Almost all big names in the
Punjabi world of letters have been included. Writers like
Gurbaksh Singh Preetlari, Sant Singh Sekhon, Balwant Gargi,
Haribhajan Singh, Mohinder Singh Sarna, Sukhbir, Dalip Kaur
Tiwana, Ajit Cour, Prem Parkash, Gulzar Singh Sandhu, Atamjit,
Paash, Shiv Kumar Batalvi, Jagtar, Amarjit Chandan, Surjit
Pattar, Harnam, Gurcharan Rampuri, Lal Singh Dil, Nirupama
Datt, Waryam Sandhu and Satinder Singh Noor are in this galaxy
unluckily, some prominent names like Kartar Singh Duggal,
Amrita Pritam, Gurdial and Ankhi have been spared. Gurbaksh
Singh Preetlari is the pitashree of Preet Nagar who
appeared like a meteor in the Punjabi world of letters in the
mid-thirties of last century. He had been dazzled by the glare
of American life where he was trained as an engineer in the
early years of the 20th century. He brought back to Punjab
some of this magical impact.
became a vendor of dreams, adding sparkle to listless eyes.
His romantic words carry the innocent Punjabi reader to the
illusory dream world. But towards the end of the fifties many
writers who were influenced by his personality were
disenchanted with him. Nanak Singh wrote "Sangam"
exposing his hypocricy. Opendar Nath Ashk wrote "Bari
bari ankhen" again on the same theme. Sant Singh Sekhon
named the column "Sanehian da panna" in Preetlari as
the "Thaggi wala panna" (the cheating column).
Jolly from Amritsar wrote the story "Cheekan"
(screams) about Gurbaksh Singh’s family and so on. Sant
Singh Sekhon, Gurbachan says, was a transparent person though
full of contradictions. He appeared as a unique event in the
literary and cultural life of Punjab but was always carried
away by cupidity and desire. In addition to this, he remained
a votary of "jatwad", Marxism, Sikh fundamentalism,
progressivism besides being a libertine.
according to Gurbachan, is an elegant writer of the mores of
metropolitan life. He is a master of sensuous prose full of
carnal desire. His sentences are smart like a dandy, standing
out for their amatory titillation and sparkling wit. He
quickly transcended his earlier progressive phase of the
forties and the fifties in order to fly high on the ecstatic
wings of Eros. He writes with equal felicity in English. His
"Naked Triangle" and "Purple Nights"
created quite a flutter.
Singh, one of the most decorated poets of Punjabi is known for
his magical spell through his linguistic manipulation.
Gurbachan is rather attracted by this trait of the great old
man of Punjabi letters and it seems the main motivation behind
this write-up is the politics of literary awards in Punjabi.
Tiwana, Gurbachan says, is absent from herself. She was
motivated to become a writer by illustrious people like
Principal Teja Singh, Dr Mohinder Singh Randhawa and Prof
Pritam Singh. If one is eager to interact with her one has to
explore her writings which anyway have been well recognised.
Out of the
four women writers portrayed in this collection, the second
most important yet more colourful is Ajit Cour, a Delhi-based
Punjabi writer who has created more literary events in the
metropolitan Punjabi circles than any other individual except
Balwant Gargi. Gurbachan says that no Punjabi writer in Delhi
can manage public relations as efficiently as Ajit has done.
While in the
middle of this piece, I tried to learn something about her
from a friend who spent a few decades rubbing shoulders with
all big names there. He volunteered, "She is a very
enterprising woman. She started from a scratch and has reached
the top." Now the million dollar question is, how does an
enterprising woman reach the top in a cosmopolitan
editor of "Lakeer", is a former naxalite. He is a
senior short story writer. Now he has said goodbye to
revolutionary zeal in favour of lust. He believes that
"The greatest reality of India is its traditions,
rituals, its caste system and religious beliefs. Even the
communists are not free from them. Jat communists are equally
caste-minded." Now Prem Parkash’s stories are more
concerned with the crises in man-woman relationship.
Sandhu for Gurbachan is the errand commander-in-chief of the
capital. The story of Shiv Kumar is like that of a bird’s
melancholy songs. He changed the tenor of Punjabi poetry and
at his hands it became a stage performance. He hated
contemporary poets. He did not need any admiration, review or
Jagtar is one
poet who captivates Gurbachan. Among all contemporary poets,
he is the least vocal and thus gives the impression of being
an angry young man, full of rebellion. Though he is past
sixty, he still exudes youthful verve.
favourite poets of Gurbachan are Paash and Lal Singh Dil the
standard-bearers of Naxalite movement.
done to death by terrorists when he visited the state from the
receives harsh blows. According to Gurbachan, Pattar is a tomb
of poetry-lovers and his literary reputation is at stake. How
far this comment is right only history will show.
colourful write-ups in this collection are those on Nirupama
Datt and Sutinder Singh Noor. About Nirupama Datt Gurbachan
says, "She is one person who laughs after every sentence
that she utters like an adolescent girl."
Singh Noor, according to Gurbachan, has acquired the status of
literary Pope of Punjabi literature. His "letterdom"
is almost cosmic in nature and is strictly run on medieval
Quite a few write-ups are
licentious if not libelous, thus making it spicy and gossipy
to attract certain popularity. No doubt they enhance the book’s
saleability. But the author himself is so touchy about his own
"image" that he often fails to tolerate even a whit
of criticism. "Naughty" prose, in any case, is not
decent prose even though one has the pretensions of doing a