Book Review: Punjab, Punjabis and Punjabiyat: Reflections on a Land and its People by Khushwant Singh Edited by Mala Dayal

Book Name: Punjab, Punjabis and Punjabiyat: Reflections on a Land and its People

Author: Khushwant Singh

Editor: Mala Dayal

Publisher: Aleph

Review: 4.5/5

Book Blurb: Punjab, Punjabis & Punjabiyat brings together Khushwant Singh’s best writings on Punjab, Punjabis and the Sikhs. Divided into three parts, the book deals with various aspects of the region—its geography, climate, history, culture, religion, politics, language and literature. Part I of the book delves into Punjab’s history, culture, language and Sikhism. Part II covers the burning issues that affected the state during Khushwant Singh’s lifetime, including the pains of Partition, the Khalistan movement, Operation Blue Star, the anti-Sikh riots, and more. Part III is a collection of profiles of well-known Punjabis—poets, politicians, activists, friends and family.

The pieces in the book celebrate the culture, determination and spirit of the people of Khushwant Singh’s native land, a place he identified deeply with. Taken together, they give us a peerless portrait of Punjab and its people.

Review: Khushwant Singh was a master of Urdu and had over the years largely because of his extensive research on Sikhs (for his two volume book) become some sort of authority on the subject, perhaps not equalled by another great writer in English.

This book provides a snippet of his works on Punjab and Punjabis. The book covers the geographical area of Punjab, provides a history of the region and the land along with its people. The sikh faith and its origins along with a brief purview of the important gurus and leaders is also provided. To a well read individual who has followed Khushwant Singh’s career closely, there may not be much in the book since its a collection of writings with nothing new. however, for readers unfamiliar with Singh’s writings, this book can be a good starting point to generate interest.

Khushwant Singh’s writings are unique with liberal doses of sarcasm and keen observation. This book is on serious subjects but profiles of important Punjabis at the end provides some keen insight into the talent and observational skills of one of India’s greatest writer. It is no surprise that Khushwant Singh’s  writings are still relevant today and his views unmatched in their honesty and bluntness.

The book however is too short and some important writings are missing. Perhaps, a bigger volume would have done more justice but anyhow, the task of an editor is always a very difficult affair. The editor has to leave out so much of what he/she wishes to include!

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