June 7, 2006

At the Crossroads
 Reconciling the twin Punjabi scripts

Punjabis reside at both sides of the border between India and Pakistan. But they settle down wherever they find the environment congenial. Away from  home, it is the language they speak that binds them together. Punjabi language manifests their cultural background and this factor creates bonhomie among them.
 There is a hiatus of script between the Punjabi speaking people on both the sides of the border and elsewhere. Conversation is unhampered but the written word in Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi scripts creates the problem. There is a need to learn both the scripts so as to be in touch with the corpus of  Punjabi literature. The Punjabi Diaspora converses in Punjabi but for the writing, either of the two scripts is used. Even then the terminology used in Gurmukhi script and the Shahmukhi script creates problems.
 'Sanjh', a Punjabi quarterly published simultaneously from Ludhiana and Lahore has stepped in, with its inaugural issue (April, May and June, 2007), to serve as a bridge between the two scripts. The journal published in Ludhiana is in Gurmukhi script and the one published in Lahore is in Shahmukhi script. The material is same in both the versions and there is also no change in the board of Editors. The stress is on streamlining the Punjabi language by eliminating unfamiliar Urdu and Hindi words. The reading  needs be smooth when the written word in both the scripts is the same.
 The managing editor of 'Sanjh', Safir Rammah is coordinator of Academy of the Punjab in North America. His editorial team includes well-known Punjabi litterateurs, including Ludhiana-based Dr Jagtar Dhiman and Dr Manu Sharma Sohal. Dr Dhiman composes poems in English and writes imaginative prose  composition in Punjabi. He is also adept at rendering English into Punjabi and vice versa. Dr Sohal is a creative writer as well as a researcher. Her doctoral thesis presents a comparative study of the Punjabi poetry of Shiv  Kumar Batalvi and the Hindi poetry of Gopal Das Niraj from the viewpoint of the mystique of death. Dr Jagtar and Dr Manu are coordinators of Punjabi Culture Study Circle International.
 The other two editors of 'Sanjh', Javed Boota and Anant Kaur, are based in USA. Pakistan-based associate editors are Mohammad Asif Raza and Sajid Nadeem.
 The symbolic cover design of 'Sanjh' is by the renowned artist Sabir Nazar,  who is with the 'Daily Times' and the 'Friday Times', Lahore.
 'Sanjh' is a purely literary journal and its inaugural issue carries articles, poems, short stories, travelogues and 'in memoriam' notices.  Significantly, the line quoted under the title of 'Sanjh' - 'Bulhe Shah asan
 marna nahin'. (Bulhe Shah, we are not destined to die) highlights its theme.  The underlying meaning indicates the restoration of peace in South Asia by  reviving Punjabi culture that stands for amity.
 It is pertinent to mention another Punjabi literary quarterly, 'Punjabi Alam',  from Chandigarh that has made its mark with its second issue. This journal  is also published in twin-scripts, Gurmukhi as well as Shahmukhi, and it lays stress on the need of learning both the scripts. 'Sanjh' too shares this laudable aim but, at the same time, its focus is on bringing together all Punjabis of the world under the banner of their composite culture. -
 N.S. Tasneem

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