Shamsher Singh Sandhu-Ek Paash Eh Vi



Sunday, December 18, 2011, Chandigarh, India

A friend’s diary
Well-known lyricist and writer Shamsher Singh Sandhu’s book Ek Paash Eh Vi brings alive the radical poet Avtar Singh Paash’s passion, heart-felt intensity as well as his endearing persona
Nonika Singh

The intensity of his poetry blazes through corridors of time. Few, nay none in Punjab’s literary circles, are unaware of the literary merit of radical poet Avtar Singh Sandhu better known as Paash. So when a friend decides to write a book on the poet, hailed as a milestone in Punjabi sahit jagat, he wants the world to know Paash — the person and the human being.

Well-known lyricist and writer Shamsher Singh Sandhu, who has penned a book Ek Paash Eh Vi, qualifies, “I wanted the spotlight to rest on Paash, the man who cried and laughed, who was naughty and sweet; who loved and hated too.” Interestingly, Sandhu, who had a close association with Paash for over a decade, recalls how the legendary poet was an anarchist who would create to destroy and often there would be acrimonious fights with friends. In one letter written to Sandhu, he has even mentioned how they would not remain friends for too long! Of course, the breaking point came by way of a tragic event. But Sandhu had met Paash a few days prior to the day he was felled by terrorists in 1988.

So what took Sandhu over two decades to write this book? Discloses Sandhu, “I had no intention of writing the book, but as I would often share anecdotes with friends they would often goad me – why don’t you write a book?” And when he published a few chapters in Punjabi Tribune, the response was so overwhelming that he immediately knew there was a vast readership wanting to know more about Paash.

But when a friend becomes a raconteur… isn’t objectivity affected? Surprisingly, critics like Dr Nahar Singh have lauded Sandhu for maintaining the dispassionate distance, even though the book contains many intimate moments and personal letters. Reasons Sandhu, “Paash’s letters were no ordinary mails; just take away the four lines about whom these were addressed to and you will find a literary piece within those letters.”

In fact, Sandhu reminisces how quickly Paash would move from the personal to universal, from simple one-liners to deeper philosophy of life. As for the deeper analysis of his poetry, though Sandhu has refrained from offering literary criticism of Paash’s poetry he admits that the poet and the person can’t be separated. So there is a chapter by Dr Nahar Singh on Paash’s poetry offering a critical overview. Similarly, while the book doesn’t carry comments of what others have to say, the writer has also included a moving poem, Larzda Neer, which eminent Punjabi poet Surjit Patar had written when Paash passed away.

As for Paash’s poetry, well once again Sandhu has not dwelt much over it but he has given the backgrounder to about 10-odd poems such as Sab Taun Khatarnak, Kande Da Zakhm, Yudh te Shaanti and Pind De Mundiyaan de Naa, among others, detailing how and when those poems were written. No wonder even die-hard aficionados of Paash after reading excerpts of the book feel that they will have to read him again. But then to throw new light on the man and the poet, whose poetry was part of MA University syllabus when he was barely in pre-university, is Sandhu’s raison d’etre anyway.


The poet and the man

To be released at a function in Banga, the book Ek Paash Eh Vi, insists Shamsher Singh Sandhu, is not a biography. However, it does chronicle many private moments in Paash’s life, including the year-and-a-half he spent in jail. How he wrote condemned to solitary confinement and more pertinently how he smuggled out his poetry that was then published on the front page of Amrita Pritam’s literary magazine Nagmani are all accounted for. It also brings out several facets of Paash’s endearing, but passionate personality like how the voracious reader in him after marathon sessions of heavy reading would unwind by reading popular fiction.


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