Today is Giani Gurdit Singh ji’s birth anniversary. He was born in 1923, and he left us in 2007, but we, his family, live with his memories every day.
Today, mama re-explored some moments of a life shared, and we all offered prayers of his soul in the morning and as his family, spent time reminiscing about him, his wry humour, keen observation and the mind of a genius clothed in simplicity, and a lack of ego that made him unique.
Wherever I go, I find people who remember him fondly, or those who praise his work, or both. On the 21st of February, I went to Punjabi University, Patiala. I had been invited to deliver the Gyani Lal Singh Memorial Lecture as a part of the Department of Development of Punjabi Language’s annual programme of celebrating the UNESCO-sponsored Mother Language Day. The Vice-Chancellor, Dr Jaspal Singh, remember his meeting Papa at Gurdwara Rakab Ganj, New Delhi; Dr Chanchal Manohar Singh recalled his association with my father… I met the late Giani Lal Singh’s family. We had all known each other in our childhood, and we spent time reminiscing about our fathers, who were good friends…
When I was introduced to the audience, my parents were mentioned, Mama as the only woman Vice-Chancellor the university, or for that matter, any university in north India, ever had, and Papa for his contribution towards the Punjabi language, culture and scholarship on Sikh religion.
I addressed the gathering in Punjabi, a rarity, I must admit, and found that what I said was well received. After the function, the famous writer, Dr Dalip Kaur Tiwana, said, “I didn’t think that Roopinder would speak this well in Punjabi.”
While I was delighted at the comment, I also offered a swift prayer to my father. Surely it was his blessing that allowed me to speak well! I also sent a mental thank you to my mother, who ensured that I was well-prepared, and who is proud to have been in the first batch of students who did their Masters in Punjabi, from Mohindra College, Patiala.
It was on the 21st that Doordarshan Jalandhar re-ran the documentary of him, and again, we were surprised at the reach of the medium as my mother and I received calls from many people.
Giani Gurdit Singh ji is so well identified with his Mera Pind, that it has eclipsed the considerable body of work that he has produced since then. We have also just released the Golden Jubilee Edition of this classic. The hardcover has been printed on special paper, and comes with gold gilding to celebrate the historic landmark.
We all celebrate the work of this great man, who my brother Ravinder and I were fortunate enough to have as our father. He left an imprint that has given him a life beyond what God granted him in a human form. We remain committed, as ever, to keep alive his work and his thoughts.