Navdeep Suri, grandson of famous Punjabi novelist Nanak Singh, thinks he is a black sheep in the family, as he could not do much in literary field where his grandfather made an important contribution to the world of Punjabi literature.
However, Navdeep's effort to translate some of the major works of Nanak Singh in English cannot be viewed in a vacuum, as his work indicates the same family tradition that continues to serve Punjabi literature even today.
Nanak Singh's writings are widely available in Punjabi. However, it is due to Navdeep that two of Nanak Singh's famous novels-Pavitar Papi and Adh Khirya Phull-are available in English too.
Adh Khirya Phull has recently been published by Harper Collins as A Life Incomplete. Navdeep, a serving diplomat, released it at an informal gathering in Chandigarh on Wednesday. Pavitar Papi, which he translated into English as The Watchmaker, a Penguin publication, came out in 2008.
Talking about the literary journey, Navdeep says that he was motivated by his mother to translate, and his biggest challenge was to create a visual imagery through text which should not only appeal to Punjabi readers but also global readers, who may not be aware of Punjabi culture.
"Idea was also to make my grandfather's work accessible to people regardless of culture and geographical location because he [Nanak Singh] was more than a writer, he was a part of the reform movement. The characters in his novels gave a social message, which is still relevant and universal," says Navdeep, who is a joint secretary in public diplomacy department in the ministry of external affairs, New Delhi.
He shares that he was interested in translating Adh Khirya Phull because the novel has many shades of Nanak Singh's own life and it has characters inspired from his real-life experiences. Moreover, the novel is still relevant and ridicules religious practices.
"Since it is set in Peshawar and Rawalpindi, I thought it would also give an idea of the old geographical setting of India to the younger generation," adds Navdeep.
He said the novel centers around a character, Kuldeep Singh, who is lost after the death of his wife, following which he meets a saint who tells him that the only way to find salvation is to renounce the world. However, he finds out that the saint himself is full of vices and struggles with an inner conflict.
His next venture? "I am translating Nanak Singh's another classic, Ik Mian Do Talwaran, which is based on Kartar Singh Sarabha's life," he sums up.