SINGH ‘DHEER’, SANTOKH (1920 – )
A veteran political activist, Santokh Singh \’Dheer\’ is bold, outspoken, down-to-earth and yet essentially poetic. He was born in Bassi Pathana, Punjab in 1920. He is a whole-time and his prolific contribution to literature includes nine short story collections, four novels, eleven books of verse, two edited volumes of folk literature, a travelogue, a book of essays and translation of Kabir Vachanavali into Punjabi. Three of his works Sanjhi Diwar, Ik Sadharan Aadmi, and Mungo have been turned into tele-films.
He has been recipient of Punjab Arts Council Award, Soviet Land Nehru Award and Punjabi Academy London Award. His is the poetry of struggle. He yearns for change, a fair deal to the downtrodden and the suppressed, the backward and the have-not. At times he appears to be getting impatient and resorts to slogan-mongering. Nothing wrong with it if it is meaningful and lyrical. He is invariably hard-hitting. He has spent many a night in the police lock-up and quite a few winters behind bars in one Punjab jail or another.
Inevitably, he shares his experience with his readers. He is full of anger and yet it is no ordinary poetry: Here Nanak worked the grinding mill And Krishna saw the light of day You are too small a man, Dheer Don\’t you think the way you do. Again and again there are echoes of revolutionary urges in \’Dheer\’s\’ verse. He is not content with what his contemporaries say and how they say it. He is ready to launch a new style and tread untrodden paths.
His search for truth is that of a social conscious writer. He highlights the harsh realities of life. He shuns idealism, romanticism and sentimentality. He seeks truth, honesty and accuracy. He asks: “When foreigners visit India, what do we show them?” More important among his works are; Ag de Patte (Leaves of Fire) Dharti Afangdi Minh Ve (The Earth Asks for Rain) and Poh Phutala (Day-down). Pakhi, the award-winning collection of short stories presents heart-rending accounts of human lives caught in turbulent times.
Pakhi with its restrained handling of themes enmeshed in violence and gore, its deep concern for the future of humanity and its simple structure elegance, is an enriching addition to Indian fiction in Punjabi. His attack on anti-social elements is fierce and virulent. He seems to be killing the proverbial two birds with one stone. He is merciless with those who indulge in evils like black-marketing and yet pose to be God-fearing and religious.
1. Amarjit Singh, Punjabi sahit da itihas ”Qissa kal, Amritsar, 1981.
2. Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature, 6 Vols., Delhi, 1995.
3. Ramdev, Jaginder Singh (ed.), Punjabi Likhari Kosh, Jullundur, 1964.
4. Sekhon, S.S. and K.S. Duggal, A History of Punjabi Literature, Delhi, 1992.
5. Singh, N.K., Encyclopaedia of Indian Biography, Delhi, 2000.