H C Singh

1962- 64

In early 1962, though we were living in one room of a government quarter, we felt very much honoured that the greatest Punjabi Novelist, Sardar Nanak Singh, who was father – in law of my younger sister, lived with us for a couple of days. He had come from Amritsar to accept Sahitya Academy Award to be given to first Punjabi Writer. Here are some feelings of respect and reverence the I expressed in those days.

Nanak Singh, father of Punjabi novel, was a born genius. So long as the planet is there, Punjab is there; Punjabi speaking people are there, he will be remembered with reverence. Nanak Singh was a rare literary star that appears once in hundreds of years. He was one amongst galaxy of literary giants like Kalidas, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dickens, Tagore and Bernard Shaw.

Nanak Singh was born Hans Raj in a petty grocer’s family in Peshawar Cantonment (now in Pakistan) but lost both his parents in childhood. He had only primary education that too on Urdu. But he never gave up his devotional and literary pursuits. He joined Blind Devotional Musicians Group who used to recite Gurbani and Keertan daily in Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Peshawar Cantt. Under this solemn influence Hans Raj, who had become devotee of Guru Nanak by hearth and soul became a Sikh and was baptized as Nanak Singh.

Hereafter the genius in him started unfolding. He self-learnt Punjabi in Gurmukhi Script so as to read Sikh Scriptures direct from the Holy Guru Granth Sahib and started composing short religious hymns in praise of Sikh Gurus, known as “SATGURU MEHMA”, which made him famous as Nanak Singh Kaveeshar throughout Punjab and NWFP.

Blessed with fame and inspired by Universal brotherhood teachings of Guru Nanak, this young Sikh in early 20’s got the enlightenment, the like of which Siddhartha got and transformed into Buddha. In his zeal to preach what he had learnt and dreamt, he shifted to Amritsar, the Mecca or more appropriately, Vatican of Sikhs. Here Nanak Singh taught himself besides Punjabi and Urdu, Hindi, Bengali and some English. From here his novel writing imbibed divinity and seems to have been blessed by God Almighty Himself. The pace of his work was truly incredible, almost machine like. In the remaining 50 years of his active life Nanak Singh gifted t the World and Punjabi language in particular as many as 40 novels and innumerable short stories and poems. His epic novel “PAVITAR PAPI” was made into a successful motion picture by his ardent admirer, Bakraj Sahani while another epic “IK MIAN DO TALWARAN” was awarded the prestigious Sahitya Academy Award in 1962. Besides novels, he tried his hand in short stories, essays and poems including a heart rendering compositions in Jallianwala Bagh massacre, entitled “Khooni Visakhi”.

William Shakespeare wrote 37 comedies, tragedies and histories during his literary career. A dozen of which like ‘Julius Ceaser’, ‘Merchant of Venice’ and ‘As you like it’ became famous and male him famous during his life time. The abiding and universal themes of love, friendship, sacrifice as in ‘Romeo Juliet’ and greed for a pound of flesh as in ‘Merchant if Venice’ found ample expression in Nanak Singh’s novels. While PAVITAR PAPI & “EK MIAN DO TALWARAN” are distinguished by tragic themes of supreme sacrifice, unmitigated greed and poverty was the theme of Paap di Khatti which was also a reflection in rapidly altering values of contemporary society.

Like Charles Dickens Nanak Singh had great understanding of human nature especially of young and poor who were helpless and were exploited by selfish and greedy. His novels like CHITTA LAHU are in the same league as Dicken’s “A tale of Two Cities” and “David Copperfield”.

Nanak Singh’s IK Mian Do Talwaran for which he got Sahitya Academy Award in 1962 compares well with Tolstoys monumental work War and Peace. Like Tolstoy, who became fed up with rituals of orthodox church and fundamentalism in practice Nanak Singh too, pointed out with zeal the evils of fundamentalism and selfishness in our society. Like Tolstoy Nanak Singh revolted against these evils in his novels and shorts stories.

In 1962, I vividly remember when Nanak Singh came to New Delhi to receive Sahitya Academy Award and stayed for a couple of days with us in Government Quarter in Kidwai Nagar, New Delhi. Even in those days we felt that it was not Nanak Singh novelist but some saint who had graced our humble abode to share wit us food and thoughts. So we sat at his feet and fathered all the blessings showered on us through his lips, his eyes, and gestures, as invaluable treasure to last us our like time.

Nanak Singh was a rare personality, not only selfless but self-effacing. Throughout his life he shunned publicity and politicians. Even though he went to jail during Gurudwara movement, he never sought to make political capital out of it or even refer to it in passing as a sacrifice. Nanak Singh was simplicity, honesty and decency personified. May we follow some of the foot-prints which he, like other great men , left on the sands of time.

Unfortunately, though Punjabi is spoken by 120 million people living in India, Pakistan and abroad, it is not written and read by more than 30 million. Had it been learnt spoken and honoured by all Punjabis all over the word, a literary genius and a prolific writer like Nanak Singh would have hor Nobel Prize like Rabindranath Tagore and George Bernard Shaw and international recognition.

According to Bhai Jodh Singh eminent writer in the field of Punjabi novel, Nanak Singh’s contribution is more than any other Punjabi writer. He has not bought cheap publicity depicting in his novels sexy life. The romance depicted is social and even scared.

For the popularity of Punjabi Novels of Nanak Singh it is apt to conclude with tribute paid by Kartar Singh Duggal an eminent writer and MP. “I started going through (Nanak Singh) novels and went in reading up to 20 novels which opened nu eyes. I felt that I was sitting at the feet of a great teacher. Your language is sweet like honey and well polished.”

August 24, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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