A personal journey that Amardeep Singh undertook added a new dimension to his life. A high-flying corporate executive hit by the mid-life crisis, he decided to take a break. It was the time to visit Pakistan where his parents had left behind some of the family and much of the legacy.
Born in Gorakhpur, Amardeep among other places wanted to visit Muzaffarabad, his father’s native place, and Abbottabad where his mother grew up. In a 30-day visa that he got, courtesy his Singapore passport, he ended up visiting some 36 places that still hold the ruins of the Sikh heritage.
A month later as he sat post this emotionally charged journey, he found two books on Punjab history by two European writers in his home library in Singapore.
Considering himself fortunate to have witnessed the sites, he took upon himself the mammoth task of documenting his story along with the pictures he had clicked.
The result is Lost Heritage – The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan, a heavy coffee table book (weighs around 3kg) with 500 pages full of stunning visuals, all clicked by Amardeep.
“I could do it because even before I set foot on the other side of the border, I had known all those places all along, having an avid interest in Sikh history.” Visitors from this side of the border mostly visit Panja Sahib, Nankana Sahib and Lahore Dera Sahib. But there is so much more for Sikhism was born and flourished there as much as this side of undivided Punjab. Among the different places that this man on the mission saw were Chillianwala, Wazirabad Gurdwara, Eminabad, Manshera Gurdwara that now operates as the Municipal library, Nakkai Havelie in Sheikhupura Fort, Haripur Fort built by Hari Singh Nalwa, erstwhile Sikh homes in Rawalpindi and Chatti Pathshahi Gurdwara –Wazirabad.
“What a rich culture we have had. Even the ruins stand apart in all their glory with rich architecture, painted frescos,” says Amardeep, who was even more touched by the love he received on the side of the border.
Wary on how a turbaned Sikh would find his way to his parents’ former house, Amardeep got the surprise of his life as not one but 14 people became a part of this journey taking him to the places he wished to see. “The love that I got crossing the Wagah border was unimaginable. Whatever the governments on both sides of the border say, masses share this deep bond.”
All such stories and more find way in the book that Amardeep has put together. It was not easy even for this credit card guy (he last worked with American Express) to raise money from publishing houses, but having set his mind to it, he achieved his dream. Out of the 3000 copies that were printed, the way books are being lapped up, Amardeep might have to think of reprint soon for there are only some 400 left on the 82nd day of book’s release.
This enormous response has also fetched him a new vocation. He is being invited from different corners of India and abroad to talk about his book. “I am happy to share my story not because I want to sell my book, but because I want to share this story, share this common history that has not been written, seen and might possibly be erased in the near future.”
What next for him? Another book or corporate stint? “I really don’t know,” says Amardeep who is happy to label himself as a ‘confused’ soul. But one thing that he really hopes is to get together with the like-minded people and restore the ruins.
“And not restoring by white marble that lacks the original architectural genius that built them in the first place.”
Lost Heritage The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan was formally released at Hotel Aroma-22 on Tuesday.
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