Sat Shri Akaal. For 60 long years, I was relegated to a dusty shelf in a library in England. It were the untiring efforts of the family of my author, Nanak Singh, the famous Punjabi novelist, that I managed to reach my Motherland and saw the light of the day. I was released during the centenary celebrations of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in April 2019.
I was born as a long poem in Punjabi, narrating the political events in the run-up to the massacre and its immediate aftermath. As I was a scathing critique of the British Raj, I was banned soon after my birth in May 1920. But after my author’s grandson, Navdeep Suri, the present High Commissioner to the UAE, I was translated into English.
I feature the poem in original and in translation, and have essays by Navdeep Suri, Punjabi literature scholar HS Bhatia and BBC correspondent Justin Rowlatt. Do not take me as a poignant piece of protest literature but also a historical artefact and a resurrected witness to how Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims came together to stand up to colonisation and oppression in one of India’s darkest moments. Know more on how a 22-year-old felt after surviving the massacre which turned out to be one of the worst atrocities perpetrated by the British Raj and became a turning point in India’s Independence movement.
HarperPerennial; Rs 399; e-book available