to cram Shakespeare's sonnet True Love, Wordsworth's Daffodils and Shelley's Ozymandias ignoring their own linguistic and literary heritage. The loss was total.
There was a blessing in disguise though. Thanks to English, a window to the world knowledge opened. The Punjabis studying abroad in the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, London and California established contact and interaction with Western thought. In the early 20th century Puran Singh (1881-1931), the poet, was writing on Nietzsche in Punjabi; Kahan Singh (1861-1938), the great lexicographer, was collaborating with Macauliffe (1837-1913), on the English translation of the Sikh scriptures for his 6-volume magnum opus The Sikh Religion; Dharam Anant [Singh], the Greek and Sanskrit scholar, worked on Plato, and Santokh Singh (1892-1927) introduced Marx in Punjabi. Three collections of Puran Singh's poetry, and Dharam Anant's treatise on Plato and Sikhism were published in London by JM Dent and Luzac. Mulk Raj Anand moved in the Bloomsbury literary group. Khushwant Singh, Ved Mehta and Zulfikar Ghose made their mark on English literature in the later half of the last century.
In this sundry background of gain and loss, I started writing at the young age of 20 in my own language Punjabi, which I had learnt simultaneously with English. I cut my literary teeth in a real Punjabi milieu. My father- a carpenter turned photographer and communist trade unionist, wrote poetry as well. My mother was illiterate. So my home language remained unadulterated.
I rarely write in English. The ones I did were for my loved ones who did not know my language. When I translate such poems into Punjabi, I put the appendage sheepishly- 'translated from English'. Of course Punjabi is my mother language. I think, feel and dream in it. I live in it and I will die in it. No wonder, working with English poets, I could translate only one fourth of my original poems into English. Kundera, in his novel Testaments Betrayed, sympathises and bemoans Leoš Janácek's determination to