In the turbulent ’80s I had written very sad lines to Punjab, ‘Matam, hinsa, khauf, bebasi te aniya, Eh ne ajkal mere dariyavan de na’ (Grief, violence, fear, vulnerability and injustice, Such are the names of my rivers these days). Long after, fresh green leaves sprouted from the branches of these sorrowing words that the Sutlej, Beas, Ravi, Jhelum and Chenab with the hope that one day they would stand for music, poetry, beauty, love and justice. A tall order indeed!
Our great poet Puran Singh had described Punjab as the land of great meetings and partings. So it is. Diverse civilsations and cultures met here. The lamps met the stars when Guru Nanak poetically described the galaxy deeply immersed in a ‘maha aarti’. On this land, the scripture of Guru Granth Sahib assimilated along with the sacred sayings of the Guru Sahiban the verses of Farid, Namdev, Ravidas, Kabir, Jaidev, Bhikhan and Pipa who belonged to different regions, religions and castes. The Panj Pyaras of Guru Gobind Singh belonged to five different regions, Punjab, Hastinapur, Orissa, Gujarat and Karnataka. This too was a coming together.
But in 1947, Punjab bore on its soul the great divide and the line of starting from the border of Kashmir and sliced through the Ravi, separating Amritsar from Lahore, villages from the fields, disciples of Guru Nanak from the Guru’s birthplace, streams from rivers, children from their parents, religions from religiosity and human beings from humanity it rested at the edge of Bahawalpur. The ’80s again spelt partings.
Sadly, partings seem to take the better of my land in myriad ways. Not just because many migrated abroad and many more are longing to do so. Parents are separated from their children, poetry from poets, language from its people, guidance from guides, practice from preaching, intellect from intellectuals, nobility from the noble, courage from the courageous, intuition from the intuitive and hope from the heart?
How then can I rename my rivers with hope? Not yet. The day seems far away but a hope simmers that it will come.
(As told to Nirupama Dutt)