Giano comes out with her memoirs at 76, with just basic knowledge of Gurmukhi
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Giano comes out with her memoirs at 76, with just basic knowledge of Gurmukhi

Critics hail the spontaneous autobiography for giving words to the muted women’s voices in Punjab

punjab Updated: Aug 13, 2018 12:30 IST
Nirupama Dutt
Nirupama Dutt
Hindustan Times, Faridkot
Author Giano with her elder son Kanwal. (HT Photo)

This Kotkapura girl born in 1942 was named Giano (knowledgeable) by her parents. She was schooled till Class 3 in Punjabi when her veterinary doctor father was transferred and her school-leaving certificate was not collected and he did not have the time to go back and collect it. So, she was told to start all over again from Class 1.

Nothing doing said the wilful girl: “Why should I sit in Class 1 when I was sitting in Class 3?”

Since a girl’s schooling was not so important, she picked up other skills and marriage came when she was 17 to a colourful debonair Ujjagar Singh who thought her name too rustic and suffixed Baljit Kaur to it and made her study and complete Class 5.

Well-known artist Kanwal Dhaliwal who is the elder among Giano’s two sons, says: “Our mother was a remarkable homemaker coping with her maverick husband who was a registered medical practitioner who rejected the artisan caste of tailors and re-invented himself as a Jatt. He had a flair for literature and an extramarital relationship. Yet our mother took everything in her stride assisted him by training as midwife. However, she surprised me three years ago saying that she also wanted to write about her life.”

Her wish has been realised and she has published an autobiography called “Eohn din guzarde gaye” (So the days passed) and critics have hailed it as an amazingly spontaneous work which has given words to the muted women’s voices in the patriarchal society of Punjab.

Critic Sukhdev Singh Sirsa, who released the book recently, says: “This book is free of complaint or regret and written in the everyday language of a Malwa woman, yet it unwittingly points to the suppression of women in a male-dominated society.”

Kanwal reveals how his mother’s journey as a writer began. He says: “I had written an article on my childhood and my father which I shared with a few friends and my mother. On reading it, she said I also want to write something. This was three years. After I had got over my surprise, I told her to start writing as she wrote and sent letters to me in London. So she started at once sitting on her bed with cushions for a table writing un-posted letters to me in long hand.”

However, in February she fell ill and went for a serious ostomy surgery, but not before she had completed the task she had set herself to do. Her health has not been the same again but when people praise her book, she gives a broad smile not being able to say much. Kanwal says: “I let the book go just as she had written with her colloquial spellings, but for dividing it into chapters and adding a few footnotes. I wish the book had come out before her health deteriorated so that she would have enjoyed her achievement fully.” Sirsa adds that seeing this book several other semi-educated women have also expressed the desire to pen their stories. So Giano is a trendsetter!

First Published: Aug 08, 2018 21:51 IST