- Publisher: Kitab Trinjan
In modern Punjabi prose, Panni Di Kandh (‘Wall of Water’) is an outstanding example of memory as the central theme and particularly the memory of fear and the struggle to overcome it in daily life. Ahmad explores the complex layers of fear through the experiences of the male narrators in these lyrically crafted short stories. Dhahan Prize juror Naveed Alam says “whether it is visiting the ancestral home across the border in divided Punjab or a teenager’s budding love for a cow in his care for a brief period of time (‘Sahwan Di Valgan’) or reﬂecting on the chance encounter with a doomed love interest in Vancouver, the narrators do manage to turn their experiences ‘slowly in the light’”, and find a measure of liberty from the grip of fear.
The reader is quickly drawn into the characters’ trauma caused by brutality, betrayal and tragedy unfolding in Lahore’s alleys and streets from the 1947 partition onward. Fear tinged with hope keeps the characters captive affecting their relationships including future generations, unless, says one of the narrators “we forgive it by being mindful”. In the title story, Panni Di Kandh (‘Wall of Water’), fear and suspicion are barriers too hard to cross over for the narrator until the Sikh security guard at the guest house reaches out to the narrator inviting him to sit down, talk, eat and drink. A simple gesture of an extended warm hand helps to heal and rebuild trust in the other.
These biographically melancholic stories shine light on the complex psychological and emotional state of people separated by space and time within the context of Punjab’s history and culture, and the post-partition burgeoning neighborhoods of Lahore.