By Mahmood Awan
ay 19, 2024

BaraMah, a Punjabi literary magazine, has just released its latest edition
Description: Literary soul of the Punjab


hile reviewing the first edition of the Punjabi literary magazine BaraMah (twelve months) back in 2019 for this newspaper, titled A welcome addition, I had concluded my review with these lines:

“We have seen with too many journals that they start passionately, with a promise of monthly or quarterly prints, but eventually, disappear from the literary scene as Punjabi publishing is not a profitable venture... Bara(n)mah is a welcome addition like a fresh breeze in the literary wilderness of the Punjab. I hope it continues uninterrupted.

“Vagg ni vaa’ay kamlee’ay / Tainu rokaN waala koN.”

I am glad to report that as I write this piece, BaraMah is alive and breaking new ground with every new edition. BaraMah has published over 2,000 pages in its five prints.

An interesting feature of BaraMah is that every annual edition carries a central theme. The magazine’s content revolves around that primary concept. The 2019 edition was dedicated to memories of the 1970s – a decade of resistance and aspirations - alongside essays about the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

The 2020 edition’s central theme was the Punjab, Punjabi, Punjabiyyat and writings about Baba Nanak. The 2021 edition had the Partition of the Punjab as its primary focus and the 2022 BaraMah discussed the concept and contours of a Punjabi nation. The current edition’s main theme is translations and their importance in enriching a language.

BaraMah, 2023, is dedicated to Gaza. It opens with a Punjabi translation of a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, Silence for Gaza, that was composed in Arabic in 1973 – over 50 years ago:

“Gaza is far from its relatives and close to its enemies because whenever Gaza explodes, it becomes an island, and it never stops exploding. It scratched the enemy’s face, broke his dreams and stopped his satisfaction with time. Because in Gaza, time is something different. Because in Gaza, time is not a neutral element.”

It has six essays, thirteen pieces of translated global fiction, nine original short stories, six book reviews, over thirty translated poems and an obituary of poet-writer Ahmad Saleem, who died on December 11, 2023. The editorial titled, Translation, Tarjma, Anno-waad, Ulattha’, where editors talk about the linguistic and cultural importance and the history of translations, is a must read.

It’s mentioned that East Punjab has a much more robust tradition of translations, while in West Punjab, only a few individuals like Najm Hosain Syed, Mushtaq Soofi, Maqsood Saqib, Jameel Ahmad Paul, Ilyas Ghumman, Khalid Dhariwal, Ahmad Salim, Aseer Abid and Hameed Razi have produced quality translations.

It’s further mentioned that in 1851 the first ever Punjabi book of translations was printed by Ludhiana Christian mission. It was named Injjeel and was the Punjabi translation of the Holy Bible.

The first essay in the section is Faiqa Mansab’s Ammi Ji tay Haveli. It is a strange and superficial piece with no substance and flow. The only thing that comes out of the piece are a few ‘worthy’ mentions, like her grandmother’s haveli had a hundred rooms (which she never counted) and that her uncle had two horses, two carts and two cars. The car makers have been identified; one of the cars was dark blue, the other light blue.

I am aware that editors may be giving space to encourage writers to write in Punjabi, but they also need to be conscious of the maturity of the content.

The second essay is a refreshing and thoughtful piece by UK-based Gurdas Dhadwal about Classical and Folk Art. Dhadwal’s Punjabi is typical of East Punjab; you can feel that heaviness. However, it is a reasonable effort and an exciting subject. I hope he can continue writing about it with a better, reader-friendly flow. He has provided references to the books he used for his essay, which is quite helpful for further reading.

BaraMah, 2023, is dedicated to Gaza. It opens with a Punjabi translation of a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, Silence for Gaza that was composed in Arabic in 1973 – over 50 years ago.

Monika Kumar’s essay, Pohnchi Waheen pay khaak, is a short and sad piece of writing, grieving thoughts of a distant child of Partition, a double immigrant, an everyday Punjabi, UjaaRiaan day Jaa’ay asseen Punjabi. It’s an emotional read where the essence of separation and longing is captured with a glowing heart. It brought tears to my eyes.

Next is Sukirat’s essay about Amarjit Chandan. It’s a good read. However, I firmly believe that magazine editors should avoid giving space to essay(s) or reviews that involve them in person or revolve around them. BaraMah is a trendsetter. I am sure the editors realise the need to resist the temptation to include content that might be seen as self-promotional.

Tanveer Zaman Khan’s essay about war on Gaza needs to be read to understand the history of the problem. The last essay in this section is Aamir Riaz’s article about 1857 and the Punjab. Riaz’s fascination with Lahore Darbar and Ranjit Singh’s era is well known.

He writes keeping in mind the native and aboriginal people and their political and social aspirations in line with a people’s history of the Punjab. His latest piece is worth reading; I believe he could have been a bit more concise to keep his arguments crisp and brief.

The next section is dedicated to translations of global fiction. These include Guy de Maupassant’s A Piece of String, translated by Sarwat Suhail; Risham Jameel Paul’s translation of Egyptian writer Yusuf Idris; Irfan Majeed’s translation of Yukio Mishima‘s Swaddling Clothes; Ijaz’s translation of Anton Chekhov’s Boys; Karamt Mughal’s translation of Frank Baum‘s Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Saira Ijaz’s translation of Jean-Paul Sartre’s The Words; Asim Butt’s translation of Franz Kafka‘s A Message from the Emperor; Fakhra Ijaz’s translation of Anton Chekhov’s The Man in a Case; Khalid Dhariwal’s translation of French-Afghan writer and filmmaker Atiq Rahimi’s Earth and Ashes; Zubair Ahmad’s translation of the Kenyan author Grace Ogot’s The Green Leaves; and Hamid Razi’s translation of French Nobel Laureate Annie Ernaux’s I remain in Darkness. This section ends with two translations by Sukirat of Viktoriya Tokareva and Vlad Rivlin.

There are nine original short stories in the current edition. These are written by Saima Batool, Ameer Husseni, Talat Naveed, Samina Asma, Asim Butt, Nain Sukh, Jameel Ahmad Paul, Baljit and Jinder.

In the poems section, Komal Raja’s PahaRi poems are a refreshing read. Fayyaz Baqir’s Gaza day Hikk Mittar da Seneha and late Ahmad Salim’s poems about Baba Nanak are worth reading.

The next section is dedicated to Punjabi translations of international poetry. These include poetry by Brooke Hampton and Darrielle Cresswell (translated by Talat Naveed); Mahmoud Darwesh (by Komal Raja); Walt Whitman (by Nasir Gondal); Josef Hanzlik and Vladimir Holan (by Mahmood Awan); Federico García Lorca (by Irfan Malik); Sandor Petofi (by Sarwat Mohiuddin); Yusuf Hayaloglu (by Fayyaz Baqir); Leonard Cohen; and Sharon Robinson (Everybody Knows by Madan Gopal Singh); Mirza Ghalib (by Aseer Abid); Menna Elfyn (by Mazhar Tirmazi); Bertolt Brecht (by Mushtaq Soofi); Cesar Vallejo, Adrian Mitchell, Ted Hughs and Yevgeny Yevtushenko (by Amarjit Chandan); Guatemalan poet Otto Rene Castillo and Peruvian poet Javier Heraud (by Najm Hosian Syed; reproduced from Rutt Lekha -7, Punjabi magazine of 1974-75).

The above brief can testify to why BaraMah should be a part of every college and university library and why Zubair Ahmad and Amarjit Chandan deserve our utmost gratitude and appreciation for their untiring efforts and selfless dedication.

They are literary representatives of Punjabi and Punjabis and keep providing them with the space and opportunity to stay connected to their motherland and mother tongue within a most dignified, passionate and intellectual framework. They complement each other’s strengths as organically as East and West Punjab.

Lastly, in the Book reviews section, there is an old review of Irfan Malik’s book Ikath by Abid Mahmood Butt. Abid Butt was a student activist in the ’70s who was tortured and jailed during Zia-ul Haq’s martial law. Butt retired as an associate professor at Govt Dyal Singh College, Lahore, in 2021. A few days after his retirement, he disappeared from his home and never returned, not even for his daughter’s wedding. If anyone reading this review knows his whereabouts, please contact his family or Kitab Trinjan.