by: Dr.Jaspal Singh
South Asia Post Issue 38 Vol II, April 30, 2007
Mohinder Singh Ghagg is a peach farmer at Live Oak, California, U.S.A. he takes keen interest in literary activities also. First collection of his short stories titled ‘Asin Bhi Kujh Han’ appeared in 1988 followed in quick succession by a collection of poems – Har Swer Har Swer. Ghagg is one of the founder members of Sahit Sabha California and even now in his mid-seventies he participates in literary functions with the same old zeal that once attracted him to literature in his younger days. His second collection of twentyone short stories Larrke Tum Kaun appeared a few months back.
Short story for Ghagg is a means to an end. Basically, he is a social critic who uses the literary medium for exposing corruption, superstition, hypocrisy and sychophancy unserupulous politicians, immoral priests and religious masters, perverted writers and corrupted bureaucrats all are targeted in his stories. American Gurdwara politics with all its vulgarity and depravity is forgrounded in a number of stories. Mask of the people who control the Gurdwaras are wicked and debased since religion for them is not a spiritual proposition but a commercial enterprise that opens the gates to unaccounted wealth and unlimited power over the gullible people. More often than not woman fall very easy victims to the manipulations and chicanery of the religious charlatans. “Babe di Chakki” and “Mai Parhdi Han Lawan” are such stories in which religious vulgarity of the Gurdwara managers and religious masters is exposed. In “Babe di Chakki” some dubious Khan Sahib brings in an ancient –looking queen wrapped in fine tapestry to the Gurdwara. He claims that this particular chakki (millstone) is the same, which was given to Guru Nanak Dev by Babur for grinding the grain in prison when the great Guru was interned by the emperor. In fact Khan the possessor the chakki is in league with the Gurdwara secretary. The gullible devotees immediately start offering dollars and gold ornaments at he quern that leaves the swindlers richer by a few thousand dollars and a few kilograms of gold. The American tours by Indian sants and kirtan performers are also commented upon since most of these religious impostors don religious mantle only to hoodwink the people for thousands of dollars during such tours by exploiting people’s blind faith in religious rituals.
Many of such religious practitioners indulge in human trafficking also by carrying illegal immigrants to the western countries and thus making millions of rupees from such shady deals.
The story “Ghund Chkai” is about the small time writers and literary pretenders who keep on organising meaningless “literary” meets creating occasions for wining and dining. Most of the time some visiting writer from America, Canada or England is roped in and is presented as a “great” writer of the epoch. His book is also released at some decent public place followed by long boozing sessions. Such meets are usually financed by the guest ‘writer’ himself which is why he earns the sobriquet indicating his overwhelming ‘greatness’.
“Nasuur” is a story of a carefree boy John who is wounded in the Iraq war and now is hospitalised in America for rehabilitation. But whatever he saw and experienced in the war made him a mental wreck. The bitchery and barbarity of war have completely dehumanised the people. American industrial military complex now does not know how to disengage itself from this difficult situation. Needless to say that Iraq war is now showing “Vietnam Syndrome” in the American society and as the death toll of American society and as the death toll of American soldiers, the ordinary citizens are feeling the pinch of war fatigue. In fact many Punjabi writers is America and Canada are taking up such themes for their stories.
“Mai Parhdi Han Lawan” lays bare the hyporasy of a Sikh ‘saint’ who does not allow the marriage ceremony of an American Sikh boy to be performed since the boy does not promise to be baptised. When the ‘saint’ calls off the marriage Jaswant Kaur a relative of the boy steps in and firmly declares that she would herself read the Lawan (nuptial hymns in the Sikh scriptures) and solmnise the marriage there and them.
Other stories in this collection also comment on certain social evils. Mahinder Singh Ghagg seems to be directly pontificating at some places. As a reformer, he cannot rein in his reforming zeal. Such interference by the author, though made through his characters, is utterly unwarranted. The author is supposed to lay bare the truth howsoever bitter it may be. But he cannot afford to ignore the artistic form of his creation. Ghagg has a huge wealth of experience, which he can channelize through various genres of literature with a little more finesse and stylistic adroitness.