by Ahmed Khan
On January 15 Romania marks its National Culture Day. Instituted by law on December 7, 2010 and first celebrated in 2011, the day is designed to promote culture, art, and academic effort. January 15 was chosen in order to coincide with the birthday of Mihai Eminescu, Romania’s most influential poet.
His poetry has been translated in over 60 languages and in the 154 years since he published his first poem, Eminescu has become Romania’s best known cultural ambassador. Included below is the story of his impact on Romania’s relations with Pakistan written by Ahmed Khan a friend of the Romanian-American community in the Washington, DC area.
“A monument jointly dedicated to the national poets of Romania and Pakistan, Mihai Eminescu and Mohammad Allama Iqbal, was erected in Islamabad, Pakistan on Romania’s National Culture Day on January 15, 2004. It commemorates Pakistani-Romanian ties, as well as the dialogue between civilizations which is possible through the cross-cultural appreciation of their poetic legacies. 2004 marked the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Romania.
The Monument represents a combination of some of the specific characteristics of Romanian and Pakistani architecture. From Romania, the monument integrates an Endless Column, symbolizing the well-known work of the world famous Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncuși – the father of modern architecture. The 20-foot high Monument, the first of this kind in the Capital city, was made of reinforced concrete, bronze, granite and white marble by an ambitious team of students under the coordination of the well-known Pakistani artist, Jamal Shah. The big marble book of the Monument has the effigies of lqbal and Eminescu in Bronze.
It was Prof Dr. Emil Ghițulescu, Romania’s Ambassador to Pakistan between 2003 and 2005 who first approached his counterparts in the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to commemorate not just the diplomatic and business ties but also the cultural ties between Pakistan and Romania. As he immersed himself in Pakistani culture for his diplomatic assignment, Dr. Ghițulescu quickly noticed the similarities between the two great poets who are held in very high regard in Pakistan and Romania, respectively. He found himself fascinated by Iqbal’s poetry and quickly became a devout fan. A writer and an accomplished poet himself, Dr. Ghițulescu went on to publish three books during his time in Pakistan including Iqbal – Eminescu: A Dialogue Between Civilizations, Universal Values of Romania and Pakistan – Allama Iqbal and Mihai Eminescu, A Surprising Resemblance and Pakistan – Romania: A Cultural Dialogue.
Through the work between the Mihai Eminescu Trust and The Iqbal Academy, as well as between the Foreign Ministries in Islamabad and Bucharest, Pakistan Post issued special, commemorative stamps in 2005 to mark the relationship as well. The stamps feature the Monument, the portraits of the two poets, the flags of Pakistan and Romania, as well the words “Dialogue Between Civilizations” to mark the special relationship between the two nations.
A handout released by the Pakistan Post noted: People in Pakistan were not familiar with Eminescu’s work just as people in Romania might not have heard of the literary work of Iqbal. But by making a comparative study of these great poets, Prof Dr. Emil Ghițulescu, the ambassador of Romania to Pakistan, has initiated a dialogue, if not between two civilizations then at least between Pakistan and Romania. His efforts materialized in two books written and published in Pakistan. It is particularly interesting that the resemblance discovered by the Romanian diplomat involves two poets from different generations and cultural areas so far away from each other. This is perhaps why their common message is so relevant today, when mankind faces so many differences, paradoxes and contradictions.
The story of Pakistan-Romania friendship is not limited solely to the arts, as the two nations have had uninterrupted bilateral relations since 1964. Both countries send university and MA level students on educational exchange programs to Islamabad and Bucharest for enhanced studies, as well as hold business, military, and cultural exchange seminars and tailored visits regularly to continue the enhanced cooperation among citizen leaders of Pakistan and Romania.”