From The Long Dusty Road to the Internet (1965 - 2001).
"Mountains have been climbed, deserts and seas crossed, and man has been to the moon; but the barriers that divide people remain, and grow more formidable every day. The emergence of The Green Pennant, therefore, adopted by young people in turning their attention upon those barriers, is surely a development in the right direction." - (Comex 1965)
Following the Green Pennant Awards in Edinburgh - courtesy of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Lord Provost's Office - during a reception for Commonwealth Heads of Government in November 1997, it was hoped that the success of the event would encourage a PAN ASIAN and a PAN AFRICAN Comex in the new millennium, modelled on the well documented experiences of Comex in the old one.
Not unlike the origins of Comex (1964-65) ideas were exchanged, letters were written, and the telephones rang - all adventurous activities in their way - and a plan of sorts began to emerge based on reviving the 1964 initiative of the late Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, in calling on young people "to organise a new consciousness in the Commonwealth" which led to Comex 1 under the patronage of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, followed by thirteen expeditions and, ultimately, The Green Pennant Awards. But the initial enthusiasm soon fizzled out as the prevailing fog of pessimism about the Commonwealth reasserted itself.
Whether Commonwealth leaders decide to revive the proposal or not (and the 2001 Commonwealth Day message is a timely reminder that over half of the 1.7 billion people of the Commonwealth are under 25 - the same age group as might be called upon in a shooting war), what has already been achieved cannot be ignored or undone.
The Commonwealth - as no other group of nations - is historically equipped to carry the spirit of adventure across the barriers that divide people (the aim of the Green Pennant Awards), and as Prince Philip once said : "One thing Comex has proved is that for those who go looking for the Commonwealth, it is still the most remarkable exercise in human relations on a world scale mankind has yet witnessed."
The looking continues in a raga for the Commonwealth, LITTLE GREEN FLAGS (The Green Pennant Awards), or NANNHEY HAREY DHWAJ arranged for voice, sarod and tabla by Promod Shanker and Kamal Kant Sharma, from a tune written for bagpipes and recorded at Edinburgh Castle, in the hope that it may inspire a more positive response from Commonwealth Governments, and reach the remotest corners of the Commonwealth.
Meanwhile, given the minimal support from the thousands who have been touched by the passage of Comex over 35 years, it may be possible to organise, what could well be the most adventurous Comex of all: a recorded programme of The Story of Comex in Song.
Twenty-five songs have been written about the Comex experience as events unfolded on the road. (see Inauguration of The Green Pennant Awards.) These songs emerged through the ups and downs of ordinary people exploring together the wilderness of human relations over a very long time. Many have contributed to them, including Kenneth Kaunda (then President of Zambia). Together they tell a story.
The sarodist Promod Shanker (late of Times Music and now of The Cosmic Music Company, Vardaipalayam, Chennai, Tamil Nadu), a member of Comex has suggested that the achievement of The Green Pennant Awards (adapted from the distinguishing symbol of these expeditions) should be expressed in India - the country were the idea was conceived following the initiative of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru - in a distinctly Indian sound. It is an ambitious undertaking, but not impossible. And the work has already begun.
The singing will be in English or Hindi, or a mixture of both. The object is not to Indianise Western Music or Westernise Indian Music but to reach a wider audience where these things no longer matter. Little Green Flags will be sung in Englsh to give it global appeal. Vachaspati Sharma, a poet and Sanskrit scholar is doing the translations.
His work on 'Village Lights' is a clear reminder that the true voice of India is to be found in her villages. 'There Must be a Reason' takes its place as a tribute to a Franciscan Priest (the late Fr Joshua of Quetta) whose personal intervention helped a tabla player (Kamal Kant Sharma) to cross the barrier between Pakistan and India unhindered. In 'Silver Train', the theme song of the Queen's Silver Jubilee Comex 8 (on which Kamal Kant was a member representing India), the train is seen not only crossing snow-capped mountains, sun-parched deserts and flooding waters, but actually dancing across them! And 'Kenaki', adapted from the classical Hindi expression ki kena (or ki kehna) meaning 'what I can say', makes its debut as the superlative of superlatives when something is beyond description.
These, and the other songs, represent the voice of the Commonwealth.
Comex Home Page
8th December 2001.