IN this compilation of over 40 short stories originally written in Punjabi, the writers display their own unique way of portraying love, longing, desire, ecstasy and malice. Punjab like other regions of India had a very rich oral tradition of storytelling.
In the first section, comprising Punjabi classics, there is a very moving story titled ‘Premi’s Little One’ which takes the reader into a child’s world where the joys and fears are larger than life and imagination is let loose; Sant Singh Sekhon tells the story of a boy who escorts his sister from the house to the fields, constantly worried that a Pathan may waylay them. But it does not happen and he consoles himself by saying that he will threaten the Pathan that his mother Premi can even take on a demon; there is a story by Amrita Pritam who probes the psyche of rival women – the wife and the mistress – in a no-win situation; Sujan Singh writes of a forlorn wife of a busy merchant yearning for love with the male child next door; Balwant Gargi tells the story of a village lad who is a sprinter and who is sent to Patiala’s ruler to impress with his running prowess and how he suffers when displaced from the natural habitat; and KS Duggal tells the story of a tongawala, Majha who refuses to sacrifice his principles.
This ably translated book by Nirupama Dutt with select stories is a delight to read and reflects on every aspect of life in the land of five rivers.
(Penguin Books India, 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017; www.penguinbooksindia.com)