Roundabout |Reading a must before writing
Gurdev Chauhan is one of the most gentle and sensitive of Punjabi poets who has made significant contribution to prose as well as encouraging young talent. It was a fine gesture by the Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi to have a face-to-face with him on Saturday morning.punjab Updated: Feb 19, 2017 13:15 IST
Gurdev Chauhan is one of the most gentle and sensitive of Punjabi poets who has made significant contribution to prose as well as encouraging young talent. It was a fine gesture by the Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi to have a face-to-face with him on Saturday morning.
A poet who has published five anthologies of poetry and several books of prose and translations besides editing a literary journal called ‘South Asian Ensemble’ in the past eight years.
However, what has always struck me is his passion for reading and more so in times when many writers read perhaps only the books they write, or perhaps not even that.
Before speaking to him on his journey with letters in an aside, one made it a point to talk about reading for as the Joseph Brodsky quotable quote goes, ‘There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.’ This may be an outdated concept if one were to go by the success of Chetan Bhagat or Ravinder Singh or Gulshan Nanda of yore in the context of the Hindi language. But here the concern is literature and not commerce.
Talk about reading and Chauhan smiles because he has often been the butt of jokes for being the man who reads too much: and that too not just in Punjabi but English too. I recall late satirist friend Bhushan holding Chauhan suspect for reading Western literature and probably bringing its elements into his writing. When reminded of this, Chauhan laughs, “My first reading was of Punjabi qissas which I brought from Anandpur Sahib during Hola Mohalla when I was still in school and the first novel I read was ‘Perbal Vehan’ by Dalip Kaur Tiwana and there has been no stopping after that,” he says.
He was a frequent browser at the old books stalls in Sector 15 and now he is a regular in Toronto downtown looking for exciting books that have changed many hands. He adds that it is presumptuous to write without reading for ‘illiteracy’ and ‘originality’ should not be confused.
His own journey began in Kukran village in Hoshiarpur district and he went on to study in Khalsa College at Mahlpur. His accountability would be clear from the job he took on for bread and butter was as a senior officer in office of the Controller of Defence Accounts in the city.
“Chandigarh was to influence me greatly and also give me the distance to weave my rural experience into poetry,” he says. His notable literary works include poetry anthologies ‘Makki de Geet’, ‘Nikkian Berian Nikke Chappu’, a collection of satirical writing ‘Kutta, Kitab te Gulab’ in Punjabi and ‘Sahitya Satyanaash’ in Hindi.
He has also translated Amrita Pritam’s book on Pakistani poet Sara Shagufta, ‘Ek Thi Sara’. And his favourite gifts to writer friends are of course books and his joy to see someone turning the leaves of a book in a bus or a train. A rare sight indeed in our part of the world!