By Harbans Lal, Ph.D.; D.Litt (Hons).
The first Volume: Lost Heritage: The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan, was reviewed earlier in this blog post.
The second Volume The Quest Continues by Amardeep Singh. Himalayan Book, New Delhi. 2018. Price: $150, discounted at $80 for special events. (Inquires/orders at 717-794-3800) has been continually reviewed by leading journals in India, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Canada and the USA since its publication last year.
In both volumes the author has expressed his pains of separation through his photography. They record the history of the neighborhoods and the sites where the population used to throng in times gone by. Theses are the places with dust and mud where their Gurus left their footsteps. Of course, there is no place in Pakistan which is not sacred to Sikhs, and where the soil did not touch the Guru’s feet.
The author encouraged us to see that our millennials are succeeding at least in preserving records. Our technologists who can spare their resources and energy are undertaking periodic visits of the villages and the valleys of Pakistan to photograph each town and each street along with recording interviews of the neighbors who still have memories of old days and their friends of those glorious days.
In this note, the purpose is not to review the books but rather to announce that the author is on a world tour to acquaint the public with his work. His presentations are getting excellent reviews and attracting large audience everywhere.
Amardeep Singh lives in Singapore. His father and mother, who belonged to Muzaffarabad and Abbottabad respectively, had moved to Uttar Pradesh in India during the partition of 1947. Educated at The Doon School, he pursued Electronics Engineering at Manipal Institute of Technology, and a graduate degree in business administration at the University of Chicago.
He has worked for twenty-five years in the corporate sector and was the Asia Pacific Regional Head for Revenue Management at American Express. He has passionately maintained pursuits in literary and creative arts as another facet of his personality.
Amardeep Singh’s two books on ‘The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan’ motivate all communities to become aware of their past, and through it, learn to live in harmony for mutual peace and progress.
During a personal visit to Pakistan in 2014, in a journey that took him across 36 cities and villages, Amardeep felt it was important for posterity to document his explorations in a book entitled, ‘LOST HERITAGE: The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan.’
The passage after that spurred him into an almost obsessive quest to research further the tangible and intangible Sikh legacy across Pakistan. In Jan 2017, he undertook another journey, this time traveling extensively to 90 cities and villages across Sindh, Baluchistan, Pakistan Administered Kashmir, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Punjab. The continuing thread of explorations, again motivated him to document them in the sequel entitled, ‘THE QUEST CONTINUES: LOST HERITAGE_ The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan.’
His PowerPoint presentations based on his two books are visual intensive and weave a storyline that takes the audience as well as the reader on a virtual journey. The photographs are spectacular, and the supporting text is written in a personal style, rich in anecdote and devoid of unnecessary stylistics. Most rewardingly, it places historical events and personalities in context. The strength of any book lies in its ability to spur the reader into taking their own journey, which these two books do full justice.
Not to be Forgotten
History is filled with passages of politics of hate that has been cruel to civilizations, uprooting them from their naturalized habitats and thrusting them into new areas to craft new identities. Amardeep grew up hearing first-hand accounts from those who were affected by the partition of the Indian subcontinent in the year 1947, when the British left India, dividing it into India and Pakistan, based on religious affiliations.
Overnight, millions of people that included Amardeep’s parents and extended family were uprooted from the regions that became Pakistan. Hearing the stories of ethnic cleansing that ensued across all communities on both sides of the newly created borders, Amardeep sees his generation as the last link between the ones directly impacted by the partition and the present youth who have little emotional understanding of that cataclysm.
It is in this background, Amardeep’s painstaking research, documented in the two books, serves as a link for posterity to an almost forgotten yet rich cultural legacy.
The Sikh Kingdom and Partition
During the 15th century, Sikh philosophy emerged as a reformist movement in the north-west of the Indian subcontinent, predominantly in the lands that became Pakistan in the partition of 1947. Over the next two centuries, its adherents evolved as a defense cohort against oppressions of those times. In the early 18th century, Sikhs grew stronger and successive decades saw the rise of an indigenous kingdom as the bulwark against foreign intrusions.
By the 19th century, the Sikh kingdom became the custodians of the Northwest of the Indian subcontinent and established a robust secular rule. It was such a formidable empire that the fast-expanding British East India Company, which had acquired most of India, was firmly stalled from further westward advances. Only after much treachery and betrayal, the British empire finally set in 1849 with the British occupying these lands. However, in departing from India in 1947, the British divided the country between India and Pakistan by dividing Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims who were living so close to each other that no boundary may divide them without massive disruption, bloodshed, and destruction of valuable assets. It stripped of its secular tapestry on both sides of the Radcliffe Line.
Preserving the Legacy
Seven decades after the searing partition of 1947, the Sikhs visiting Pakistan have limited their interests to the realm of religion as they only visit the few functional gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship). These phenomena are exacerbated due to stringent visa regimes which restrict access to limited areas.
Amardeep is one of those pioneers who is attempting to chart the remnants of the legacy by visiting and documenting a wide array of tangible and intangible footprints, which are not readily accessible. These are essential works because they make people of different faiths see that learning from the past helps build bridges for the future.
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Harbans Lal, Ph.D.; D.Litt (Hons)
Professor Emeritus & Chairman, Dept of Pharmacology & Neurosciences, University of North Texas Health Science Center.
Professor Emeritus, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, India.
President, Academy of Guru Granth Studies.
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