‘New Genres Needed In Punjabi’ by Roop Dhillon

Punjabi Literature has a strong tradition of Sufi poetry and free thought. Over the years many literary movements have been established especially by the progressive writers. However that was almost a century ago, and in many ways the literary landscape seems to have stagnated in Realism and never moved on. This is certainly the case in Eastern Punjab. I cannot speak with any conviction about Western Punjab.

Eastern Punjab has hit a malaise where it refuses to leave the confines of realism and the literary novel, almost to the point where it considers other forms as cheap vulgar entertainment. But in this hypercomputer age this perspective is in danger of making its literary oeuvre unappealing to the modern reader and thus losing the few readers of Punjabi that exist.

In fiction and types of fiction, Punjabi lags behind the rest of the continent let alone the world. Many people are confused for example by my sci-fi stories, thinking them to be a strange thing. In fact this genre has been around for centuries in the west and even for at least 100 years in languages such as Bengali and Japanese. I have labelled this genre Vachitarvaad and definitely encourage Punjabis to try their hand at it. Other genres I see missing from Punjabi appear to be Magic Realism, Crime Fiction and Feminist Fiction. I think it is about time we writing in Punjabi catch up and give our readers more choice, and a whole spectrum of fiction so that it can compete with Cinema, TV and Computers; all modern things that may pose a threat to the habit of reading.

I also think that to achieve this, writers both from Lahnda and Charhda Punjab need to help one another. One way could be through agreeing which of the two scripts is better placed for usage or perhaps print books in both Shahmukhi and Gurmukhi. Another way, especially for Punjabi writers who live abroad, is to set up an independent publishing house or imprint that caters for Punjabi only (maybe aimed at those who live here in the west), and circumnavigates the vile practice of charging the author which exists in our native countries. All these are thoughts and ideas and it would be great to see what people think.

Over the coming weeks, I am likely to post in further detail what I know and think about these topics.

Vachitarvaad is one area I hope Punjabi writers will explore, and also other genres that may or may not have been mentioned here.

Contact Roop
rupinderpal@btinternet.com
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