Dear Friends,

I am placing this text here because to me the website serves as an archive of responses to my books and my own writings. On February 5th I heard from Mr Jean-Baptiste Joly on PANJAB.

A bit of the background: In the summer of 2015 when I was conceiving the book project as a Fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, I spoke to Mr Joly who was the Director at the institute. I said I foresee many many issues, especially of narrative integrity. He had said: ‘Treat the book like a mission, not religious, but for generations to come to know Panjab. Make the work bigger, much bigger than yourself.’ I kept that in mind, often remembered it when it drove me to depression.

After reading the book, Mr Joly responded:

Dear Aman,

my last email was sent a while ago, so I reconnect today with you after having been navigating through your Panjab. What an adventure, not only for you, but also for the reader!

Even though I was missing many technical words, acronyms, historical knowledge and Indian expressions I got a clear feeling of what Panjab means, where it is coming from, what the pending problems and contradictions are and what a possible (not really positive) future might be. Beside the information itself I admire most the tremendous work and dedication of the author (you!), your engagement, your sincerity and your desire to embrace (sometimes with Lakshmi!) this whole, enormous, complex topic. And you succeeded in this! What an incredible obstinacy you needed to achieve this project and also an unshakable believing in your mission and in yourself!

You found an extraordinary balance between the necessary distance to the object of your observation (like an historian), your own subjective involvement (through your family history) and your empathy and love for the people you met during theses years. Only an authentic writer can combine these different elements in a genuine literary text that makes the reading enormously enjoyable, even for a foreign reader.

So, my dear Aman, congratulations for this great work and book,

and much love to both of you

Jean-Baptiste

I feel so validated. I replied:

Dear Mr Joly,

yesterday was my birthday. When Lakshmi wished me at night, I said, ‘I do not know what is there to wish. So many years of our lives have gone by. Yet, today the world is an even more batterted place than in our childhood.’ We held silence for a minute. Perhaps making a wish for the world to somehow, miraculously, turn over a new leaf.

Today I received your beautiful email. I read it thrice and by the third time I was crying. I was alone at home. I cried shamelessly. My tears are a testimony to the promise I made myself when I was in wonderful Solitude. I promised I will remain worthy for what what the residency gave me, what you offered as guidance. Today, I can say, I lived up to my own promise to you. Thank you so very much for your kind words. I know I deserve them.

Yes, Mr Joly, the travels for this work were indeed arduous, not only physically but emotionally, mentally and psychologically. The travels took a lot from me, but gave me so much more. As you say, I remained ‘obstinate’. I am glad this book came together and is now accepted by the various factions of Panjab – the Left, the Radicals, the Hindu voice. It is serving as what was intended: a biography of a state, a region, a people.

I will now strive to complete the novel I started composing at Solitude. One draft was done when I was in residency. At some point, perhaps through DAAD or any other such Fellowship, I will come to Berlin and I will meet you. I see it possible.

Lots of love to you and family. From both of us.
Aman

 

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