Roundabout | 3 authors, one vision: A change for the better
35-year-old Vinayak Dutt, author of 'Punjab: From the Perspective of a Punjabi Hindu', provides a secular view of Punjab's history and culture.
It was by chance that one came across a thick book written by a young writer from Punjab. A telephone call from the revered Punjabi poet Surjit Patar – who was curating a session for a literature festival exploring the fault lines dividing the Punjabi society today and wanted me to locate the writer – was my first introduction to 35-year-old Vinayak Dutt, the author of ‘Punjab: From the Perspective of a Punjabi Hindu’, a ticklish title, which aroused the curiosity.
Dutt, a graduate from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (2010), worked as a journalist for nine years before taking up political management. Based in Mohali at the moment, Dutt works for all political parties, except the mighty BJP. This new name on the block, in the political and social analysis of the Punjab puzzle, has indeed come out with an at least 400-page magnum opus, which takes a secular view of Hindu society, often dismissed as ‘rode’ (clean shaven).
On the reason for writing this book, the author says,“The intention to come up with this book is to provide a Gestalt view of Punjab’s recent history so that lessons regarding the inclusive and pluralistic identity of Punjabiyat can be communicated to everyone.” He goes on to add that “Punjab is Punjab” and it needs to be understood, interpreted, and then taken forward in its unique way.
In this thick volume, he begins with ‘The Lahore Durbar’, ‘Building Modern Punjab’ along with many religious movements and the troubled years to meet Punjab at a crossroads. What makes this book impartial is that he follows the line taken by well-known pluralistic chronicler of Punjab, Ishtiaq Ahmed, and lays emphasis not just on Punjabi cinema, but literature, too. He asks whether the Punjab culture would be complete without an actor like Balraj Sahni or a poet like Shiv Kumar Batalvi. The cover design by artist Gurpreet is a telling one.
In recent times, he takes the example of the Farmers Agitation, in which the Hindu business community was seen in support of the farmers. The author points out ‘zameen nahi hai par zamir ta hai’ (I do not have farmland, but I have a conscience) was the pet slogan that was often visible in shops and malls of Punjab and Haryana. He goes on to point out how the Punjabi Hindu community supported the agitation in cash and kind, and farmer leader, Darshan Pal, represented them in top leadership. Commenting on his presentation, Surjit Patar pointed out that the need of the hour in Punjab is the togetherness of all Punjabis, irrespective of the religion they were born into.
Finding right words for the times
Talking about books by young and new writers, many young writers with something to say are choosing semi self-publishing to be able to say what they want to say sans the prejudices of established publishing hierarchy. Dutt’s book is in the ranks of bestsellers, and so is Sanjay Versain’s novel ‘Pee for Protest’, a sensitive novel about youth in protest movements, which is a few months old, but has struck a chord with many young minds. Versain, a city-based senior journalist, has also written a novel set in the spring of 2011 amid the civil resistance movement that swept the country with a cap on head and a broom in hand. In the scene of protests, demonstrations, marches and huger strikes, a youth caught in the mistrust and hopelessness turns a rebel and flees the cuckoo’s nest to attend a rave party. Much upheaval follows in his mind with accusations and even an attempt to take his life, yet he finds the way of a revolution that has to begin not mindlessly in the streets, but in his own mind. Versain says, “My first novel was not a bestseller, but it has shown me the way and now I am onto my second one finding whatever time I can from assignments”. Thus the moving finger writes (Sorry Omar Khayam!) and having writ paves way for more.
Bearable lightness of being
Away from Milan Kundera’s ‘Unbearable Lightness of Being’ we have our own bestselling writer from Jalandhar, Rahul Saini, who writes for the young with his tongue in cheek and the reader and writer enjoying every moment of the narrative. He is a popular fiction writer, which may appear lighthearted, but probes deeply into love and longing as it manifests among the young today. At the prime of his life at 40, he has to his credit seven racy novellas brought out by leading publishers, which have been the recipient of rave reviews. He started as an architect, but the way of words took the better of him. He arrived to success with his first book ‘Those Small Lil Things in 2008’ and has not looked back. He even did a spoof on publishers and royalties in ‘Paper Back Dreams’, revealing the dirty underbelly of Delhi’s publishing seen. This was a book that got him a lot of attention.
It was a chance meeting with him at a LitFest in Bhopal, and one found him a wee bit fazed as some swami sitting in one of his sessions was interpreting his name in a poisonous vocabulary, because it was also the name of an Indian politician. Well this too shall pass, I told him, and he gifted me his new book ‘The Part I Left With You’.
‘To read, or not to read’ was the dilemma as I recall a friend’s daughter telling me that she was a commercial fiction writer as opposed to literary fiction writer. But, once I got down to it I realized that Saini knows how to mix cocktails well and it was a heady one of love and literature, which even the oldies like I can relish. Little wonder that his interactive literary workshops with students are a rage.