Lost Heritage of the Sikhs
I'm writing this blog to highlight the work done by Mr. Amardeep Singh who has painstakingly chronicled the history and heritage of the Sikhs that was lost and almost forgotten as a result of India's Partition. Amardeep has an MBA from Booth School, University of Chicago and he worked as the revenue management head of the American Express Asia Pacific operations.
Amardeep's books "Lost Heritage The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan" and "The Quest Continues: Lost Heritage The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan" are available at Amazon.
I would also suggest to look at the videos Amardeep has posted in his blog as he travelled across Pakistan. To explore his work, visit http://lostheritagebook.com/blog/
Here are some videos which are so moving.
Amardeep travelled across West Punjab, North-West Frontier and Pakistan Administered Kashmir, delving into the vestiges of a community compelled to move eastwards owing to the partition of the Indian sub-continent. His books offer an insight by investigating the relinquished heritage spanning between 15th and 21st centuries. The 60 chapter narrative is interspersed with 507 photographs of historic monuments, forts, battlegrounds, commercial and residential establishments and places of worship. This illustrative exploration of arts, architecture, culture and history, discerns the erstwhile secularity of the region.
Amardeep is passionate about his work and I believe that both his books must be included in the curriculum of east Punjab's schools and universities. In my correspondence with him, he wrote:
The sense of urgency was my response to the divine enablement. I often questioned, why have I been chosen to see all these places, when in seven decades others have not had such an expansive access. And hence my give back to the community for which I dedicated my entire energy, knowing well that the next breath may not come.
As for making the books into the curriculum, our community is unable to understand the value for posterity of these documentations done across 126 cities and villages. If it were so easy, theoretically there should have been more works going beyond Nanakana Sahib and Panja Sahib. What I don't share is the immense challenges that I had to undergo to churn these and sadly, for our people, these are mere books.
As Atta Muhammad, a Pakistani national, dining on the same table at the Bradford Literature Festival, said to me the hard hitting fact, "Amardeep, the value of what you have churned, will be only appreciated, once you are dead!" That is the reality.
Since the publication of my first book, I have been driving hard the message to support me to get the books into the libraries of institutions as I recognize such works get expensive and hence the masses need to be able to access through libraries of institutions. I don't have the ability to make free gifts as it will take away the financial ability to do more research and engage across the world. Hence the appeal to Punjab Government, SGPC, DSGMC and institutions were repeatedly made and I failed to get any support. Finally, during the recent seminar tours associated with the sequel, I appealed to individuals and have succeeded in mobilizing some funding, which I am presently deploying to achieve the following.
1) 100 sets (both volumes) are being placed in the institutions across Pakistan. Books have left from Delhi for Pakistan.
2) 270 sets (both volumes) are being placed in the institutions across Punjab, Chandigarh and Delhi. The placement effort is starting in ten days.
Sometimes one has to hold the bull by the horns and having failed initially, I am now enabling the initiative through appeals to well wishers and we will soon have accomplished the wave 1 of placements as mentioned above.
The vision however is greater as I often say that if I can read the Bengali and Tamil legacy, then why should the others not read the Sikh legacy? Hence I aspire to also get these books placed in the institutions across other states. My pockets are not deep, especially since I am far from the corporate world and now for four years, leading the research and documentation efforts. Hopefully in time to come, with support from like minded, we will be able to also accomplish this bigger vision.
Amardeep has spoken at number of seminars in US, Pakistan and other countries. Here's one session organized by the Library of Congress where he spoke passionately about his work and his journey into Pakistan.
It is an eye opener for me to see how much our community has lost. As if the strings that had tied us to the land across Ravi are now all broken. Our biggest mistake is to see the Muslims as the "other" and not as part of our own larger family. They are part of us just like we are part of them.
Here's a Sikh visiting Baba Bulleh Shah's Mausoleum in Kasur to pay homage to one of the greatest Sufi poet and humanist of Punjab.
Now we look at the neglected monuments and think what if we had stayed. What if we had outplayed the politics of the time with more purposeful and clever response to negate the demands for a separate state. What if there was an alternative solution that could have accommodated all sides thus keeping Punjab and for that matter India intact. The forces of religious extremism and the colonial politics of divide and rule could have been quelled if the moderates had united and fought for a common cause.
We can't rewrite or correct what has already happened, as there are no second chances in history, but we can remove the separation that still exist in our hearts.