This is an English translation of a compilation of short stories written originally in Punjabi language by Asians residing in Britain. The translator Rana Nayar left India to cross the shores in search of Punjabi settlers in UK and on reaching there, he was surprised to see the indomitable courage and resilience of the Punjabi writers living in Britain.
The book seems to be an effort to bridge the yawning gap that exists between the Punjabi and English languages. It could possibly be due to the fact that the Punjabis shared an uneasy, almost a troubled relationship with the British since the days of colonial rule in India. The British too found it easier to succeed in western and eastern parts of India, but the Punjabis proved a hard nut to crack. They did not accede to colonial rule till Maharaja Ranjit Singh'sdeath after which Punjab was annexed by the British. Though the Punjabis had to submit to superior military and strategic powers of the colonial ruler, they continued to resist the hegemony of the British. Whether it was the Kuka movement in the early 1860s or the Singh Subha movement of control of gurudwaras in 1880s or the ?local rebellion? that the Punjabis engineered periodically?these were signs of deep-rooted resentment against alien rule. Their inherent rebellious spirit, their injured self-pride and the revolt against alien rule to express their nationalistic spirit were a constant search for self-identity and nationalism.
The compiler points out that the first Christian church was set up in Punjab as far aback as 1835; that the process of proselytisation among the Punjabis was much slower than what it was in Bengal or Kerala. It was almost as if the Punjabis were fighting a psychological warfare by constantly resisting the imposition of another language, religion or culture. It is against this backdrop that most of the stories in the present collection are set.
The first story, Behind the Open Doors by Kailash Puri, presents a suspicious glance at the contradictions and unresolved paradoxes of an unorthodox and open society.
Raghubir Dhand'sThe Dustbin is about a couple who entertains all kinds of visitors to their home but when they ask one of them to take something back home to India for their relatives, their request is ignored with a flimsy excuse. It is only Kalyanji, their well-wisher, who advises them to keep the ?dustbin? covered and not allow all kinds of stray dogs to ?sneak in through your rear door.?
Darshan Dheer'sA Nest of Straw talks of an affair in a moving train with the male protagonist expecting it to develop into a lasting relationship.
In Shifting Sands, Suman discovers that Janet'shusband is terminally ill. Gradually, the indifferent and apathetic Suman and her husband Shivraj visit Janet'shusband to give solace. From a state of emotional atrophy precipitated by cultural alienation, they move towards a slow recovery of their own emotional plenitude and learn to care for each other.
In Trees in Kew Gardens, an extremely sensitive story, the author Gurnam Gill, an immigrant, finds that he is like a mango tree in the Kew Garden, easily transplanted, grown and even nurtured in the foreign soil under controlled conditions, but always barren of flowers or fruit.
Rich, powerful, moving and evocative, the stories abound in images of displacement, at once unsettling and captivating. For, here are the exiles, the migrants, the eternal pilgrims of time and space, who are forever forced into negotiating a double space, the ?in-between-ness? and who tend to leave an indelible impact on the reader'smind. Set against the backgrounds of two worlds?one oriental and the other occidental?the stories wrestle with hopes, desires, disappointments and despair while bringing out the complexities of life led outside one'sown land.
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