THE BRIDGE written by Harpreet Sekha


Image of a painting by Ustad Allah Bukhsh.

The rivers of Western Punjab appear to be narrowing like those of Eastern Punjab as I witnessed a day earlier at Beas and Sutlej while travelling to Attari from Ludhiana. I observed a similar pattern two days later, at Jhelum and Chenab while visiting Islamabad. I was surprised to notice the continuation of the same pattern on my way to Nankana Sahib from Lahore due to a significant decrease of water in the river Ravi. As we approached closer to the banks of dry Ravi, I saw a herd of buffaloes grazing on the lush green lands which reminded me of the fascinating story written by a renowned Punjabi author, Kulwant Singh Virk. His love for water buffaloes and the depiction of Punjabi landscape was narrated through his inspirational stories. Dr. Raghbir Singh Sirjana informed me about our visit to Virk’s birthplace and his native village called ‘Fulrwan’ in Sheikhupura district, which filled my heart with joy as if I had found a treasure. This joy was multiplied at the thought of visiting Baba Nanak’s Janam Asthan (birthplace) at Nankana Sahib. I was in a state of spiritual ecstasy on hearing the mystical poems of Waris Shah at Jandiala Sher Khan and Baba Bullah Shah’s kalam (poetry) in Kasur mesmerized me while paying homage to the two Sufi saints. My days in Lahore and Pothohar were spent forming precious bonds, reminiscing about bygone days and the acclaimed writers of the region.


A literary tour to Pakistan was arranged by the Dhahan Prize for contemporary writers to engage in a literary dialogue. We were cordially welcomed by famous writers, prominent literary figures and artists. During my interaction with the local writers, I realized they had not read my stories and I was not familiar with their writing, as their medium of expression was Shahmukhi, a script different from Gurmukhi and Gurmukhi seems alien to West Punjab. I felt an unbridgeable divide between the writers, but I was reassured upon hearing the news of a collaboration between the Dhahan Prize and the Punjab Institute of Language Art and Culture (PILAC). Dr. Raghbir Singh Sirjana and Barj Dhahan discussed this collaboration with Dr. Sughra Sadaf, the director of PILAC. They aim to bridge the gap between the two worlds by transcribing the books of both the scripts, Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi. In my opinion, they are playing a crucial role through this initiative to weave the two worlds together. It opens new avenues and opportunities for writers, artists and the two communities in general to come closer.