Writer of Mohan Bhandari (1937 to 2021)
Among the many interactions that we had with the distinguished writer of Punjabi literature, Mohan Bhandari, one of his statements has remained etched forever in his mind. “Writing,” he often said, “cannot be a forced exercise. It has to come from within. ”And as he professed, he wrote in a natural and organic way. The ink from his quill started to flow when he was a class IX student.
Over the years he would become a meaningful and resolute voice in the Punjab. Few people understood the transformation of society as well as this man who lived in Chandigarh but came from a traditional rural background. The village of Banbhaura in the Sangrur district that he left behind has lived in his mental landscape forever. The famous playwright and theater personality, Dr Atamjit, in particular remembers his story “Ghotna”. He shares how effortlessly and poignantly Bhandari would portray the alienation of those who have been cut off from their roots. Essentially a short story writer, contemporary events figured in his writings. The cataclysmic events unfolding against the backdrop of the community riots pulsed through his highly acclaimed story “Moon Di Akh”, also the name of his Sahitya Akademi award-winning book. 1984 and its aftermath could be a dark chapter in history, but Bhandari saw humanism in these difficult and turbulent times.
Former bureaucrat and writer NS Rattan remembers him as a “yaaran da yaar” who was also friends with the indomitable poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi. Hailing him as the leader in Punjabi short story writing, Rattan also recalls his inspiring personality who encouraged aspiring writers. He wrote simply and lucidly without juggling words, addressing everyone. If the delicacy of thought marked his writing style, he was also a man of conviction. He had the courage to return the Sahitya Akademi award in solidarity with the national writers’ protest in 2015.
However, he did not suffer from any madness of grandeur. He also did not harbor the idea of being a reformer and only saw himself as an ever-vigilant student of human nature. Whether there is life after death, if he will be reborn as a writer as he wished, his words certainly have the power to live on forever in more than one story. ‘Til Chauli’, ‘Manukh De Per’, ‘Kath Di Latt’, ‘Pacchan’, ‘Moon Di Akh’, ‘Baraf Latare Rukh’, ‘Tan Pattan’ and ‘Katha Varta’ are some of his memorable stories . While Punjabi literature is richer with its sterling writing, it will be sorely missed by its exuberant personality.