Sat Sri Akaal Greetings Shalom Namskar Salaam Alikum
Punjabi Manch 11th Issue
Punjabi Poet Sawraj Kaur has reached another milestone
In this issue, I have decided to depart from the tradition by writing a literary editorial instead of a political one. It does not mean that there will be no political materials added to this issue later on but for now, out of respect for Sawraj Kaur's exemplary service to the cause of Punjabi language and literature, I found it very appropriate to talk about her in this brief editorial and also devote this issue's entire North America section of poetry to her.
Some of you in Punjabi literary circles who do not know her might wonder that she has written just three books of poetry and why is she getting so much attention by us in North America. Well here are the reasons in a nutshell. In order to judge Sawraj Kaur's poetry, we must take into consideration the very difficult social circumstances in which she grew up and started writing poetry. She was born in a village in the state of Punjab in the early forties i.e. before the Independence of India. Female education in the villages was not very common in those days. There existed a great deal of resistance in the society against getting the girls educated and especially sending them to vocational institutions and colleges. Despite such a prevailing wind of prejudice against female literacy, with the help of her parents, she was not only able to complete her 10th Grade but was also able to finish her Giani that was considered a very prestigious degree in Punjabi language and literature those days. Even then she was not free in the society those days to write poetry. A sort of social stigma existed in the rural society against women writing poetry. Even if some brave soul like Sawraj Kaur dared to write poetry, it was not acceptable in the society to do it openly. It was not accepted in the rural culture for women to promote their poetry through newspapers, magazines, social gatherings or literary associations. All this was the result of very strong Islamic and Hindu influences over the relatively liberal Sikh culture based on the equality of genders in the state of Punjab that had deteriorated over the decades despite the teachings of the Sikh Gurus to the contrary.
Under such circumstances, Sawraj Kaur started writing poetry but she could not write it openly and she could not promote it openly as she would have been shunned by the society. Did these circumstances discourage her not to write. No, this brave soul continued to write and hide it, write and hide it and save it for better times in some unforeseeable future.
That unforeseeable future finally arrived when she was able to get her first book of poetry named "Kauri Vail" ( The Bitter Vine ) published. Then came the second one titled "Umran Di Baat" ( The Talk of Ages ) and the third one called "Chupp Da Hauka" ( The Sobbing of Silence ). We are honored that we as a group of Punjabi writers on the West Coast of North America could play a small role during the last few years in promoting this brave soul having an exemplary courage, commitment, dedication and wisdom.
Sawraj Kaur has been attending literary meeting in Seattle that is 150 miles from her home as well as in Vancouver, Canada that is 300 miles away from her home for the last several years despite the fact that she does not drive a car. Imagine a writer living in Amritsar and attending literary meetings in New Delhi month after month and year after year despite having some health problems. As most of you know that Punjabi Manch has just become three years old. Sawraj Kaur has been providing moral and literary support to Punjabi Manch since its inception three years ago. She was one of the four member group who was given the honor of performing the Grand Opening Ceremony of Punjabi Manch on September 4, 1999. Here are a few more specimens of her poetry published in various issues of Punjabi Manch. Her poem named Gall Je Maan Di Hundi was published in the 3rd issue of Punjabi Manch. One of her poems titled Nafrat was published in the 5th issue of Punjabi Manch. Another one titled Kabira Roea was published in the 8th issue of Punjabi Manch. On June 15, 2002 Punjabi Manch was honored to present her with a plaque for her service to the cause of Punjabi language and literature.
In the end, I must add that she does not concoct artificial, worthless and hollow poetry like some Punjabi Poets are doing these days . Her poetry is real, solid, spontaneous and full of substance as it comes from her heart. She believes in quality and not in quantity and does not create her poetry through arithmetic calculations. She is very soft spoken and humble despite possessing a great deal of wisdom. Her great treasure of wisdom is self evident from the numerous subjects she has handled very successfully in her poems in this book. Punjabi literary world can expect Sawraj Kaur to add many many more solid and remarkable poems to its treasure of Punjabi Poetry in the coming months and years.
We at Punjabi Manch wish her good health and many more years of writing Punjabi poetry in her own style of writing with substance and humanitarian message.
Amrik S. Kang, Editor September 2, 2002