Posts Tagged ‘Sikh’

6
May

Indian Express: Views on movie Nanak Shah Fakir

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

Friends, rarely one finds that a student of history going through material which remains problematic with the community yet is the best illustration of a case. Journalist Adrija Roychowdhry explored the reasons behind the Sikh stance against the movie Nanak Shah Fakir. She also quoted me.

Please read …

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The article in Punjab Today condemning Shekhar Gupta’s lies has evinced greater interest in the Diaspora. Recently Punjabi Radio USA interviewed me and we discussed how media mis-represents Panjab. In fact, even more than that how Panjab has been steadily mis-represented. Thank you Harvinder, Gurjaspal, and Arvinder. Chardi Kala.

Please listen here … 

 

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5
Nov

My Review of Deep Singh Blue in The Wire

   Posted by: aman    in Other, Punjab

Friends, my review of Ranbir Singh Sidhu’s novel ‘Deep Singh Blue’. What struck me immensely about the writing was that it is without crutches, the writer creates and inhabits a world within language alone yet it is deeply rooted in the human experience. Kudos! Thank you Omair Ahmad for the opportunity.

‘DSB is a dark bildungsroman – a coming of age novel – about different types of unbelonging: in cultures, in the community, in the family, in relationships, in place and in time. The protagonist is lonely, immensely lonely, but the novel is not about loneliness or about an emotional or cultural pain. Instead, DSB explores the deep angst of being and a human’s relationship with the world.’

Please read …

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Friends, a few weeks ago I had raised the question of Sikh identity in my article on the Gurdwara Amendment Law regarding Sehajdharis in The Caravan Magazine. That went viral. Here is another argument in the context of a slightly older but even more revealing court case.

However, you look at it the Sikh identity is now severely compromised. The only way ahead, and I dread it, are the calls for ‘ghar wapsi’ which the right-wing is raising and what would lead to a split in the community – the way other established monotheistic religions have gone: Islam and Christianity. Ask ourselves, did we ask for this? Look at the Sikh identity question through these two angles.

‘The irony of a Sikh community, known much beyond its numbers for its service and egalitarianism, is that it fights its identity battles in the courts of a secular country and ends up losing in the real sense when it thinks it is winning court battles.’

Please read here …

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Friends, while we feel concerned about Punjab – recent Pathankot, drugs, caste issues, agrarian and industrial crises – I feel we also need to understand the state as it warms up to elections next year.

For a while now the Sikhs have been calling for reform within their highest religious institution. They are being thwarted by those in power and control the institutions. Over last year the common people have showed their displeasure to the political leaders but at the recent Jor Mela they boycotted their religious leaders too. After that the SGPC demonstrated its betrayal of the Sikh community. This is unprecedented.

This genuine unrest of the common people in their political and religious representatives is in turn exploited by radical forces – Khalistan etc. A story on one of the grave fault lines of Punjab.

Please read…

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Friends, if you heard about the Sarbat Khalsa near Amritsar November 10 you may want to read my report on the proeedings and critical remarks. If you have not heard of it because regular media managed to blank it out, you must now get acquainted with how Punjab is inching towards risky times. It needs your attention. Also read for the resolutions passed at the plenary meet. In spite of one and a half days now, I have not found them anywhere on the web in English.

‘I do not know what to derive from the resolutions as they put me squarely back into the dilemma: am I first a Sikh, and then an Indian, or vice versa, or only one of the two?’

Please read …

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Here is the translation of Daljit Ami’s column on the Dera Sachha Sauda Head being given general pardon by the high priests of the Sikh faith. It talks about the current reality of Punjab and traces how vote-bank politics has dictated the decision.

Please Read …

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In the second week of July Herr Rolf Spinnler interviewed me for a writer profile in the prominent Baden-Württemberg newspaper Stuttgarter Zeitung. A few days later I put up the image of the page on my social media to be greeted by so many friends and readers. I am humbled. Thank you. What impressed me most was how Rolf wrote inter-culturally to carry into German what is essentially an Indian/Punjabi sensibility.

Anil Kumar Jagalur has been an old friend. I remember him travelling all the way from Nagavara driving a car borrowed from a colleague to the IISc campus to listen to my talk in January 2012. He knows German and has been so kind to translate the article into English. He took the writing back to English thus closing the circle of understanding that Rolf opened. Here is the translation. This is the beauty of how language works, across continents, cultures, sensibilities, thus creating meanings. Thank you Anil.

Stuttgarter Zeitung writer profile July 18, 2015

The Sikh without a Turban

The snow had fascinated him, it was a new experience for him. Like a white, blank paper: an encouragement to write. The Indian writer, Amandeep Sandhu, who had occupied his studio high up in the forest near Stuttgart in early December 2014 as a fellow of the Akademie Schloss Solitude, narrates how he had fallen into a depression when the white cover over the forest and meadows had disappeared in the spring. Now, in mid-summer, a month before returning with his wife to the South Indian metropolis Bangalore, he seems to have luckily overcome this phase and over Indian tea excitedly talks about his plans for the future.

End of June, during a Festival about Terrorism in the Stuttgart Theatre, the writer introduced his novel “Roll of Honour”. It plays out in 1984, in a military school in the Indian state of Punjab and describes the coming of age of a young man before the background of the conflict between the religious minority of the Sikhs and the Indian central government. I know very little about the Sikhs, but after the reading of the autobiographically inspired novel, it appears to me that Amandeep Sandhu cannot be identified as a Sikh from his clothing style. Where are the turban, the long hair and the wildly burgeoning beard, with which a few youth in the novel reveal themselves self-consciously as belonging to this religion?

The writer laughs and rolls himself a cigarette at the kitchen table in his studio at the Solitude. He explains to me that, as an orthodox Sikh, he is forbidden to smoke and elucidates the difference between “Mona” and “Khalsa”. It somewhat corresponds to the difference between laity and monks in other religions.  As “Khalsa” (Pure) one is duty bound to the five “Kakars”, to which, apart from the long but well maintained hair the “Kirpan” also belongs, the dagger as a sign that the Sikhs protect the poor, the weak, and the innocent. He had decided to fight with the pen instead of the sword – in this way Amandeep Sandhu has interpreted his religion for himself.

But he had actually attempted a military career as per the wishes of his father. Nothing came of it and after the military school Amandeep Sandhu studied English literature, instead, at the University of Hyderabad, worked as a journalist, moved to the software metropolis Bangalore and served reasonably well as a technical writer in different IT-firms. The military school had become necessary as his parents’ marriage was encumbered by the psychological illness of his mother who suffered from schizophrenia. The author has handled this childhood under the shadow of a sick mother in his first novel, “Sepia Leaves”, published in 2008 by the Indian publisher Rupa Publications. The book describes coping with the difficulties with the mentally ill in modern Indian society from the perspective of a young boy and the later grown up person alternately.

In the traditional society the mentally ill were integrated in the solidarity of the extended family. But, for Amandeep Sandhu’s family that was no longer true. He was born as an only child in 1973, in Rourkela in Eastern India, where his father had moved as an Engineer from Punjab because in the 1950s the Indian steel industry was built there with the help of German companies such as Krupp. The people who lived in these new towns had not only to familiarise themselves with modern working methods, but also with new social forms such as the small (nuclear) family. The mentally ill were, in the older society, shielded by the joint family, under the modern conditions the health system should step in. For that, India was not ready. Thus, in the meantime Amandeep Sandhu’s novel is considered in India as compulsory reading for medical caregivers, social workers and students of psychiatry.

Indian society had made headlines in recent years through news of violence against women. In his second novel “Roll of Honour”, published in 2012, Amandeep Sandhu shows that young men too do not have it easy. In Punjab, in the year 1984, harsh customs rule in the military school in which, along with his classmates, the seventeen year old Appu prepares for the entrance examination of the military academy. Not only does corporal punishment bother the youth, the conflict between the independence movement of the Sikhs and the Indian central government demands a clarification of one’s own position.

Appu, as the representative of his class, is torn between his loyalty towards the Indian republic and his solidarity with the community of Sikhs. On the contrary, a few of his classmates engage themselves as freedom fighters for an independent Punjab, whereas they are terrorists in the eyes of the government. In the course of the class year the class disintegrates further, anarchy spreads, this is what the author underscores by borrowing the chapter titles from the apocalyptic poem by Irish writer William Butler Yeats – “The Second Coming”.

And then, there is the sexual need of the young men. Together, they secretly consume porn, imagine the sexual life of their teachers and even have sex with each other. Homosexual relationships among cadets – one knows about it (not only) from English novels. Is it common to write about sex in India, even homosexual sex, I ask Amandeep Sandhu. No, normally not, he opined, but he has ignored this taboo.

Here the novel clearly differentiates between relationships that depend on violence, if for instance an older student exploits the dependence of a younger one, and the voluntarily entered tender contacts such as the one between Appu and his younger schoolmate Gaurav. In “Roll of Honour” the microcosm of the boarding school is a mirror image of the macrocosm of the Indian society. The machismo of Appu’s schoolmates refers to the machismo that reigns in Indian Politics.

Hence Appu could write after the bad guys have stolen his personal diary: “The rape of the diary was like the army’s attack on the Golden Temple … Operation Blue Star was an act of sodomy”. In 2013, “Roll of Honour” was among the five finalists for the prize of the English language newspaper “The Hindu”. Meanwhile the novel has been translated into Punjabi, the mother tongue of the author.

I point out that he writes in English, the language of the former colonial power. He laughs and cites the slave, Caliban, from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”: “You taught me language; and my profit on’t/Is, I know how to curse”. Yes, the cultural imperialism of Britain had destroyed much in India.

Amandeep belongs to the generation of writers after the well-known Indian writers like Salman Rushdie or Vikram Seth who serve the western readership’s need for the exotic. Authors of his generation must however attempt to make English their own language to deal with the current problems of India. The Indian writer regrets that in his country there is no culture of remembrance as there is in Germany, and attempts to change it.

A planned book with the title “Journey through Fault Lines: Punjab 25 Years After Insurgency” wants to explore, a quarter of a century after the unrest subsided, the fault lines that the conflict of the eighties left behind. And his new novel, “The Memory Maker”, that Amandeep Sandhu started to write in Solitude, will also concern itself with migration and memories.

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4
Jul

Partition and Memory: A Memorial of Whispers

   Posted by: aman    in Other, Punjab

Friends, here is my piece on the partition of India and Pakistan in which I look at what happened to the Sikh psyche since then and suggest a radical retelling of our stories because though the trauma still haunts us …
‘… All we have for one generation are wisps of memory and for the next, family stories buried in silences. It is the third generation now which is trying to engage with Partition. Our generation has heard these stories in whispers and created many online projects where we are turning family histories into oral histories. Yet, pick up any newspaper, recollect the history of riots and genocides in independent India, and we will realise that we are still caught up in the same mess of communalism that created Partition.’
The piece appears in the recent issue of Muse India excellently curated by Charanjeet Kaur. Thank you! Thank you Asiimwe Deborah GKashugi, Ajay Bhardwaj, Prof Alok Bhalla for allowing me to use your quotes. Please read …

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A day ago I put up a mock post on Facebook saying I was starting an Indian Grocery store in Germany. I got over 75 comments and 275 Likes. Friends were so encouraging. It is nice. I felt a lot of people have by best interest in their mind.

Yet, I have a different interest. I want to write. I want to write to get reviews like this one Sakoon N Singh did for ‘Roll of Honour’. To be reminded of greats like Amitav Ghosh and Agha Shahid Ali in a review by someone who has been an insider to Punjab all these decades and is a Professor of English literature. Thank you Sakoon. I am touched.

‘… here is an attempt to unearth Punjabiyat as a more valid marker of identity as opposed to religion. Sandhu does a good job with deconstructing a lot of Punjabi lore, Sikh shabads and mannerisms in an attempt to take the wider readership into the heart of Punjab.’

Please read, you will relish this review.

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