Chitta Lahu is Nanak Singh\’s first popular novel, published first in 1932, later going into dozens of subsequent editions. Roduâ€”a jugglerâ€”finds a forsaken child behind a bush, whom he adopts and brings up into a young beautiful girl, Sundriâ€”the heroineâ€”comes into contact with young Bachchan Singhâ€”the heroâ€”a devoted idealist very much interested in the reformation of his village. He starts a school in the Gurdwara for giving free education to the children, but due to his villagers\’ conservative ideas about untouchability, Sundri is denied this facility. Bachchan Singh teaches her privately and in due course of time, they develop love for each other.
Bachchan Singh wants to marry her but is prevented by Pala Singhâ€”group-leader of the village-vagabonds, addicted to wine and opium. Pala Singh himself has an eye on her. Not succeeding in his designs, Pala Singh implicates Bachchan Singh in a murder case. Karam Chand, a hypocrite Brahman of the village plays foul with a young widow Gurdai of the village. The maltreatment and injustices by the society compel Gurdai to adopt the profession of a dancing girl under the name of Anwarjan.
During a marriage celebration Sundri comes into contact with Anwarjanâ€”whom she wanted to dissuade from giving her dance-items in the village. During their conversations Anwarjan (Gurda) comes to know that Sundri is none-else but her own forsaken daughter. Bachchan Singh is ultimately hanged and Sundri vows to avenge his death by killing Pala Singh. In her attempt to kill Babu Sham Dass, a station master to avenge her mother\’s miseries, she finds him (her father and, Gurdai\’s first husband) a completely changed man and ultimately forgives him.
Chitta Lahu has literary as well as historical importance in the annals of Punjabi novel. Although the author had earlier contributed some novelettes, yet this was his first major achievement, which like a ;milestone, showed the Punjabi novel the path of realism. The portrayal of Punjabi life, individuality of characters, their variety and proper psycho-analysis, along with a double well-knit plot, interspersed with dramatic situations and dramatic-irony, are praiseworthy. The entire novel has been written in an ironical style, making it an effective satire on the wrong doings of society of the time.
1. Kohli, S.S., Punjabi Sahit da Itihas, Ludhiana, 1955.
2. Mohan Singh, A History of Punjabi Literature, Amritsar, 1956.
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.