Posts Tagged ‘Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines’

12
Jan

The Tribune review: Account of Turbulence

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Dear Friends,

PANJAB is a gift that keeps giving. Thank you Aneet Randhawa for this lovely review in The Tribune. Thank you Roopinder Singh.

‘Punjab emerges as a land of paradoxes.’

Please read here …

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Dear Friends,

my friend Hema Gopinathan has assessed my book Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines in the context of my earlier works Sepia Leaves and Roll of Honour.

It is interesting to me, as a friend of the author, that Amandeep Sandhu’s latest book is a non-fictional account of the whys of Panjab. His earlier works were autobiographical fiction of his childhood through the lens of mental health and his formative years as a student in a boarding school during the violent insurgency days.

This one, Panjab – Journeys Through Fault Lines, though seemingly a travelogue/ reportage of the ground reality of Panjab, feels like the third part of a trilogy of self-examination as the canvas broadens and the author goes deeper within himself. While the earlier two dug deep into the private, personal surface, it is only logical that the author would not find the encompassing truth in the inner landscape of memories and would have to make the journey to the outer, the land of his foremothers and forefathers.

The book begins with the haunting line, ‘If you want to understand Punjab, be ready to count it’s corpses’. A few millenia ago another man, Vikramaditya went looking to retrieve a corpse, but that was only possible once he answered the corpse’s twenty-four questions. Our wholeness is dependent on the acceptance and integration of all our parts, not just the good but also the dead, decaying bits.

Panjab… examines 16, Satt, Berukhi, Rosh, Rog, Astha, Mardangi, Dawa, Paani, Zameen, Karza, Jaat, Patit, Bardr, Sikhya, Lashaan, Janamdin. The solah anna that make up the kadwa sach of Panjab today.

It’s a searing often disturbing narrative, the author keen on neither sparing himself nor us the readers as he dissects the complex 16 layered wound, each exposing the next.

There is something to be said about the clear dispassionate eye of the critic, standing tall, giving us a sweeping view of all that they think is wrong with the system and how to fix it. The way the British ran a sharp knife right across body of Punjab with the cool eye of a surgeon, in what they thought was the least painful way to bisect a nation, a people.

But this is not that book, for Amandeep is not that writer. While he writes with the clarity of the outsider, he also writes with the longing of a long-lost son returning home to embrace his slightly dented, damaged mother. It is in many ways more a pilgrimage than a travelogue.

The rips and tears across fabric of Punjab match the ones that were etched on his soul by the inter-generational trauma of his ancestors and you watch as he carefully examines and matches the two seams hoping to find answers that would if not heal, provide a voice for himself and a people whose suffering has been ignored from time immemorial.

 

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5
Jan

Deccan Herald Reviews PANJAB

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Dear friends,

I am mighty pleased that the main newspaper of my adopted city Deccan Herald has reviewed Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines. A few weeks ago, when the book released, the owner of my favourite bookshop, Mr Venkatesh of Nagasri told me, ‘We will be able to sell the once a review appears in the Deccan Herald.’

I am so glad the review has appeared today, the first Sunday of the year. ‘The outcome (book) is a unique account of contemporary Punjab with a historical backdrop… It adds to our knowledge of Punjab with a wealth of well-researched data peppered with anecdotes.’

Please read more here …

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Dear Friends,

last week a review of Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines by Yadwinder Singh appeared in the Punjabi Tribune (29.12.2019). I loved Yadwinder’s language and his content. It isn’t very often that one reads very fine Panjabi outside of books, in columns, in reviews.

What I also loved was how Yadwinder guides the readers to read the book by providing clues from within the book. That, to me, is an important aspect of reviews. Finally what I loved is, how Yadwinder highlights the photograph by Satpal Danish on the endsheets of the book and compares it with the legendary Ship of Theseus. I found it a brilliant allegory that lifts the review to a philosophical question applied to Panjab.

I felt, here is a review that truly adds to the book. I spoke to Kanwar Manjit Singh and very kindly he showcases the Panjabi review in English translation on Punjab Today.

Thank you! Please read here …

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3
Jan

Sheila Kumar on PANJAB

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab, Sepia Leaves

Dear Friends,

I love it when friends and readers respond to Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines. As a gift in the new year, Sheila Kumar responds to the book. Sheila is an old Panjab hand. She was in Panjab in the early 80s. In fact, in Kapurthala, when I was in school there. Thank you! Means a lot!

I open my New Year account of book reviews with a book I read slowly, attentively, absorbing everything it had to give.

Amandeep Sandhu`s PANJAB is many things to many readers.

There are those like me, who was once familiar with the pinds and the jind of what Sandhu calls the outlier state (and you must read the book to know why he does so). For us, the book is an updated ready reckoner, albeit in prose, of how things were and how things are.

Then there are people for whom the state stands for paranthas and lassi, juttis and parandis, bhangra and Lohri bonfires. This is based partly on perception, partly on stereotyped images. The book is an eye-opener for them, debunking several public perceptions and exposing the grim reality. On how bad the drugs situation is, on the ground. On the Land of the Five Waters being severely strapped for clean water. On its various deras (socio-religious organisations), the people who flock to them and the powers that control them. On the Khalistan movement, on Operation Bluestar, the last a sorrowful refrain which the author keeps returning to. On the Dalits of Punjab. And much more.

The past, historical and political, impacts this frontier state like few other states. Sandhu, who is a Sikh, yet stands at one remove from Punjab, trains an impartial but deeply compassionate gaze on all issues concerning the faith and the faithful.

Such an informative read. At the end of it, one wishes to unknow what one has just learned, to go back to dreaming of mustard fields, a boisterous people and a land of plenty. But reality is alas, reality.

A special hat-tip to Orijit Sen’s stark and compelling cover design.

Note: Below the review, look for Sheila’s review and Q&A with me on Sepia Leaves. This is a triple treat. 

Please read more here …

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13
Dec

BLink: To Punjab, homebound journeys

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Dear friends,

Jona Ray and I met up one evening at Khan Market and talked books and the writing life. At that time she was reading ‘Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines’. That someone is reading your book is such a pleasure for a writer.

Here is Jona’s write up on both me and the book in today’s The Hindu Business line.

‘When my editor suggested I begin with the photo [that is on the book’s front cover end leaf], I cried. I knew that I had found the beginning of my book.’

Thank you Jona and Rihan Najib. Please read more here …

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12
Dec

Bangalore International Centre Launch and Discussion

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Dear Friends,

last Sunday morning, Arundhati Ghosh engaged my editor Karthik Venkatesh and me in a discussion on Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines at the Bangalore International Centre.

If I were to say it myself, it was a very good session. That is what all who attended also told me. Dear Karthik Natarajan tried to live stream the event, I saw his hands go numb holding up the camera, but sadly we could not save the footage. Thank you Ravichandar Venkataraman and Raghu Tenkayala for your very kind hospitality.

Here is the BIC’s recording, please click here …

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10
Dec

Panjabi Tribune Author Interview PANJAB

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Dear Friends,

It was my honour to be interviewed by Swarajbir ji, Editor Panjabi Tribune, on Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines. Thank you Jasdeep Singh and Kuljit Bains. The interview is in Panjabi.

Please see an interview here …

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9
Dec

The Hindu: The land of many Anxieties

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Dear Friends,

I am thankful to The Hindu and Kishwar Desai for the review of ‘Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines’.

‘In a thorough exploration of the border state of Punjab, a writer goes looking for his roots and discovers an angst-ridden community’

I absolutely agree with Desai’s quibble on ‘a more detailed analysis of the status of women in Punjab’. This is what Urvashi Butalia also said to me personally. This is what I sensed, not only in the present book but even the earlier two books. This is why I request the women of Panjab to rise and tell their stories.

Coming to the review, I am sorry, The Hindu is now behind a paywall. Hence, here is a copy reproduced.

Panjab: The land of many anxieties

Kishwar Desai

DECEMBER 07, 2019 17:03 IST
In a thorough exploration of the border state of Punjab, a writer goes looking for his roots and discovers an angst-ridden community.

Following the opening of the Kartarpur corridor, there is cautious optimism in Punjab (or Panjab, as the writer Amandeep Sandhu calls it) and a promise of peace with our restless neighbour. But long before the euphoria ebbs away, and reality begins to bite, Sandhu’s book is like a wake-up call.

Legacy of Partition

Yes, the two Punjabs in India and Pakistan have a very tiny link through their joint spiritual heritage, but is there really anything we can truly be happy about? Sandhu has travelled along the fault lines of East Punjab — the Indian side — assiduously, bringing into this book the curious gaze of the outsider-who-belongs. Having lived outside the State for a long time, but with family connections, he can select the narratives which are most apparent, without getting too bogged down in detail, though he has clearly placed before us some fascinating facts. It is a brave examination of contemporary Punjab, within a historical context.

His central query is how Punjab’s development and political turbulence, over the years under various rulers including the British, impacted those who live here. How does the legacy of the past, such as the partition of Punjab, the events of 1984 and the militancy, continue to define it? It is a deeply pessimistic narrative as he finds a terrifying despair simmering under Punjabi pride.

The land of the five rivers is struggling with debt, casteism, unemployment, ecological degradation, loss of identity and much else — and most of this destruction has been a slow, historical erosion, possibly now reaching the tipping point.

Rural distress

For many of us who work in Punjab, the situation is not so relentlessly grim. But it is important to take heed when he discusses the haphazard construction, lack of civic facilities, a population bent over with debt in the rural areas, and the youth who are more often than not, experimenting with the latest chemical drug.

Perhaps the idea of Punjab is best envisioned by Sandhu’s friend, Satnam, who called it ‘claustrophobia’. Satnam’s “attempt to escape best describes this Panjab.” In fact, unable to escape the claustrophobia, Satnam eventually commits suicide, a final solution. Death lingers all over Sandhu’s book, whether it is in personal stories, about his mother’s cancer, or in the tales of suicides by farmers, or the prevalent caste violence, which resonates eerily with the recent brutal murder of Jagmail Singh at Sangrur.

Minor quibble

This book is the antithesis of our popular view of Punjab: endless fields of mustard; a bountiful food provider; wealthy Sikhs with opulent homes and fancy cars. The soldier and the farmer are the stereotypes we connect with Punjab. But Sandhu rips down the personal and the political make-up of Punjab and its psyche through a series of lively, but often dire, anecdotes, as he travels the State. He concludes that what we take for granted in Punjab is a chimera and that the reality is often too cruel.

My only quibble with this disturbing book is that in a few places, allegations are made which could be personal grievances, based apparently on interviews or newspaper reports. And the other missing element is a more detailed analysis of the status of women in Punjab, as the State’s gender balance is among the worst in the country.

But overall his journey is credible and authentic as he tours the urban and rural landscape trying to discover the real Punjab. He examines the historic reasons for the decay, even tracing the impact of the canal colonies under the British or the Gurdwara movement.

Punjabiyat at stake

His analysis of the long usage of drugs, in the past and present, or the rise of the deras or so-called religious societies or groups adds much to our understanding of the discourse on present day Punjab. Through deconstructing those aspects of Punjabiyat that the community holds as essential and possibly unavoidable, such as astha (faith ), jaat (caste ), mardangi, (masculinity), zameen (land), Sandhu captures a community in turmoil. He is not convinced that the political leadership can find solutions and frankly rejects those who have been in power thus far.

Linking historical narratives to the contemporary enables us to further understand the troubled State. My view of Punjab may not be so dismal, but it is books like these which will ultimately help us to re-examine the fault lines.

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7
Dec

Reader Compliments – PANJAB

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Dear Friends,

while we await formal reviews, I am sharing some reader compliments on the book.

Eminent Historian Ramachandra Guha on Twitter:

Kulveer Singh on Facebook:

A book – “Panjab – Journeys through Faultlines” by Amandeep Sandhu… Well, where do I begin to say about it, except that this book sets the bar higher for all later books to follow on diagnosis of issues facing Punjab.

This book must in fact be made mandatory reading for all public policy decision makers of Punjab and Delhi if they really want to understand the root and the magnitude of the issues facing Punjab.

What sets this book apart is not only that it uses a personal anecdotal format to dig deeper into the history and state of affairs in the state, but it manages to single out, segregate and list all issues explicitly in an interesting way. If one is a Punjabi, one feels a lump in the throat; and i am sure even a non-Punjabi for once would feel the pain of Punjab even if for some part.

Also, what makes this book landmark, is the fact that it is not only a lament (a bit too much of a lament sometimes in parts, but that’s understandable given the personal touch and emotional quotient of the author), but that it also throws some light at the possible solutions as it seeks to shake Punjab and Punjabis out of their stupor of self-gratifying bombasticity. It took me a while to start and finish the book in midst of my official travels, and I initially reckoned it had a bit too many papers for comfort. But having gone through the book now, I feel it could have gone on and on to dig even deeper into the diagnosis and prognosis of the issues. Perhaps, an opportunity for the author to bring out sequels to his Herculean effort.

I hope Modi and Shah read this; I hope the Sanghis read this; I hope the Akalis read this and introspect; I hope Captain reads this and looks at the mirror; I hope the NRIs read this and introspect at their role in the mess; and I hope the Punjabis of Punjab read it; even as I hope the Haryanvis also read it.

More importantly, I feel this is one of the few books on Punjab that appeals outside the echo-chamber of Punjabis and reaches out widely to opinion makers, liberal intelligentsia as well as the right-wingers across India. This book belongs in every shelf of every personal and public library.

In fact, one is tempted to use the same spelling that the author Amandeep has used – “Panjab”, just to show unequivocal appreciation for the herculean effort and sentiment gone into penning this landmark book on the state of ‘Panjab’.

Kudos to you, Amandeep… Hats off to you. One surely can’t say turbans off, eh… :)

Karthik Nijhawan on Messenger:

Hi Amandeep, we have been friends on Facebook for a while but I never had a chance to interact with you. I have been reading your book, Punjab. And probably the most extensive research based book I have ever read on Punjab. I was born and brought up in Punjab but was totally unaware of the anecdotes and politics of our home state. Thanks to your book. A year ago I started the quest for my family’s religion. I was brought up telling that we are Hindus but all the customs and mores we followed were of Sikhism. I started digging my family’s history. Your book helped me a lot. Finally I figured out that we are Sehajdhari Sikhs. When I told my family even they were shocked. Thank you for writing this book. Hope to meet you whenever you come to Delhi next.

Madan Gopal Singh ji on Facebook:

There is such understated dignity with which the author keeps his personal pain in a state of near erasure…

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