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PUBLISHING IN THE LANGUAGE UNFORTUNATE (PUNJABI)

PUBLISHING IN THE LANGUAGE UNFORTUNATE


By K.S.Duggal


 Embellished with fabulous literature Bearing a history sprawling over a Millennium PUNJABI the mother tongue of estimately 40 million people  is being badly pulveiized today as a result of the communal feuds in the Punjab as well as chicanery politics at the centre. K.S. DUGGAL an eminent writer in Punjabi expresses his anguish over the sad fact that scions of the Punjab  Khushwant Singh Mulk Raj Anand Krishna Sobti and others who have attained eminence in other languages refrain from writing in their have mother tongue to with which they are traditionally and culturally wedded due to an almost non existing readership. Share with the author as he attempts to pin point the cause of the pathetic plight of this great language..

 Sharaf puchhi nah jinhan ne waat meri .
 Ve main boli haan unhan Punjabian di.
 (Says Saharf those who never cared to look at me I am the tongue of the people called Punjabis.)
These words of a renowned Punjabi poet Babu Firoz Din Sharaf tell the tale of woe of the Punjabi language. It is as true today as it was before the freedom came. With the language ipso facto is linked its publishing.
 Punjab is the only state where the language is identified with the faith professpd by a community despite the universality of the mother tongue in day oday life of the people. Ttre Bengali Hindus and the Bengali Muslims swear by their mother tongue Bengali and its script. The other day the Bangladesh opted to part with their Muslim brethren in Pakistan just because they would not have Urdu inflicted on them nor the Bengali script replaced by the Persian script. In Kerala Malyalam is the language and its script for Hindus Muslims and Christians alike. This is true of Karnatak, Assam, Maharashtra, Guiarat and other states in India.
 The Punjabi is indeed an unfortunate language. Even when Maharaja Ranjit Singh a son of the soil ruled  the Punjab despite his deep  rooted sense of Punjabiat his state language continued to be Persian. Why the Britishers did not foster Punjabi is a highly revealing story which lies buried in the Secretariat shelves in the West Punjab lt is said at least one British District Collector pleaded for Punjabi vociferously but he was given no quarter. The Britishers inflicted Urdu and kept the entire rural Punjab illiterate. It suited them. They wished to keep Punjabis not only divided but also alienated from one another and to that end they made the Muslims to believe that Urdu was close to lslam and therefore it was their language. And if the Hindus strayed away to Hindi on this account they didn’t care. The Sikhs who would not identify themselves with either the Hindus or Muslims were inevitably left to abide by Punjabi.
 May be another reason for the Sikhs to be attached to Punjabi was the Gurmukhi script popularised (not devised) by the Sikh Gurus employing it for the Sikh scriptures. But then this is no place to discuss this issue. The fact remains that in the undivided Punjab the Muslims claimed to belong to Urdu the Hindus had a sofi corner for Hindi and the Sikhs were affiliated to Punjabi whereas all of them spoke Puniabi at home and in the street made love in Punjab and when they fell out they abused each other in Punjabi. And yet Guru Nanakwastheir "Shah Faqir Hindu da Guru Muslaman da Pir". They enjoyed quoting Bulle Shah and Waris. Their folklore was common. Whether Muslim Hindu or Sikh the folksongs they sang at their weddings the bride asked for a match like Krishna Kanhaiya and no less .
 Beti Chandan de ohle kiyon khadi ? Babal var lodiye.
 Beti kiho jiha var lodiye ? .
 Jiven tariya chon chan .
 Channan vichon Kishan Kaihaiya var lordiye..
 (Why do you stand in the shadow of the sandal tree daughter ? Dad its time you found a match for me. What Upe a match asks the father Like the moon in the stars And Krishan Kanhaiya among the moons Ill consider).
 The Muslims in the Punjab needed the partition and the influx of  the Urdu speaking Mahajirs to make them realize that Punjabi and not Urdu was their language their mother tongue. And thereby hangs a tale which is worth narrating .
 Maulana Abdul Majid Salik the renowned Urdu poet and journalist came to me once and asked Duggall Tell me how do you write in Punjabi? When I think of it I can only imagine Heer and Ranjha and no one can improve upon Waris Shah." That was sometime in 1942 in Lahore. I listened and laughed it out. Maulana Salik was much too senior a scholar to enter into an argument with. tt was about a decade later that one day Maulana came to visit me in Delhi. I knew that hewas in town in connection with Delhi Cloth Mill Mushaira which he did every year. Taking his seat he surprised me with the news "Duggal I have come allthe way from Lahore to tell you that I have started writing in Punjabi." I did not believe my ears. Maulana was perhaps the best known Urdu litterateur in Pakistan at that time. But how did this miracle take place? I was keen to know. The story that Maulana Salik narrated was indeed interesting. Maulana was travelling in a bus in Lahore. It so happened that the conductor of the bus missed issuing him a ticket. Bhaiya tum mujhe ticket deni bhool gaye. The Maulana reminded the conductor. The conductor who was a Mahajir from India gave him a contemptuous smile and said Maulana ticket deni nahin hoti ticket dena hota hai." Maulana heard it and was stunned. Here was an illiterate conductor who had found fault with his language because Urdu was his mother tongue and not of Maulana Abdul Majid Saliks the renowned Urdu poet and scholar. Maulana said l That very moment I decided that I shall in future write in Punjabi and not in Urdu.
 My conviction is that if this realization had come to the Muslims in West Punjab earlibr lqbal and Faiz would have written in Punjabi For did Tagore not do so in Bengali? And thereby the status of Punjabi writing would be markedly different Punjabi publishing would not be what it is today. And we may not have suffered the surgeons knife of Partition.
  This brings me to the Punjab after Partition. For the past 50 years we have noticed the Punjabi Flincrt ln our part of the Punjab behave into the Punjabi Muslim in the undivided Punjab. And the Centre too have played its game unmistakably. On the plea of creating a Hill State as a first step Himachal was sliced off the already partitioned Punjab. One asks how on earth Himachal was not an integral part of Punjabi speaking people when Shimla was the summer capital of the State atl these years ? lf that was not enough despite a decree to the contrary by a commission comprising K.M. Pannikar Kunzru and others Haryana was created crippling the Punjabi language further which spelt doom for the Punjabi publishing. As the Punjabi speaking state was contracting opportunities for PunJabl publishing were narrowing. The Himachal and Haryana schools and colleges public libraries and Panchayats ceased to have provision for purchase of Punjabi books  Gradually the Punjabi publishing virtually came to be starved and this is the position obtaining today. It is despite (and also) because of the creation of the Punjabi Suba. Iike lqbal and Faiz did in Urdu Bhisham Sahni and Krishna Sobti continue to write in Hindi it has not been possible for us to persuade Mulk Raj Anand and Khushwant Singh to write in their mother tongue because of the poor. opportunities the Punjabi publishing provides.
 With independence came the freedom to chalk out a fresh polity economy and even the way of life of the nation as such. We decided upon the egalitarian society with socialistic pattern of lifa With the result that the private enterprise gave way to state control public sector undertakings and nationalization. Publishing in the Punjab was its first victim. Nationalization of text books came as a bolt from the blue. It gave a severe blow to publishing in the language.
 As an author I was witness to  the squeeze that came to afflict Punjabi publishing. Textbooks being their mainstay publishers used to have steady income from the captive market in the educational institutions and would be glad to publish general interest books and even do them tastefully. They would not mind encouraging young talent. A crop of writers of my generation owe their readership to this healthy milieu.
 Now that the process is being reversed publishing in India has started attracting better talent and more liberal capital it stands to reason that with present trend witnessed in favour of market.€coooffi! the old conditions should prevail. But not much seems to be happening. The conditions in Punjabi publishing are deteriorating from bad to worse.
 The Punjab can boast of highest per Capita income. Having achieved 40-47% literacy its performance in this respect too is not poor. With four universitie.s and a substantial network of schools and colleges the curse of illiteracy bequeathed by the foreign rule will soon be behind us. The change over from English to Punjabi as medium of instruction from primary to the highest level of research is another important factor which promises to give fillip to Punjabi publishing.
 But the ground situation remained alarming. There is hardly anyone engaged in book publishing in Punjabi as a professional publisher. At best they are distributors interested in publishing since it helps distribution. If there is no professional publisher there is no professional author also.
 Nationalization of textbooks did do what is called grave injustice to publishing but it proved also a blessing in disguise particularly in the Punjab. A number of outfits in the public sector interested themselves in publishing and started making valuable contribution in their respective fields. Today all the four universities have their specialised fields which it is believed may not be within the reach of private sector to organize. The Punjabi University is bringing out Encyclopaedia of Sikhism with professor Harbans Singh a scholar of international renown as its Cheif Editor. The Punjab University Chandigarh is similarly organizing publication of History of Punjabi Literature in several volumes. The Guru Nanak Dev University at Amritsar is specialising in Punjab folklore and the Sikh studies. The Agricultural University at Ludhiana has published a large number of books on various aspects of agriculture of interest to Punjabi farmers. It is agreed in all quarters that this University has played no minor role in bringing about the Green Revolution in the country.
 Among other public sector organizations engaged in Punjabi publishing are the Language Department of the Punjab Government the Punjab Academy the Punjab State University Textbook Board besides Central outfits like the National Book Trust and Sahitya Akademi.
 I As stated earlier the Punjabi publishing in the private sector doesn’t have much to write home about. While there is no denying that at its best it has few titles that can compare with its production in the Indian languages. This claim is supported by severat All  India Awards for publishing bagged by Navyug a leading Punjabi publisher. Its proprietor Bhapa Pritam Singh is an enterprising and also a consummate craftsman in book production. But frustrated and disheartened with the readership in the language he has almost wound up as publisher. These days he does "select publishing" as he puts it "for the pleasure of it." Of late he has been engaged in publishing collected works of important Punjabi authors. His latest publication is the ten volume collection of Nanak Singhs novels in connection with the noted authors centenary celebrations.
 The people of the Punjab are an enterprising community spread over the whole world. A large number of Punjabi writers have also emigrated and are domiciled abroad. They are doing very well wherever they are. It is a highly interesting phenomenon that they continue to write in Punjabi and are published regularly in the Punjab. They finance their own publications and get them published tastefully. Some of these writers are Ravinder Ravi in Canada Ajaib Kamal in Kenya Ved in Switzerland Sati Kumar in Sweden and Gurmel in the USA. They have done incalculable damage to publishing practices in the Punjab. No publisher today will look at a manuscript unless the author is willing to foot the bill.
 This uh fortunate fate is shared by the leading writers along with the new arld upcoming talent. While Amrita Pritam publishes her own books runs a journal tro promote her publications eminent poets like Justice Pritam Singh "Safeer rue the day they took to writing in Punjabi.
 As per the National Bibliography some 400 books are published in Punjabi every year. Of these half the titles are pure literature the rest are equally divided between the social sciences and the religious works with a sprinkling of pure sciences. It is suicidal to neglect the latter.
 During 1992-93  402 books were published in Punjabi. This is against 1409 books published in Bengali 2341 books in Tamil 72 books in Telegu and 846 books in Marathi. Evidently the readership in Punjabi is meagre. It is because Punjabi books are published in Gurmukhi script which almost 50  percent readers in the State claim not to be acquainted with. Haryana and Himachal Pradesh have been slioed off their school colleges have no provision for purchase of books in Punjabi which they earlier had. As a result the books published in the language have a measly print run of 600 copies. The lesser the print run the higher the price of the book the higher the price of the publication the lower the sale. The Punjabi publishing is caught in this vicious circle. Rather than attracting eminent Punjabi intellectuals like Khushwant Singh Mulk Raj Anand Bhisham Sahni Krishna Sobti Krishna Baldev Vaid and others to write in their mother tongue some of the leading Punjabi writers are drifting to the sister languages. Amrita Pritam is regularly published in Hindi my own writing are at times first published in translations in Hindi Urdu and English and later in the original Punjabi in which they are written.
 And yet the literary activity in the language remains as vigorous as ever. Ajeet Cour has recently come out with a collection of her short stories entitled apne apne jungte. Her autobiography Kuda Kabada serialised in the Arsee is said to be in the press for publication in book form. Dalip Kaur Tivana another woman writer in Punjabi published her new novel Duni Suhava Bagh and a literary autobiographical writing entitled Poochhte Ho To Suno. Amrita Pritam has not been well of late. Also Dr. Harbhajan Singh the winner of the prestigious "Saraswati Award" of the Birlas. Amongst the Punjabi writers domiciled abroad Ravinder Ravi virtually came out with a sheaf of books gandhan a collection of poems Manch Natak volume of his plays written between 1974 and 1990 Kavita Sanmukh a critique of the modern poetry and Meri Sahitik Swejiwani a literary autobiography. The most tastefully produced title however remains Devs (Switzerland) selection of poems entitled Chaunwin Kavita. Ranjit Dheers (UK) Pardesnama is another significant publication by a Punjabi writer domiciled abroad.
 What is remarkable about the Punjabi books published of late is the emergence of the writers from their preoccupation with the disturbed conditions in the state recently. It reflects admirable capacity of the creative talent in the language to forget the terror of militancy and the agony of innocent killings that had gripped the people for over a decade. Most of the Ajeet Caurs stories relate to her critical approach to the socia! and political life of the people of the Punjab. Dalip Kaur Tiwana in her typical serene manner portrays in her recent novel an elderly Punjabi widow trying successfully to adjust with the modern times and the new values challenging them at times and.qlaking compromises too. Ravinder Ravi equally perceptive as a poet and a fiction writer has to make up his mind as to which genre to give his attention. Dev domiciled in Geneva has made name as a promising painter in the continent recently. He is sensitive graphic and rich ih the shades of colours in his portrays well. The Diaspora inevitably predominates Ranjit Dheers Pardesinama which gives a vivid picture of the life of the people of in Punjab settled in the United Kingdom is sterile or productive? How far have they merged in the society they live in? What are their relations with their roots back home? .
  "The recent scene in the world of the Punjabi publishing has dictated the economic factors remains  dominated by the writings of writers dictated abroad. It seems to run  parallel to the performance of the NRls in the liberated economy of the country.
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