- Publisher: Chetna Parkashan, Ludhiana, Punjab, India
This is an impactful collection of five long stories from the prolific pen of Balwinder Singh Grewal. These stories affirm human dignity against an almost overwhelming evil. Yet it is not a metaphysical but historically produced evil, which means there is hope for a better, more humane world. He places his protagonists in extremely trying situations to probe the limits of human endurance. Grewal scrutinizes at once the human condition, history, and the present from a point of view in which the philosophical and the political are intertwined the way they are in the most illuminating and perturbing of all literature.
Jungle 1 and Jungle 2 stories explore the motivations behind the on-going border conflicts alongside the dark inspiration behind politically and religiously charged unrest within a highly complex society. Pundath Ji Urf Purs Ram Chowkidar is a probing narration of the migrant Kashmiris and their interactions with Punjabis.
The title story with its eerie imagery won the ‘Jagjit Singh Anand and Urmila Anand Award’ in 2018. It is a fascinating look into the intricate details of the daily lives of a community of divers who make their living by searching for and bringing up drowned bodies from the rivers. The bloated floating bodies shock the reader’s senses as each body has its own history and the complicated circumstances leading to such tragic ending. The floating dead are a sad reflection of the social, religious, economic, and political ills of society.
The narration overall is rich as it surveys both the interior and the exterior spaces, and where the two intersect. This gives Grewal’s stories a rare balance that enables him to understand, not merely judge, human beings. It’s a messy, complicated world out there, he seems to be saying. And it’s no less messy and confounding inside us. He avoids cliché, does not waste a word, and weaves complex stories through an admirable blending of description, dialogue, and narrative.
“Grewal’s work is the luminous fruit of a sustained gaze into darkness. It gives courage in the face of life’s extreme demands by unraveling the deceptive ‘mysteries’ of human affairs as the tragic consequences of human miscalculation, myopia, avarice, and – sometimes – ordinary craving.”-Rajesh Sharma, Gurmukhi juror