Monday, 3 November 2014

‘Roll of Honour’ dwells on year 1984 with a unique perspective

Aparna Banerji
Tribune News Service
Jalandhar, November 2
While there have been seething, raging testimonies and venting of ire regarding the year 1984 and the politics surrounding it, “Roll of Honour”, a novel penned by author Amandeep Sandhu takes a peek into 1984 with a unique perspective. Translated into Punjabi and adapted by writer, filmmaker and journalist Daljit Ami, the novel’s Punjabi version was launched in Chandigarh on Friday.

As the country recalled 1984 with protests and bandhs yesterday, Ami chatted up with The Tribune on his story about 1984. Penned in 2012, “Roll of Honour” was shortlisted among the final five entries for the Hindu literature Award 2012. Meeting Sandhu through a common friend, Ami and Sandhu exchanged their works. Upon reading Sandhu’s first novel “Sepia Leaves”, Ami read “Roll of Honour” and related deeply to it.

While the entire nation views 1984 in terms of blood, rage and politics, “Roll of Honour” narrates the story of a Sainik School and what happens to it following Operation Bluestar.

“While the nation was burning, a school and its students were deeply impacted by Bluestar. Overnight, loyalties changed and divisions developed among students on a communal level. Their innocence died, solid friendships were rendered shady. Boys aged 14 and 15 mistrusted their friends, themselves and their pursuits. Of course, these students were being trained for the Army – but Bluestar made them unsure – should they join the army or fight against it?” said Ami.

The book also explores the hidden demons of the students in terms of their sexuality and prevalent homosexuality and sodomy at the school in a way to the extent that some students are constantly exploited.
While Ami has been known for documentaries so far, when asked what was the trigger which made him undertake a project to translate a book, he said, “When I first met him, Amandeep, while talking about 1984, said someone placed a revolver on my head. I thought I saw a carbine from a hand’s distance and this guy had a gun on his head. The experiences were similar, shared. All those of our generation know how those incidents impacted our personalities and how we carried the load for years. We changed as people and for ages names, hair, and formerly trivial things would decide how people would judge us. Through the book, Amandeep took out his poison and I saw the point. If writing a story can help taking out the poison from one’s head, reading one could too.”

Daljit Ami hasn’t just translated the book but also slightly altered the fabric of the story, “It was written in 2012, but I approached it in 2014. In those two years, many things, including the discourse about 84 and other issues in general, had changed. So there were parts where I thought certain pages had to be rewritten in the present context. The Punjabi version is a book specifically from my vantage point,” he added.

Speaking of what he thinks about the present politics surrounding 1984 and whether he agrees with it, he says, “I see it this way. Thirty years after 84, are we still safe? For me the most important thing is we need to be good neighbours so we can be trusted and, in turn, we can trust others. No tragedy is big enough to surrender humanity. The point is to come out a stronger citizen after every tragedy. Punjab should stand up and say look we experienced that. But at the same time also ensure this shouldn’t happen to anyone. The bottom line is not to be vengeful.”

Daljit Ami has made documentaries like “Born in Debt” (about farm labour) and “Kar Sewa” (based on the movement started by environmentalist Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal). Ami has made other path-breaking documentaries like “Unearthing Unfamiliar” (on Sikh scholar Professor Pritam Singh) and “Sudarshan an Institution of Simplicity” (on the life of a human rights activist). “Zulm Aur Aman”, “Karsewa: a different story”, “Anhad Baja Bajey”, “Not Every Time”, and “Seva”, include his other works. His upcoming projects include a documentary on gender violence.

With thanks from The Tribune (