Pritam Singh dead
New Delhi, March 31
“Bhapa” Pritam Singh founded Navyug Publishers in 1945 and moved to Delhi from Preet Nagar, near Lahore, in 1948. He was regarded as a pillar of the Punjabi literary world, who took the language to the international standards. Most known Punjabi novelists, poets and short-story writers owe their reputation and career to Pritam Singh.
Talking to The Tribune, his daughter, Prof Renuka Singh, called him a fortunate and blessed person who led a meaningful life and helped several people.
“His contributions to Punjabi writing are unparalleled. Name any Punjabi writer, Gurbaksh Singh, Nanak Singh, Mohan Singh, K. S. Duggal, Amrita Pritam, Ajit Cour, they all wanted to be published by him,” she said.
“Bhapa” Pritam Singh also published a Punjabi translation of two volumes of Khushwant Singh’s “Sikh Religion and History”.
He is survived by two daughters.
“BHAPA Pritam Singh represented the golden era of Punjabi literature and published famous writers of the century like Nanak Singh, Gurbax Singh Preetlari, Amrita Pritam, Kartar Singh Duggal, Devendra Satyarthi, Balwant Gargi and many others. His was an immense contribution to Punjabi literature,” said city-based writer Gulzar Singh Sandhu while paying tributes to the grand old Bhapa Pritam Singh, who passed away at New Delhi in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
Founder of the famous Navyug Publishing house in 1951, Pritam Singh passed away at the ripe old age of 91. His was one of the success stories of Punjabi entrepreneurs making it big in the national capital of Independent India. The difference was that he devoted all his energy to publishing the best of Punjabi literature. Born in Talwandi Bhindran village near Narowal in Sialkot district of West Punjab. He began his career humbly as press compositor in Punjabi and later headed the Preetlari press at Preetnagar near Amritsar. In 1951, he established the Navyug press and publishing house in Delhi.
Dr M.S. Randhawa, who was deputy commissioner of Delhi post-Partition and went out of his way to rehabilitate writers who had migrated from West Punjab, allotted him a plot in Hauz Khas. Interestingly, he and Amrita Pritam shared the back wall of their houses.
Known for not giving writers much by way of royalty, he compensated by publishing the books beautifully. Punjabi scholar Surjit Singh Hans said of him, “He imparted beauty to Punjabi literature.” However, beauty is not always helpful and some parted ways with him like Amrita Pritam who set up her own Nagmani publishing house. Of all the Punjabi women writers whom he published lovingly with their pretty pictures on the cover, Ajeet Cour was his favourite. Cour, who had written a fond biographical sketch of his called Takiye Wala Pir said, “He caught me by my finger and set me off on the road to literature.” Many writers played Boswel to him by penning sketches to their publisher and Gulzar Sandhu wrote a complete book on him called Navyug Taksal.
Recounting his contribution to Punjabi publishing, Raghubir Singh, editor Sirjana, said, “He remained at the heart of literary activities even though he was not a creative writer. His is an immense contribution to Punjabi literature.” From 1958 to 2000, he published a literary magazine called Arsee, which was a leading journal along with Amrita Pritam’s Nagmani. Punjabi poet Manjit Tiwana said, “He published my anthologies of poetry so beautifully. He never took any money from me and I did not take any royalty from him.”
However, many writers, including those living abroad, paid for publication of their books and he always did a good job. Once in an interview he told me: “Very few Punjabi writers sell. From among those whom I have published only Gurbax Singh, Nanak Singh, Gargi and Shiv Kumar Batalvi sell. But there are hundreds who just want their books to be published for the love of it.”
As a businessman he exploited this love to make a pretty packet. But in his later years he spent much money on literary activities and he was the founder of the Punjabi Sahit Sabha in Delhi and chairman of the Nanak Singh-Gurbax Singh Trust, Preetnagar.
In the past few years he suffered several brain strokes and the last one some five days ago proved fatal. Survived by his daughters Renuka, who lived with him and wrote several books on Dalai Lama, and Jyotsna, who lives in the US, the grand old Bhapa in his spotless white clothes, flowing white beard and congenial smile will remain etched in the memories of Punjabi litterateurs for long.