Posts Tagged ‘Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan’

The Punjabi Tribune graciously covered the Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan, New Delhi discussion on the book Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines.

Here is the clipping.


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Dear Friends,

poet, writer, and critic writer Manash Firaq writes on a Facebook post:

Amandeep Sandhu writes on his lack of belonging to the land of his foremothers in, ‘Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines’: “Unlike people born in Panjab who have a direct connection with, and hence a memory of the land, I have no liminal or tangible marker of belonging to Panjab. While my family did hail from Panjab, I was neither born here, nor do I live here. I have no address, bank statement, Aadhaar card, passport or land ownership to prove my connection with Panjab.”

This is a fascinating point of entry, for a writer who wants to write about his not-so-imaginary homeland. Sandhu does not prioritize his identity as a reason behind his embarking on this project. Identity is an umbilical cord that is not merely physical, or even psychic. Identity is sought, self-contested, found and lost, in time. It is never to be taken for granted. Identity is a condition of being in the world. Like Dr. Anirudh Kala said, from writing on his schizophrenic mother in ‘Sepia Leaves’, Sandhu turned his attention to his schizophrenic ‘motherland’. But the schizophrenia in the passage quoted above is not of intimate memory. It is the schizophrenia of systems – “bank statement, Aadhaar card, passport or land ownership” – that territorialise belonging.

Sandhu, in a radical move, disinvests himself from those schizophrenic markers of belonging that the state thrusts upon us. Those markers too are fault lines through which you claim your relationship to a land and the land claims you. To be outside that claim is risky, and a danger, if you are still claiming a relationship. How to claim a relationship from the “outside”? We have been living this predicament since the 20th century, of how an identity that is part insider and part outsider, undergoes a partial sense of apology. It is also inflicted upon them by so-called “culturally rooted” people, who force them, in the words of Zygmunt Bauman, “to prove the legality of their presence”. It’s a fiercely political question of our times.

Sandhu makes an even bolder confession that may disinherit him from any claim to Panjab: lack of memory. Memory, we thought, is fundamental to belonging. Sandhu claims –and proves through his book – that it isn’t. This is another radical move by a writer who is writing about the land he historically belongs to. If not memory, then what is it? By writing the book, Sandhu has given us the answer: labour. Sandhu reconnects with his roots, not through memory, but labour. And labour is as much about love, as memory. This idea is very liberating for any understanding between writing and belonging and the relationship between belonging and history. Refugees and migrants, who belong to places through labour, have equal claims to belong to a place as natives, who simply sentimentalize identity. It is not that labour does not have memory. But labour does – adds – something more to memory. Labour “makes” memory. This is how we must henceforth understand our relationship with land and place, and claim it. It is time we stopped prioritizing the colonially constructed, nativist theories of belonging.

Sandhu also, again quite politically, refuses to situate identity within a security network. Identity, we thought, was also about securing for oneself, every marker of citizenship. Sandhu tells us, identity that is free of security networks is also identity. Identity, in this liberating sense, is outside the very idea of security.
Identity is not LIC (Life Insurance Corporation). It is not insurance for security. Identity is free. It is as insecure as being in the world. And something else – it is being in the world as other. It is to “risk” one’s identity: the oldest, ethical argument to be in the world. Sandhu writes a book on Panjab as other.

[At the Conference Hall, Bhai Vir Singh Sadan, New Delhi, 16/11/2019.]


For now I am basking in the kind reading by Manash. I will discuss more with him soon.

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