By Devraj Singh Kalsi
Almost five years ago, I wrote a short story about India-Pakistan ties. Since then, I wanted to expand it to a full-length novel set in the future – as far as 2147. With two hundred years being sufficient time to regret the misdeeds, to provide the required distance to view things dispassionately.
Since future gives the freedom to create a destiny of one’s choice, without offending the sentiments of those living in the present times, I chose a different timeline away from the reach of divisive politics, hoping that the readers belonging to the unborn generations will be blessed with the maturity to realise the blunders of the past and support the amicable rectification of what went wrong, without resorting to any blame-game, without repeating the horrors of the Partition.
The strain of thought came from an oral narrative I heard from my mother years ago. My maternal grandfather, an employee with the railways, quit his job and sought refuge in music after the Partition, devoting his remaining years to the playing of musical instruments and singing of devotional songs, to calm his mind, to forget the scenes of bloodshed he had witnessed all around. It was easy to visualise its dreadful impact even on those who did not suffer physical injuries or lose their loved ones.
Two lovers from ruling political dynasties on both sides of the border begin their campus romance at a foreign university located in a country that split their homeland centuries ago. Two leading characters who pledge to rewrite history and make their love win hearts of the nations at loggerheads. In the creative process, I drew strength from the fact that a hateful phase of five years led to the division of the two countries so it was possible to reverse that with a similar period of sublime love. A brief outline of their intense love story mapped their marital union and the reunification of the two countries happening on the same day. A grand climax heralding a new dawn – a new tryst with destiny.
Instead of divulging the plot, I let readers imagine the trajectory of events. The changes they undergo to bring about the change of heart, the hardships their love story has to face. After 200 years of separation, hatred and bitterness lose the game. The vicious cycle ends. Love triumphs. Honestly speaking, the imaginary world is no less difficult to construct.
Shaping the real world is a humongous task. The military establishment poses hurdles and the powerful nations with vested interests oppose the coming together. There are conspiracies, assassination bids, and foul attempts to stoke communal fires. But this time, the masses are wiser and the political classes cannot divide and rule. The young lovers persuade their belligerent families to make it a bilateral issue and seek public opinion through voting on this issue in their respective countries, with an overwhelming majority on both sides voting in favour of a borderless world, allowing free movement of people and the restoration of full democratic rights without any discrimination. Mutual love and respect bring lovers together and their grand union is celebrated across the borders with pomp and festivity. The spontaneous outburst of emotions sets a global example of how love can conquer hearts of millions, making it appear as if bitterness and enmity never existed.
Sharing the rubric with some friends who also dream of a new world without borders elicited positive response, a go-ahead to spend years in isolation writing this magnum opus. The support from people indicates this should happen but they do not know how this is going to happen. The idea of love and lovers doing it sounds impossible and they find it pretty immature to expect so much from love. Well, they have seen the power of hatred and violence in wars but the power of love has not been tested on such a big scale. They think big changes happen through bloodshed and not because of love.
I cannot convincingly explain in detail that the people after another century will have to nothing worse to imagine, no solution to expect from war and bloodshed. With such a bloody past behind, they will be aware that it cannot get any worse. They will be fully prepared to reject all forms of hatred. The living folks still have reserves of bitterness and hatred lying in the core. The next hundred years will deplete it further, leaving faint traces. It will be learning through self-realisation that the present generation does not have. It is the reason why they cannot imagine a different world. The future generations – who record more suffering than us over the century – will be dead against enmity and war. They will be naturally inclined to give love and a peace a chance to restore sanity.
If I write this today, the educated classes will love it. But the masses are perhaps going to find it funny. Writing a book with unborn readers in mind – a target audience that does not exist today – is a risky proposition. Agreed, it is a concept driven work that imagines an ideal world where the old order gets restored. If people do not like to read it, make an offbeat film on this subject. Viewers will find the sheer impossibility very exciting. Raising this issue and bringing it in the public domain is a good beginning. People will think of it from a fresh angle. Lovers from both sides of Punjab will be enamoured and they will crave for its realisation during their lifetime. The power blocks on both sides of the border will also think of lovers ending their hatred.
Some friends have read the opening chapter and they all suggest I should advance the date. Make it 2047 instead of 2147. I said this is an embryonic idea and it is impossible even for a writer to imagine a drastic change so quickly. A distant era makes me more comfortable to visualise cycling all the way from Amritsar to Lahore.
Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in Kolkata. His short stories and essays have been published in Deccan Herald, Tehelka, Kitaab, Earthen Lamp Journal, Assam Tribune, and The Statesman. Pal Motors is his first novel.
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