‘Writers should hold their heads high’

Dalip Kaur Tiwana
Dalip Kaur Tiwana

It comes as a surprise when noted writer Dalip Kaur Tiwana tells us that she takes no more than five to six days to write a novel.`A0 But then, the intensity she portrays through words has its root in the writer, who writes only when she feels strongly about something and throughout the process is completely`A0 absorbed in her characters, thinks of them, dreams of them and, writes about them.

Starting with Sadhna, a book of short stories way back in 1961, to Katha Kaho Urvashi and her two-volume autobiography, this recipient of the Saraswati Samman is the first woman to become the president of Punjab’s largest body of litterateurs, the Punjabi Sahit Akademi. Her candidature invited, an overwhelming support from a wide section of literateurs. Many also said a busy Tiwana would not be able to devote her time to the Akademi.

In an exclusive interview to Shveta Pathak, she talks about her plans. Excerpts:

As the head of Punjab’s largest body of writers, how do you plan to fulfil your goal of promoting Punjabi language and culture?

Besides promoting the language and culture, I also want to do something to improve the situation of Punjabi writers. For instance, their financial condition. Writers devote their life to literature and their contributions to society should not be undermined. I want they should get facilities like pension and free medical aid after a certain age.

Besides Ludhiana, I feel the Sahit Akademi should have a place like the Waris Bhawan in Punjabi University where those who are unable to get a suitable environment where they can sit and write, can come, stay and express their creativity.

Only after consulting established writers, who have given their precious years to Punjabi literature, and think-tanks, we would chalk out a plan. I want to realise the dreams of people like M.S. Randhawa and other litterateurs for the akademi.

We are fortunate that the government is also serious about promoting Punjabi. This positive attitude would help us attaining our goals.

The number of readers of Punjabi books is declining, and the gap between author and reader is increasing. Why?

Essentially it is due to deterioration of values. There are other contributory factors like television, which is a big time waster and kills creativity. Instead of aping the West, we need to inculcate traditional values in our children. I am not against the English language, but forgetting one’s mother tongue is shameful indeed.

What about the quality of literature produced these days, given the fact that there are writers by the dozen?

There is a significant deterioration and love for materialism is to be blamed for the situation. Today every second person comes out with a book. They have the resources and they think it’s a shortcut to fame. Punjabi literature too has no dearth of such people. But then readers know how to differentiate between a good and a bad piece of work.

People who are materialistic do everything for their creature comforts.

But creativity is not about a short-term joy, a flash of fame. It is about knowing ourselves and knowing our connection with the world. Writers should keep their heads held high and refuse to succumb to pressures of materialism. They need to maintain their integrity. I personally have declined to be a part of several events, where I felt the writer in me would feel humiliated.

What keeps you busy these days?

I am writing something, though I will not disclose the topic. Besides, two to three novels of mine are about to be published. I do not take more than five or six days to write. I write only when I feel strongly about something. Those who say I write on women’s issues probably have not understood the depth of my message. I have written on relationships and women are a part of it.

What is your advice to budding writers?

Just as you cannot enjoy good health without good food, you cannot write well if you do not have good thoughts. Be a good person, that is what I want to tell all the aspiring writers.