The name of the book, Subera, borrows its first two letters from ‘Su’ of river Sutlej, the next two from ‘Be’ of river Beas and the last two from ‘Ra’ of river Ravi — the three water bodies that are now left flowing in Punjab after Partition. Taking a cue from the title’s English translation (meaning a new dawn), Arjun Singh Badal makes his debut as a writer, hoping for Punjab to witness a metaphoric sunrise in terms of growth and development.
A high school student at Choate Rosemary Hall, Connecticut, US, Arjun says his visits to his home state during school break in the last few years inspired him to pen a narrative on ‘the grave problems faced by Punjab’.
“From a very early age, I had developed a fascination for writing, which included penning stray thoughts and experiences on paper. This habit continued as I grew up, but my amusement gave way to more mature and critical views regarding the situation of Punjab,” says Arjun, son of Manpreet Singh Badal, former finance minister of Punjab and chief of PPP (People’s Party of Punjab).
The reason for the dismal tone of his book, says Arjun, is his observation of how things work in Punjab. “After my father resigned from the cabinet and floated PPP, I have been dedicating every break from school to visit Punjab. In fact, I did extensive campaigning individually during the Punjab Assembly Elections in 2012, which is when I came across people from a diverse spectrum. This book is the sum total of my first-hand observations of how things work in the state.”
Through his work, the young writer says he wants to bust popular myths about Punjab and its ‘boisterous’ people. “Contrary to popular opinion and the state’s portrayal in Bollywood, Punjab is not all about tandoori chicken-loving, liquor-crazy residents who drive SUVs. The fact remains that Punjab’s economic growth is the second-worst amongst some 30 Indian states and there is an almost-nil industrial growth. There is rampant drug abuse amongst the youth, a despairing sex ratio and low rate of employment,” states Arjun. As a result, Subera finds mention of the farmer who returns home poor despite a bumper crop, a rise in the number of cancer patients who apparently don’t receive specialised treatment in the state and the mushrooming of ‘deras’.
On his part, Arjun claims to help solve the state’s crisis through an organisation called Subera that runs from the PPP party office in Sector 3, Chandigarh. “It is dedicated to improving the future of Punjab’s youth and is run by students. We work on building awareness amongst the youngsters on issues such as importance of education, skill-based training, employment, sports development and fighting drug addiction,” claims Arjun.
Subera is a 62-page book in English published by Lok Sahit Prakashan and priced at R300. The book was released at a formal function at the Government Museum and Art Gallery, Sector 10 on Friday evening.