India does find it hard to understand Punjab. That is why I like it when journalists travel and come back and seek to understand issues by talking to who they think are experts. At least, there is an attempt. Recently the Hindustan Times team travelled and asked me for my comments on their experiences. Now I am no expert but as a learner I am able to figure out a few things which I suppose can help them.
For example, the word agency. It is used everywhere in Punjab when the matter of politics comes up. Politics comes up everywhere, anyway. ‘The word agencies originates in the 80s and reveals deep-rooted mistrust in shadowy government officials and outsiders. It signifies death, disappearances and unclaimed bodies.’
This was an article on sacrilege that rocked Punjab in October/November 2015.
Friends, it is a matter of immense satisfaction that almost a decade after this book came out, it still evokes interest. The lovely and talented Sheila Kumar came to the recent book reading at iBrowse, Catholic Club hosted by the gracious Marianne Furtado De Nazareth.
Sheila wasn’t fully satisfied by the interaction because it veered towards the subject of the book – mental illness – which is critical but was less about the craft of the book and the author position. So, as she does, she wrote a review but also interviewed me. Frankly, I was quite blown by the questions. There were about a writer’s relationship with a story. We hardly talk about it. I loved answering them.
‘Also, though I am a writer and like to connect with the world, (I even seem extrovert and warm to friends, readers and strangers), I am actually very private and shy. I am very hesitant to single out myself with a ‘why me, God’ kind of question or use the first person narrative: the ‘I.’ I constantly ask myself: doesn’t the world suffer much more than me? Aren’t there much bigger issues to talk about? Why would someone read what I write? Yet, all my writing is first person. The inflection point is: when I know that the story is no longer about my emotions but taps into a universal consciousness, then I put it out for readers. Then they earn the epithet you just gave them – honest.’
Friends, Mini Anthikad-Chhibber from The Hindu covered the White Swan event last month on Literature and Mental Illness. She quotes my controversial remark:
Amandeep, on the other hand, said there is no such thing as non-fiction, as everything one writes is coloured by what one chooses to highlight and what one ignores. “We should open stereotypes instead of perpetuating them, literature should be used to build bridges rather than exclude.”
Thank you for the event White Swan Foundation for Mental Health, Pavitra Jayaraman, Manoj Das, C K Meena, Dr Ajit Bhide, Subrato Bagchi, Dr Prabha Chandran and others.
Friends, sometimes it happens almost magically that you discover a person from a completely different geography and connect with them through a primordial tribal kinship of experiences, thoughts, and practice.
I met Cristina Vidrutiu through the Schloss Solitude Blog and discovered her work with illness narratives. We conversed and she asked me questions which made me probe my own practice as a writer – shed light on what I am trying to do with my life. Upon seeing them published, I can now say that these answers are my credo as a writer.
Thank you Akademie Schloss Solitude! You make possible these wonderful connections.
Friends, this time when Lakshmi Karunakaran travelled with me to Punjab she saw things that even I was blinded to because of my gender and caste and class privilege. Things that shame me and keep Punjab violently feudal.
We know Punjab is hurting. We also hope elections will bring a change to Punjab. No, they won’t. Unless, Punjab seriously mends its deepest faultlines: land and caste.
My piece in The Caravan Magazine. Thank you Surabhi Kanga. I strongly believe our education is no use if it does not help us examine and correct ourselves. The Dalits of Punjab too march to emancipate themselves, like Dalits around the nation. The time has come!
Please read … please support.
Friends, on November 8, 2016, the Indian Prime Minister made 1.3 billion of us citizens of the nation foreigners in our own country. Our high denomination currency notes were declared no longer legal tender. I was to travel to Taipei for a talk and could not get Dollars in the banks.
My quote on Facebook was picked by Your Story and Anil Lulla interviewed me. Please read …
Friends, on November 26, at 10 AM, I will speak at the Taipei Biennale on the topic: ‘The Writer as a Memory Maker’.
I will talk about the bloody birth of our nation in the wake of the greatest migration in human history which left 1 million dead and 14 million displaced. Yet, how as a nation we seem to be condemned to never learn from history. How our gestures of public history – museums – are shaped. How our discourses are built on excluding narratives of caste, gender, tribals, and minorities. How chasing the dystopia of material development, through corporate capitalism, we are ignoring the core strengths of our diverse nation. What then is our future? All these with special focus on Punjab. I will also discuss the draft novel I wrote in Germany – The Memory Maker – which is currently, justly, gestating.
I will share the video when available. Please read …
It is a measure of some satisfaction that even after years of its release readers and scholars are engaging with ‘Roll of Honour’. Here is Manjinder Kaur Wratch’s scholarly article on the book in Muse India’s latest issue. Very thoroughly she draws out the larger context of the book and presents it very well.
‘As a writer of testimonial fiction and non-fiction, Sandhu lays bare the Punjab crises in a nuanced manner, and fittingly problematises it from a non-partisan viewpoint.’
Thank you! Please read …