When two Punjabs met

Tarunjit Singh talks about memories he collected and compiled in his book A Journey Home to Lehnda Punjab: History, Experiences and Emotions during a Majha House session

When two Punjabs met

An online session organised by Majha House under the initiative of ‘Sanjha Punjab’ in Amritsar. Tribune photo

Tribune News Service
Amritsar, June 9

When I was about to make my journey back to Punjab in Pakistan, I asked my grandmother how will I recognise our ancestral haveli? And she replied that there was an old black peacock outside. And when I went there, the peacock was still intact, said a visibly emotional Tarunjit Singh Butalia during an online session organised by Majha House here.

When I was about to make my journey back to Punjab in Pakistan, I asked my grandmother how will I recognise our ancestral haveli? And she replied that there was an old black peacock outside. And when I went there, the peacock was still intact. I spent only a few days in Pakistan, but these were so rich that they will make for memories of a lifetime. — Tarunjit Singh Butalia, an interfaith speaker and an educator

The programme was held under the Majha House initiative of ‘Sanjha Punjab’ and was helmed by Dr Arvinder Chamak. Tarunjit Singh was sharing his memories which he collected and compiled in his book ‘A Journey Home to Lehnda Punjab: History, Experiences and Emotions’.

Tarunjit Butalia is an interfaith speaker and an educator. His ancestral home is in Gujjranwala, Pakistan. His family migrated to Amritsar in 1947 and later he settled in the US.

When I received an article for translation, I didn't pay much attention as it was just another job. But when I went through these, I was moved to tears by what Tarunjit had written. —  Khizar Jawad, a scholar rom Lahore

He was joined in this session by renowned scholars from Pakistan Mazhar Abbas and Khizar Jawad. “I spent only a few days in Pakistan, but they were so rich that they will make for memories of a lifetime,” said Tarunjit.

Tarunjit, through his experiences, debunks many pre-formed, rigid notions that outsiders have of the people of Pakistan. We are seen as a stereotype, as backward people who dominate their women, don't let them get education or work, or force them to be in hijab, and who are not hospitable. His book shatters all myths. —  Mazhar Abbas, scholar From Lyallpur, PAK

Explaining his surname, he said the word ‘butalia’ comes from the Punjabi denomination of the number 42 (batali), which marked the number of estates their family owned.

He said he had planned to chart a history of his family heritage from one Punjab in Pakistan to the other in India.

Sharing his experiences in Lahore during his journey there, he said when the road widened, he knew instinctively that he had entered the Mall Road, and he knew that Aitchison College, the college where his ancestors studied, was nearby. And soon, he was standing in front of the college. “When I reached our haveli, I was delighted to find that it had been converted into a school for girls. It seemed to be a fitting usage of our heritage,” remarked Tarunjit.

Introducing the two scholars — Khizar from Lahore and Mazhar of Lyallpur, Pakistan — who helped him in his endeavour, Tarunjit said they were not only translators, but co-authors as their contribution to the book was immense.

Khizar said: “When I received an article for translation, I didn’t pay much attention to it as it was just another job. But when I went through one and then the rest of these, I was moved to tears by what Tarunjit had written.”

In his turn Mazhar said: “I took up the project simply because I was idle at that time after having submitted my Ph.D thesis. But when I went through the articles, I knew what I had in my hands was something quite unique. Tarunjit, through his experiences, debunks many pre-formed, rigid notions that outsiders have of the people of Pakistan. We are seen as a stereotype, as backward people who dominate their women, don’t let them get education or work, or force them to be in hijab, and who are not hospitable. This book shatters all these myths.”

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