| Hb Singh | Malaysia| 22 Jan 2016 | Asia Samachar |
Solid writing. Superb photographs. And the book takes you to places that have been, for some decades now, almost off-bound.
Lost Heritage: The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan by Amardeep Singh brings to life many of the places connected to the Sikhs and their Gurus. After the 1947 partition, many of these places were no more under the Sikhs. Some had been put to use for other purposes.
BREAKING NEWS: Author Amardeep Singh will make a presentation on the book in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, tomorrow (23 Jan 2016).
Place: Dewan Angsana, Fakulti Bahasa dan Linguistik, Universiti Malaya Time: 9am. Those interested in the book, limited copies are still available. Price: US$80.
The book came about as Amardeep left for Pakistan in October 2014 to begin his journey in the search of his family roots. He was then based in Singapore. This was no ordinary travel. This was not a trip to merely gaze at the mountains and take in the sights.
The beautiful part of the journey is that Amardeep has the ability to capture the journey in both words and photos. I guess he may have some videos, as well.
Getting to some of the key places connected to the Sikhs is not an easy task, more so in the present climate. Travelling to Pakistan is not as open as its neighbouring India. The other issue would be security.
My last trip to Karachi was with a Malaysian trade delegation just a few years ago. We were all advised against leaving the hotel. No walkabouts, please. Stay in the hotel compound as much as possible. And the roads leading to the hotel were heavily guarded, with heavily armed security personnel. They are there for security, of course.
So, Amardeep’s travels gives us a good insight into the places that we would probably not visit.
One of his early stops in Pakistan was in Lahore. Here, he stayed with Dr Mimpal Singh, the first qualified Sikh doctor of Pakistan. On page 12, there is a nice photo of Dr Mimpal attending to an Afghan child. Precious. And the photos just keep getting better.
Amardeep did not go in blind. He went to Pakistan armed with some ground knowledge and considerable reading, I suppose. He knew where to go, an in some place, what to look out. Of course, he had received considerable help from his local contacts.
One example is his visit to the Fakir Khana Musuem at Lahore that holds a private collection of artifacts from the Sikh era. Here, he meets Fakir Syed Saifuddin, descendant of the Fakir family and a fifth generation custodian of the museum. He is shown a knife which is said to have been belonged to Hari Singh Nalwa, the legendary Sikh general in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s army who led the empire’s expansion to the north-western frontiers.
“Fakir Syed Saifuddin’s ancestors…held ministerial posts in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s cabinet. Fakir was a title bestowed on them by Ranjit Singh for their piety. Ranjit Singh appointed people on meritocracy and his immense trust on the Fakir family of the Muslim faith is a reflection of his secular personality,” Amardeep writes.
Two things to reflect on the musuem bit. Amardeep has enough knowledge on what to look out for. And he has the ability to flesh it out with relevant substance, educating the reader as he goes through the book.
What the book lacks are references and bibliography. It’s not that the author has done his homework. He has. The book is peppered with references to historical books and quotes.
In the chapter on The North-Western Frontier, for example, he has this quote from History of the Sikhs by Hari Ram Gupta: “For 800 years, the Hindus could not close the Khyber Pass. The Afghans finally found their match in Sikhs.”
Knowing his penchant for details, I know Amardeep would have reads hundreds of books, papers and whatever that he can lay his hands on. It would have been great if he had captured, and listed, them into this book. Though this is not an ‘academic’ work, such an exercise would have further elevated the usefulness of the book.
On balance, I would highly recommend this book to Sikhs and students who have a craving for a slice of the Sikh history that lays in Pakistan.
Amardeep journeys deep into Pakistan in search of Sikh legacy (Asia Samachar, 21 Sept 2015)