Posts Tagged ‘The Hindu’

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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15
Apr

The Hindu Review: South Haven

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Friends, I recently reviewed US Indian writer Hirsh Sawhney’s debut novel South Haven for The Hindu.

‘The novel depicts the hypocritical underside of an Indian migrant family in the U.S. who has benefited from its liberal ideas, but cannot abandon its own regressive thoughts.’

Please read …

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Friends, this year the annual The Hindu Literature for Life festival invited me to speak on my current non-fiction project on Punjab. The talk was titled Punjab – The Unknown Narrative. Big shout out to Ms Prasanna Ramaswamy who invited me and Prema Revathi who hosted the talk.

Thank you!

Please see … 

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9
Jan

Mention in The Hindu on Books

   Posted by: aman    in Other

The Hindu features its speakers at the Lit for Life in different ways as a run up to the program. This time they featured me.

Please read …

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10
Jan

The Brown Sahib’s Gaze in the Hindu Literary Review

   Posted by: aman    in Other

When I was asked to review V S Naipaul’s seminal book An Area of Darkness, on the occasion of 50 years of its being banned, I approached the text with a mixture of feelings: respect for the craft of the writer but also a bit of apprehension about how he has talked about India in his articles, books, etc. I made sure I read him closely and question my own assumptions about Naipaul’s India. Unfortunately, he did not give me a chance to vindicate himself. It is sad, but it must be said that through his career Naipaul has played to a western gallery, a stereotype.

‘Thank you for your supercilious attitude, Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul. We could really have done without your writing. Yet, while I was reading the book on a plane, a foreigner in the seat next to mine quickly took down the name of the book and told me she would read it. It is, after all, by a Nobel laureate. ’

Read full review on the book that is freely available now.

 

 

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At The Hindu Lit Fest, Chennai I met senior journalist Ziya Us Salam who hosted the panel of nominees. He said some very nice things to me personally and publicly. At the Delhi edition of The Hindu Lit Fest I was taken aback when he asked me to catch up with him. A few days later I got a text message on my mobile phone: Cafe UNO, Shanglri-la, Janpath, 2.00 pm.

I am the kind who is happy just anywhere talking about things that matter – like Ziya’s family migrating to Delhi from Lahore during Partition and he growing up as part of the only minority community family in a pre-dominantly refugee neighbourhood in Delhi. These are the kind of stories that challenge the divisive, parochial configurations of our society. Respect! I wanted to know more about him. My listening, empathizing appetite was on a surge so I did not realize I needed to order food. That evening, a friend told me I was supposed to order food, this is a food-cum-writer talk column. I wondered how budhoo I am and how I had spoilt the hotel’s chance of getting featured.

Yet, to my surprise, the article has come and the senior journalist shows us how he can turn a no frills intense interview into a worthy piece. Here is the article on how a book is received, lost, nominated, read, talked about, and more. Please read.

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15
Apr

My Review of Hasan Suroor’s India’s Muslim Spring

   Posted by: aman    in Other

Must confess though I am from one minority community I do not know enough about all other minority communities. Yet, I can empathize and understand issues which are universal to such communities. So, when The Hindu asked if I would want to reviews Hasan Suroor’s book, I took up the job.

Here is my review, please read …

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13
Nov

My Interview with author Jaspreet Singh for The Hindu

   Posted by: aman    in Punjab

My interview with Canadian Indian author Jaspreet Singh on the publication of his new novel Helium on the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom  from the point of view of a son of a senior police officer who facilitated the communal violence.

‘Helium is informed by survivor and relief worker testimonials and is based on oral histories and private archives. The hybrid form allowed me to pose questions like: ‘What happened?’ and ‘What could have happened?’ It also allowed me to create distance. Despite all this it was not easy to write. I often tried to abandon the project.’
Read more here …

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My interview with the young gifted writer of ‘Fort of Nine Towers’ Qais Akbar Omar for The Hindu Literary Review. Please read here …

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Recently, I had the opportunity to review this family memoir by Qais Akbar Omar set in Afghanistan during the times of infighting, militancy, Taliban and the excesses by other fundamentalist forces. It is an excellent book. Please read my review here …

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