twenty years on from november 11th, 1986

This e-zine’s been around for as long as there have been e-zine’s on the web…or so it seems. Since 1995, as an e-zine and since 1986 as a hardcopy magazine. Twenty years, non-stop. Check out what happened in ‘86… of relevance or irrelevance, as per Wikipedia, that is. Here are some selections only. Poignant twenty years later, as you will see.

  • January 19 – The first PC virus, Brain, starts to spread.
  • January 28 -: Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrates 73 seconds after launch, killing the crew of 6 astronauts and schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe.
  • January 29 – Yoweri Museveni becomes President of Uganda after leading a successful 5-year liberation struggle.
  • February 7 – President Jean-Claude Duvalier (“Baby Doc”) flees Haiti, ending 28 years of family rule.
  • February 19 – The Soviet Union launches the Mir space station.
  • February 25 – President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines goes into exile in Hawaii after 20 years of rule;
  • February 28 – Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme is shot dead on his way home from the cinema.
  • April 14 – Hailstones weighing 2.2 lb (880 g) fall on the Gopalganj district of Bangladesh, killing 92.
  • In Ukraine, one of the reactors at the Chernobyl nuclear plant explodes, creating the world’s worst nuclear disaster. 31 are killed directly by the incident, many more die from cancer in later years, many thousands more are exposed to significant amounts of radioactive material, and vast territories in Ukraine and Belarus are rendered uninhabitable.
  • September 7 – Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet survives an assassination attempt by the FPMR; 5 of his bodyguards are killed.
  • October 11 – Cold War: Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev meet in Reykjavík, Iceland, to continue discussions about scaling back their intermediate missile arsenals in Europe (the talks break down in failure).
  • November 21 – Iran-Contra Affair: National Security Council member Oliver North and his secretary start shredding documents implicating them in selling weapons to Iran and channeling the proceeds to help fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
  • November 25 – Iran-Contra Affair: U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese announces that profits from covert weapons sales to Iran were illegally diverted to the anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

Pretty poignant year! Is it not? Marcos and Duvalier flee. Pinochet barely survives. Musaweni roars in as leader of a long liberation struggle. The US sells arms to the Iranians to fund the Contras in Nicaragua.

Fast forward to 2006. Iran is now back in the news for the wrong or right reasons (depending on whether you respect a nation’s right to becoming a nuclear power or for organizing a silly, vapid conference to hobnob with mendacious holocaust deniers, posing as academics). In Latin America, there is a resurgence towards rejecting tin-pot US supported regimes in Bolivia, Equador, Uruguay, Venezuela, Chile. The Sandinistas are back in power in 2006. Pinochet, the butcher is dead, finally. The son of Musaweni is elected after his father was assasinated. And another US protégé, Saddam Hussain, bites the dust after a kangaroo court (3 judges dismissed and finally the last one selected and approved says “what we need is a hanging, not a trial” even before his participation) condemns him to death by hanging.

Rewinding back, on November 11 th, 1986, Le Groupe Culturelle Montreal Serai was registered as an organization in Quebec, as a theatre troupe and arts collective. Out of it, sprang the first magazine, and the first editorial was written by Nilambri Ghai, now a resident of Ottawa. Among its other founders were Himmat Shinhat, Dolores Chew, Lisa Foster,Vipul Desai, Ajit Ghai, Vanessa Chio, Maya Khankhoje, Rana Bose and several other friends, actors, poets and writers who stood by us through thick and thin.

In one of our founding statements we said and continue to say, the following– “ Serai is a Persian word which means ‘resting place’ or a ‘place of transience’ for a traveler. Founded in 1986, Montreal Serai is an arts magazine that publishes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and reviews of film, music, art, exhibitions, theater and dance. Its primary focus is to create a social awareness about the existence and growth of newer communities in Quebec, Canada and the world. New Arts, New Communities are about the emerging presence of creative individuals and peoples that do not come from the traditional majority.

Bringing the Margins to the Center is a statement of our intent to counteract exclusion, separation, and marginalization when they occur in the arts and in society at large. Along with our theater group of the same name, the Serai collective strives to promote works that are not exclusively franco, anglo, allo — works that reflect and assert the diverse world we live in.

And this has remained our raison d’etre right till this date. And it will not change. Because the world is more intolerant, more exclusionary, Canada has turned away substantially from whatever its well-respected international stature was as far as governments go, and more pre-occupied with an agenda dictated by a crumbling empire.

For several years, starting out with ten issues per year and about ten plays in as many years, we have now concentrated on being a webzine, with a wider perspective and a larger readership worldwide. From a print run of 1500 copies, we have now reached 125,000 hits per year. And we are hopefully not stopping at that. We have been recognized by the Canada Council for the Arts for our innovative and tireless (albeit volunteer) efforts. We have also been critiqued by our friends and supporters for several failings. What originally started out as a group of South Asian and Asian residents of Montreal, Quebec, eventually became an arts collective embracing progressive, anti-racist ideals for people of all possible nationalities, living in this great interactive intercultural city of Montreal. Here below, then, is the first editorial and the first cover of Montreal Serai. The children in the cover have now spread out all over the world, rambunctious adults searching for a new world of their own.


1st cover for Montreal Serai


Editorial by Nilambri Ghai, Volume 1, Number 1, 1986


Perhaps you were passing by and the cover grabbed your attention or perhaps the name MONTREAL SERAI caught you off-guard? Why SERAI? What is this all about? Now who is trying to bring out another publication? Aren’t there enough around already? Which organization or group is producing it? Perhaps you opened this page merely to read the names of the publisher and editor who after all could be your friend or your associate. Perhaps you liked what you read and wished to continue…

Montreal SERAI is an independent monthly publication journal aimed primarily at Canadians of origins in the Indian subcontinent. It sets out to establish a distinct identity of the community. It addresses itself to the first generation of immigrants who look back nostalgically to their homes left behind and to second generation Indo-Canadians often caught between two cultures and two value systems. It focuses on South Asians – their needs, events and their peculiar traditions in an Indo-French Canadian environment. It is an ambitious venture that hopes to combine the variety and colour of local life with serious journalism.

The cover features a generation of children born in and around Montreal. Many of us have travelled far from our land of birth. We live here as transient settlers in a Serai (resting place for travellers) until it slowly grows and takes on the shape of an environment, a neighbourhood, or even a home in a state of permanent transience. For the children born in this Serai, it is nothing less than a home, and the only one they know. In this manner we all live in Montreal, surrounded by its unique, bilingual culture, adding to it the multiplicity of our own. We all hope to establish our identity, not so much through our ethnicity in the so-called multicultural mosaic of society, but through out inevitable representation in mainstream life, thus to somehow find a home in our Serai which we have grown to love and cherish.