In a strange quirk of fate, five noted writers and scholars of Punjabi literature have breathed their last within almost a month - two of them on a single day, February 14. Their demise has left a void in the literary world that will be difficult to fill.
Ram Sarup Ankhi, a prolific Punjabi writer and a mesmerising storyteller died on February 14, aged 78. The works of Ankhi - a Brahmin who converted to Sikhism - revolve around rural life in Punjab. His novel Kothey Kharhak Singh brought to life the landscape of a fictitious but typical Malwa village. The novel stretched through three generations. The story of the novel begins in 1940-42 and moves on to Janata Party's rule after the Emergency. Then it narrates Indira Gandhi's return to power. Kothey Kharhak Singh won Ram Sarup Ankhi the prestigious Sahitya Academy Award.
Ankhi's novels portray the post-green revolution Malwa and highlight the onslaught of capitalism, influx of migrant labourers in Punjab and disintegration of the rural society. The titles of his novels- Salphas (an insecticide consumed by debt-ridden farmers to commit suicide), Jamina Waley (The Landed Gentry), Kanak da Qatalam (Slaughter of the Wheat) and Bhima (a migrant labourer) - are self explanatory.
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