RASHMI OBEROI | 7 OCTOBER, 2020
A PUNJAB QISSA
In the Land of the LOVERS
A beautiful book when over, invokes in us a range of emotions often like a roller coaster ride. When you finally turn the last page, you let out a deep sigh… One that depicts contentment but also a tinge of sadness for that whirlwind of emotions that has regaled you page after page even since you picked up the book to read, has now come to an end.
The narrative in a book gives us an exclusive peek at the thoughts and feelings of others…the writer’s theory of mind. You identify with the character’s longings and frustrations, guess at their hidden motives and track their encounters with family and friends, neighbours, enemies and lovers.
In my view, while reading an absorbing book, we are in a way living the events we are reading about. ‘In the Land of the LOVERS’ does just that and more. It put my brain into a pleasurable trance-like state. Sakoon Singh, the author, plays with words and feelings in a simple but eloquent manner…where she engages your imagination and demands your full attention.
‘In the Land of the LOVERS’ takes you on a compelling journey with a captivating story and a spirited protagonist that you like instantly. The book captures the spirit, culture and heritage of Punjab in all respects as it effortlessly speaks of the everyday goings on and tribulations of a middle-class family. The military background adds an extra zing to the prose that is laced with wit and sarcasm just as I like it. The icing on the cake is the efficient use of Shakespeare by the author.
You end up weighing the myriad interactions, the play with weather, and the complexities of social life. The reader lives through the changes happening in the protagonist’s life. The story gives us the freedom to roam the expanse of space, time, history interwoven through decades of emotional upheaval. A story that explores the inner lives of characters.
I went back in time as the book conjured up memories of a bygone era…the treasured moments that I spent with my grandparents. Parts of the book were mirror images of my conversations with my Dadi - about partition and the upheavals, the sadness but never bitterness, incidents, anecdotes, reciting poems in Punjabi and her way of always living frugally, never spending, never wasting. The book stirred up nostalgia, bringing to mind pleasant memories of how my Dada would read the news to me through his Urdu newspaper and how he had also played an influential role in my life through his unpretentious and humble ways.
Nostalgia is a powerful feeling. It provides us with a sense of happiness and sentimental longing when we think about a fond memory from our past. Sakoon very cleverly evokes so many feelings in us vis-à-vis memories, nostalgia, and things that are connected to our past. It takes us back to that first crush, the idea of love, of an inner fight between right and wrong and the feeling of invincibility while handling all that life throws at you.
The story grabs your interest, makes you think and is a treasure trove of humanity. Sakoon smoothly flits between the past and the present. She also touches upon important topics that are taboo most times and brushed under the carpet. She speaks of drug abuse, painful childhood memories, patriarchy, and political and social ills.
You do end up flipping the last page with a tinge of melancholy – soaking in all that you’ve read, wanting more of letting your imagination run wild and that feeling of not wanting it to end.
The author, Sakoon Singh, PhD is an alumnus of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Panjab University, Chandigarh, and teaches Literature and Culture Studies at Chandigarh.
A recipient of the Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Texas at Austin, she has published her academic writings extensively, including contribution to Cultural Studies in India by Routledge (2015). She has served on the editorial team of prestigious journals, Dialog and E3W Review of Books. She has written pieces, articles and op-eds on literature, art, culture and aesthetics for The Tribune, Hindustan Times, DNA and The Quint. She is currently also Associate Fellow at IIAS, Shimla.
When she is not indulging the written word, she is walking the wilds or listening to Jazz. She lives in Panchkula with her husband Major Navdeep Singh, who is a practicing advocate in the Punjab & Haryana High Court, founder president of the Armed Forces Tribunal Bar Association at Chandigarh and is actively engaged in global efforts towards reforms in Military Justice. Sohraab, her handsome teenager son, keeps Sakoon on her toes and young!
“Loneliness is an address and if you are also old, it comes with a curious smell.”
Poignant yet beautiful lines from the book.
“In the Land of the Lovers” by Sakoon Singh
Rupa Publication India, 2020
Paperback 232 pages
Available at Amazon and leading book stores
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