we geographically call our own, but are psychologically miles away from. This is the precise time where a young generation is aware and eager to experiment, more so when it comes to revelation of the untold. It is need of the time that the memories of people living in India's embattled, ignored lands be provided a way towards a justifiable albeit peaceful closure, and telling their stories by the way of a magazine with sizeable social reach might well be one of the best outlets available to us today.