Published:  02:09 AM, 12 September 2019 Last Update: 12:20 PM, 12 September 2019

'Our mother tongue is our culture'

'Our mother tongue is our culture'

A K M Mohsin is a Bangladeshi newspaper editor and writer living an expat's life in Singapore. To promote Bengali language and culture, he started a Bengali monthly newspaper, 'Banglar Kantha', in 2006. In 2012, he introduced the Banglar Kantha Literary Award. Over the past twenty eight years, he has become a one-man lifeline for migrants in Singapore. You can find him providing assistance to migrant workers.

He also set up a Bangladesh Centre, Singapore. It is a platform for information and advisory services for corporate investment and media services in Singapore. This centre also facilitates niche tours to Bangladesh for academic researchers and student groups.

His another initiative is 'Dibashram', which is alternative platform for literature, poetry and music of temporary guest workers in Singapore. Moreover, he runs a free clinic for workers twice a month. Mohsin has co-edited a book, A Thousand and One Days: Stories of Hardship from South Asian Migrant Workers in Singapore. In an exclusive (electronic) interview with Asian Age, Mr. Mohsin shares his personal views and work with minority communities.

Asian Age (AA): You are the first editor publishing a Bangla newspaper in Singapore who has received recognition at local and international levels. Will that influence the way Bangladeshi migrant literature is looked at? A Bangladeshi migrant worker won Migrant Worker Poetry Competition in 2016. It's a big achievement for the Bangladeshi community in Singapore.  Do you think new writers from Bangladeshi community will emerge from such competitions?

AKM Mohsin: The question is a really important one to address. Talent without a platform to shine lets potential go to waste. Migrant workers from Bangladesh have talent and these competitions give them a platform to shine on the national stage. However, we have been nurturing talents for years outside the limelight. Community voices through poetry are empowering.

AA: Banglar Kantha is an esteemed monthly newspaper in order to help the Bangladeshi community. What have been some of the challenges in running this newspaper in a foreign country? And what have been the most rewarding moments?

AKM Mohsin: Running the paper is my life, my passion. Setting up a community paper and running it has its challenges. Migrant workers would pay for a can of coke but not for a newspaper. As the audience is small, advertising revenues are limited, and there is a family to support and staff to pay.

AA: You've lived in Singapore from many years. Do you see yourself as a migrant? Or what is in the story of a migrant that you can relate to?

AKM Mohsin: I started as a normal migrant. But Singapore has been kind, and now I have lived here most of my life. I am a permanent resident and call Singapore home. I, however, live and work in the community, and can relate to experiences well.

AA: When and why did you decide to move to Singapore?

AKM Mohsin: I moved to Singapore as a student in the early 1990s to seek a better future. I found employment and stayed on, and eventually started Banglar Kantha through realizing the need for a community voice.
AA: How has living in Singapore influenced your writing?

AKM Mohsin:  For a writer, the surroundings mould us. Singapore has enabled my voice as a writer, community organizer and editor.

AA: What inspired you to run a Bangladeshi newspaper?

AKM Mohsin: There was a need in the community to articulate the voices of the workers and to engage them with the news of Singapore and the world at large.

AA: What have your experiences been like as an expat editor?

AKM Mohsin:  Being the editor of the only Bengali language community paper in South East Asia places me in a unique position. I am the curator of community voices but it is also my job to act as a bridge between Singapore and Bangladesh in a lot of ways

AA: Could you tell us a little about your future projects?

AKM Mohsin:  My future projects include my autobiography, Titash River to The Kallang; and a few projects are in the pipeline to record the voices of migrants in a way that they are not subsumed by the intellectual elite.

AA: What are you reading at the moment?

AKM Mohsin: I read from a diversity of sources as an editor, it is my job!

AA: Is there anything you would like to share with the readers of the Asian Age?

AKM Mohsin: I would like to thank the readers for their time in this era of YouTube and other entertainment sources. On a final note, our mother tongue is important. It is our culture and we should uphold it in small ways, like reading the newspapers.

The writer is a Sub Editor of
the Asian Age

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