Giani Gurdit Singh



What Critics Say


One of the most outstanding novels depicting rural life in the Punjab is that of
Giani Gurdit Singh
, Mera Pind ("My village"), almost a classic in Punjabi literature.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

Khushwant Singh Gurbachan Singh Talib Jaspal Singh

Delightful Essays

Mera Pind by Giani Gurdit Singh is a collection of delightful essays on various aspects of village life in the Eastern Punjab. The book gives us a lively picture of pastoral life, written in delectable prose, studded with aphorisms, anecdotes, proverbs and songs. The one thing that will give Mera Pind a long lease of life, if not immortality, is the fact that the author has used the Punjabi language as it is spoken by the common people, The Punjabi of Mera Pind is full-blooded, rugged and masculine.

- Khushwant Singh


Punjabi Belles-Letter

This is one of the most absorbing books which have appeared in Punjabi during the last few years. It brings in prose throbbing with enthusiasm, the entire panorama of the most romantic and picturesque aspects of rural Punjab and a phase of our culture which after thousands of years is now machine age, and the rising tide of political and democratic consciousness. Feelings, passions, customs and attitudes which have characterised our ancestors for numerous generations, described here with delight and gusto in imaginative writing make a deeply nostalgic appeal to the heart which is truly touched by the vision of a past, now in the very last lap of its existence. Here is hoary Hinduism, as practised and understood in the Punjab countryside, with superficial aspects of Sikhism, superimposed on it, and both invested with that primitive joy in the life of nature which made our ancestors both wise and simple, happy and responsible. The author has been able to put across not only its colour and form, but also its spirit, and that deep philosophy of life, which has seeped into the very soul of even the most untutored and least critical Indian. This is the art and miracle of this book, which as the reader goes through its pages, simulates with delight and extracts its need of praise.

Here is the entire milieu of a village in the Malwa tract of the Punjab, a region which is not lush green, yet is fertile and rich; which, is Hindu as much as Sikh, unlike the centre of the south of state, and which while absorbing enough of the reforming spirit of Sikhism, has yet retained a great deal of that hoary paganism without which life grows drab and colourless. The region had beautiful customs and manners; it has songs and dance, furtive, romantic and beautiful chivalry and loyalty. It has manly heroism as well as deep feminine tenderness. Its songs express more deeply perhaps than anywhere in India the immortal bond of affection between brother and sister and between mother and daughter. They express yearning and love in words which are wonderful in their balanced suggestiveness, love which is neither so squeamish as to be lost in remote symbol, nor so bold as to cry out shame on the human animal. And the rhythm and lilt of the songs of this region is passionate and blood-warming, like the dance movement of its village belles. This is folk art, beautiful in its simplicity, yet not the less alive for being devoid of classical or academic polish.

The author, one of the research top writers of Punjabi and perhaps the most penetrating student on the Sikh scripture, the Granth Sahib, has brought alive his subject not only with encyclopaedic thoroughness, but also in prose which is living like the dances and the songs of which it is narrative. It contains more folk music and commentary there on than has so for appeared in Punjabi, or in any other Indian language for the matter of that. As a narrative of the life, mind and art of a section of the Indian people, It should find a place among other distinguished writings on the same subject, and should be brought over to the people of our country as a whole in translation as much as is practicable. The Indian reader will find in its pages what is peculiar to this part of the Punjab, as well as that kinship which binds the people of India as a whole in common bonds of one culture and outlook. Here is the peasant in his strength and weakness, and here are the various peasant types with their lovable characteristics. No reader can fail to love these people whose life and art is revealed in these pages.

The book is eloquently illustrated with drawings, which add to its value. Its dust jacket is beautiful, illustrative of the pretty needle work of rural Punjab.

- Gurbachan Singh Talib

February 15, 1961
Published in The Tribune, March, 1961.


Life as culture history of Malwa

Mera Pind by Giani Gurdit Singh is a veritable cultural museum in words. The book is now running its eight revised and enlarged edition, a rare feat for Punjabi book. It begins as an autobiography, assumes the character of a biography of his village Mitthewal and ultimately turns out to be the story of the people in eastern Malwa and southern Puad.

Culture is the total life activity of a community that has come into existence as a result of human intervention in the processes of nature. Whether man confronts nature as an antagonistic force or co-exists with it as a compatible whole, the material consequence is the same-that is, the creation of a third mediatory structure which appears as a transformation of objective environment in terms of human needs, urges and drives.

Since culture is the total life activity of people, it encompasses material as well as conceptual ambit of existence. Material culture appears as a diachronic unfolding of civilisation in terms of its acquisitions and the conceptual aspect pertains to the communicational strategies of the community, which are mostly symbolic in nature. It is the later aspect of culture that Gurdit Singh tries to present in intimate details.

The book has two neat divisions. The first part is autobiographical but it also takes into account dominant beliefs of village folks, their devotion for sadhus and sants, their recreational activities during long summer afternoons and also during winter nights when, by a bonfire, epical and puranic tales get a delightful oral rendering by an elderly member of the community. This part also deals with the superstitions and ritualistic misgivings indulged in by the people.

Festivals and other auspicious days and celebrations are painted in vivid details. The girls' festival of Teean is described in all its variegated colours. Giddha — a vigorous dance by the village damsels — is presented with wild abandon, manifested through the bold imagery used in songs accompanying it. Teean is a festival of the rainy season. It begins on the third day of Sawan month and is celebrated for 15 days. After the scorching heat of the summer, the first showers of the rainy season are a welcome relief, sending young marriageable girls into rapturous, singing, dancing and swinging.

The girls wear beautiful clothes and deck their bodies with ornaments for the dancing and swinging sessions. “Shauq nall giddhe vich awan/boli pawan shagan manawan/saun dia baddla ve/main tera jas gawan/saun mahine ghah ho chalia/rajjan majhian gawan/giddhia pind ver ve/lambh lambh na jain (I join the giddha group with zest and zeal and sing songs in gay abandon in the festivities. O the cloud of the rainy season, I sing to your glory. Fine green grass has sprouted in the pastures for our cattle to graze. May the dancing spirit possess my village. Let it not pass by it.).

The month of Sawan arrives at the village as a dancing god. Nature — its flora and fauna — is in a dancing mood. The atmosphere is enchanted with the dance of peacock and the songs of the rain-birds and koels. This is the time when you long to be among your dear ones. The girls, whose lovers are fighting their battle in distant lands, feel the pangs of separation. “He is on the front as the war goes on. She does not know his whereabouts to send a message. The koels sing full-throated plaintive songs of separation. But she longs to hear the cawing of the crow.” The outpouring of joys and sorrows, desires and carvings, agony and ecstasy, in the folk songs with appropriate dance measures enthral the entire village.

Another place where women, and more so unmarried girls, gather during nights is called the Trinjan. Literally it means a “women's yard” or a place where women gather to spin and make hanks or yarn in a group. While spinning the girls in Trinjan sing songs of joy and sorrow. The married women normally become nostalgic while remembering their lives at their parental villages where they had a little more freedom and where they did not have to work as hard as at their marital homes. “When she recalled the affectionate care of her brothers, her eyes welled up and she bent on the spinning wheel.”

And those young women whose lovers are away, pine for them: “Charkha main apna katan, tand terian dukhan di pawan” (I spin the yarn of your grief as I work on my wheel). In a short while spinning session rises to a crescendo. The spinning wheels produce a rhythmic drone. “Cheeke charkha Bishnie tera/Lokan bhane mor kuukda” (People take it for a call of the peacock when your spinning wheel squeaks). But the elderly women (who have come to the spinning session for reeling the yarn) blurt out the bitter truth: “The daughter is a homeless creature.” The parents pray for her easy life at the in-laws. But the mother-in-law there does not let her settle down in peace. In this sense the daughter is an alienated being.

In fact, from the very beginning a struggle for power and dominance begins. The entire family structure at the in-laws is alien and even antagonistic for the new entrant (bride). By the time the bride settles down and learns to dominate, another struggle begins—now she herself has to play the role of the detested mother-in-law.

During these long spinning sessions mothers-in-law are invariably at the butt end of lampooning. The songs by new brides lay bare the tensions in the kinship system with all the nodal points vividly emphasised, exhibiting the semantic pulls and pushes of the structural forces. The folk mind presents a holistic view of life. Three stages of human life-childhood, youth and old age — have their respective rituals, rites and ceremonies to be performed at different occasions.

Conception, not the birth, is considered to be the genesis of life. There are many rituals associated with the prenatal development of the human organism. Myth and reality here have dialectical relation.

There are rituals and rites for every occasion through which the community tries to conceptually organise its universe. They are transmitted from generation to generation, which helps in the perpetuation of the mythic structure. The mythical and the empirical sustain each other.

There are many rituals which are performed for a normal birth. Eclipses of the sun and the moon have to be especially kept in mind and the poor low caste menial have to be offered generous alms. Similarly, all “hard” places in the village have to be avoided and sometimes worshipped for helping a normal delivery. After the birth, many rituals are performed for the well being of the new-born.

As soon as the baby is a little older, the mother and the child are given sumptuous gifts in the form of “shushak” which is carried to the in-laws place. Aunts of the child also give costly gifts, especially to a male child.

When the child grows into a youth, it is the time of his/her engagement and eventual marriage. The roles of the mediator (vichola) in arranging the matches and that of the trouble-maker and the disrupter (bhani-maar) are hilariously presented with an intimate knowledge of both these institutions. It seems the author must have performed such duties during his long innings as a public man.

- Jaspal Singh
Published in The Tribune, 18 June, 1995.