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Canadian Sikhs Through A Century (1897-1997) - Book By Bhagat Singh
Summary Of 'Canadian Sikhs Through A Century (1897-1997)' By Bhagat Singh
This work on the Canadian Sikhs from 1897 to 1997 was undertaken despite my impaired health at the express instance of some Sikh scholars and Sikh societies in B.C. and some friends from Vancouver (B.C.). To write a good book is not a cakewalk, rather it is a strenuous and endless journey that exhausts the writer but writing is his lifeline. I partly agree with William Hazlitt that "a book is a bloodless substitute for life." Probably, he wants to convey that one has to shed or burn ones blood to produce a book which ultimately comprises bloodless mass of scribbled papers. But I fully agree with Milton that "a good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit," meaning that the author's life-blood flows freely in the body of his book. The author transfers his blood into his book otherwise it does not come to life. The author can never absent himself from his work, however objective and impersonal he may try to be. A book is born of the brain and heart of its author who puts himself in its pages. His individuality imperceptibly blends itself into his work and gradually emerges in front of the reader.
It is demanded of every writer to give his best and his best cannot be another's. Those who speak frankly are always likely to be listened to than those who speak with less candour. An author should never conceal or suppress his mind. The question of his views finding favour or disfavour with his readers is secondary but the author's primary consideration is his sincerity towards himself and towards how he feels. He should be sincere to his experiences and his views regarding the subject in his hand. Personal experience is the basis of every real work and sincerity to ones experience of life is the foundation of a good work. Experience is a good school but its fees are very high. It is hard to beat an experience of more than half a century. It is not for sale at the corner store. You have to earn it. If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we would all be millionaires. Generally it is gained through advancing years. No wise man
ever wishes to be younger, thus losing the experience of life gained at high price. He should write as his inner spirit prompts him to write and he should not write as the others want him to write. Writing to order would be dishonesty to himself and to his readers, to which a good writer should never condescend.
In the course of writing this book this author made it his chief business to report faithfully of what he has lived, seen, thought, felt and known for himself. It is something which an honest writer should never lose sight of. If readers differ with him at places it is natural, if they never differ with him that is unnatural as no two men always think alike. Differing with one another occasionally adds flavour to the thoughts.
Style of an author, as Carlyle says, is not the coat of a writer but his very skin. When a writer has something really personal to say he will certainly not fail to find a really personal way in which to say it. A thought which is his own will hardly permit itself to be shaped into the fashion of some one else's expression.' Every spirit builds its own house.'
At places this author solicits to be too assertive in his views and experiences. As said above no two persons see a situation in the same way. Two men looked out through prison bars, one saw the mud, the other saw the stars. The aspiring men never look to the earth, they always look into the space. So do the writers look at things differently, some look with pessimism and despondency and some with hope and optimism. In this book I have said things from my own experiences and assessments but still I believe that most of the readers may tend to agree with me on most of my observations.
A century-old history of the Canadian Sikhs is marked by many stages : from sheer penury to comfortable affluence and from deprivation of all human rights to full-fledged citizenship with representation in city councils, provincial assembles and federal parliament. The process of this change had been awfully agonising and beset with hurdles which took them decades to overcome. In this study the same would be depicted faithfully. The camera shows no mercy. It cannot ignore your faults. You cannot be too cautious. A true historian is a slave to his-jealous mistress-history that never allows him to go astray. The author must be true to his inner voice. He should never be for a ban or constraint on voice. He must believe in freedom to disagree. He should be in full agreement with Voltaire, an 18th century world-renowned French philosopher who says, "'I disapprove of what you say but I wi11 defend, to the death, your right to say."
The pioneers being mostly illiterate they did not write any thing about themselves and those who could, did not find time to record it due to their over-busy daily schedules. It is well known that those who create history seldom find time to write it. Later .interviews with them exposed the perpetrators of intense pain and gross injustice on them. Although those were bad times for them but were lived in the hope of good times to come, which ultimately did come. In the circle of time no stage is stationary. There is no sting in their voices and no remorse in their memories. When compelled to speak of their past, they smiled away those miserable days. Their struggle to vacate injustice was determined with undepressed spirits and relentless tirade without surrendering to the agents of fate. For a genuine cause they would rather break than bend. They never compromised over their established heritage and valuable principles of righteous conduct. In their new home-land they always meticulously upheld the intrinsic values of their religious tenets and moral discipline. These qualities made them stand firm in their odd hours in an alien, inhospitable and sometimes hostile land where ultimately they found ready recognition and ungrudging acceptance at the hands of their long-time detractors. It is my very sincere feeling that I have not been able to narrate the tearful tales of woe of the pioneer immigrants as agonisingly and distressfully as they had suffered.
I wish that these elderly pioneers who are now travelling in the fast lane of their life-journey and are locked up inside themselves must open up and divulge all their experiences before they bang into the sunset of oblivion and the treasure of history within them gets cremated or buried unknown. The preserved old stories of the pioneers will bring their remote past to the present. An investigator-historian approaches the past with one aim: "Tell me all". But they imploringly appeal to the questioner to leave their past into the past and they are unwilling to talk about it. But their life is not their's now, it is death's. Death is the penalty one pays for living. At their late 80s or 90s they have become the relics of the past.
The Sikhs are probably the most adventurous people in the world. None in the world had exhibited so strongly the indomitability of human spirit as the Sikhs. Migration from one place to another for greener pastures has been the practice of almost all the tribes of the universe right from its creation. This had been necessitated by the vagaries of geographical conditions or calamitous changes in the phenomena of nature. The economic considerations of the Sikhs pushed them out of the Punjab into various parts of the world including Canada.